To the Gold Coast for Gold
The following extract from 'Wanderings in West Africa,' a book which I wrote in 1862 and published (anonymously) in 1863, will best explain the reasons which lately sent me to Western Africa:--
In several countries, for instance, Dinkira, Tueful, Wásá (Wassaw), and especially Akim, the hill-region lying north of Accra, the people are still active in digging gold. The pits, varying from two to three feet in diameter, and from twelve to fifty deep (eighty feet is the extreme), are often so near the roads that loss of life has been the result. 'Shoring up' being little known, the miners are not unfrequently buried alive. The stuff is drawn up by ropes in clay pots, or calabashes, and thus a workman at the bottom widens the pit to a pyriform shape; tunnelling, however, is unknown. The excavated earth is carried down to be washed. Besides sinking these holes, they pan in the beds of rivers, and in places collect quartz, which is roughly pounded.
They (the natives) often refuse to dig deeper than the chin, for fear of the earth 'caving in;' and, quartz-crushing and the use of quicksilver being unknown, they will not wash unless the gold 'show colour' to the naked eye.
As we advance northwards from the Gold Coast the yield becomes richer....
It is becoming evident that Africa will one day equal half-a-dozen Californias....
Will our grandsons believe in these times ... that this Ophir--that this California, where every river is a Tmolus and a Pactolus, every hillock is a gold-field--does not contain a cradle, a puddling-machine, a quartz-crusher, a pound of mercury? That half the washings are wasted because quicksilver is unknown? That whilst convict labour is attainable, not a company has been formed, not a surveyor has been sent out? I exclaim with Dominie Sampson--'Pro-di-gious!'
Western Africa was the first field that supplied the precious metal to mediaeval Europe. The French claim to have imported it from Elmina as early as A.D. 1382. In 1442 Gonçales Baldeza returned from his second voyage to the regions about Bojador, bringing with him the first gold. Presently a company was formed for the purpose of carrying on the gold-trade between Portugal and Africa. Its leading men were the navigators Lanzarote and Gilianez, and Prince Henry 'the Navigator' did not disdain to become a member. In 1471 João de Santarem and Pedro Escobar reached a place on the Gold Coast to which, from the abundance of gold found there, they gave the name of 'São Jorje da Mina,' the present Elmina. After this a flood of gold poured into the lap of Europe; and at last, cupidity having mastered terror of the Papal Bull, which assigned to Portugal an exclusive right to the Eastern Hemisphere, English, French, and Dutch adventurers hastened to share the spoils.
For long years my words fell upon flat ears. Presently the Ashanti war of 1873-74 brought the subject before the public. The Protectorate was overrun by British officers, and their reports and itineraries never failed to contain, with a marvellous unanimity of iteration, the magic word--Gold.
The fraction of country, twenty-six miles of seaboard out of two hundred, by a depth of sixty--in fact, the valley of the Ancobra River--now (early 1882) contains five working companies. Upwards of seventy concessions, to my knowledge, have been obtained from native owners, and many more are spoken of. In fact, development has at length begun, and the line of progress is clearly traced.
At Madeira I was joined (January 8, 1882) by Captain Cameron, R.N., C.B., &c. Our object was to explore the so-called Kong Mountains, which of late years have become quasi-mythical. He came out admirably equipped; nor was I less prepared. But inevitable business had delayed us both, and we landed on the Gold Coast at the end of January instead of early October. The hot-dry season had set in with a heat and a drought unknown for years; the climate was exceptionally trying, and all experts predicted early and violent rains. Finally, we found so much to do upon the Ancobra River that we had no time for exploration. Geography is good, but Gold is better.
In this joint book my energetic and hard-working friend and fellow-traveller has described the five working mines which I was unable to visit. He has also made an excellent route-survey of the country, corrected by many and careful astronomical observations. It is curious to compare his work with the sketches of previous observers, Jeekel, Wyatt, Bonnat, and Dahse. To my companion's industry also are mainly due our collections of natural history.
We are answerable only for our own, not for each other's statements. As regards my part, I have described the Gold-land as minutely as possible, despite the many and obvious disadvantages of the 'photographic style.' Indeed, we travellers often find ourselves in a serious dilemma. If we do not draw our landscapes somewhat in pre-Raphaelite fashion, they do not impress the reader; if we do, critics tell us that they are wearisome longueurs, and that the half would be better than the whole. The latter alternative must often be risked, especially in writing about a country where many at home have friends and relatives. Of course they desire to have as much detail about it as possible; hence the reader will probably pardon my 'curiosity.'
The Appendix discusses at some length the various objections made to the Gold Coast mines by the public, which suffers equally from the 'bull' and the 'bear' and from the wild rumours set afloat by those not interested in the speculation. I first dispose of the dangers menaced by Ashanti invasions. The second number notices the threatened labour-famine, and shows how immigration of Chinese, of coolies, and of Zanzibar-men will, when wanted, supply not only the Gold Coast, but also the whole of our unhappy West African stations, miscalled colonies, which are now starving for lack of hands. The third briefly sketches the history of the Gold-trade in the north-western section of the Dark Continent, discusses the position and the connections of the auriferous Kong Mountains, and suggests the easiest system of 'getting' the precious metal. This is by shallow working, by washing, and by the 'hydraulicking' which I had studied in California. The earlier miners have, it is believed, begun at the wrong end with deep workings, shafts, and tunnels; with quartz-crushers, stamps, and heavy and expensive machinery, when flumes and force-pumps would have cost less and brought more. Our observations and deductions, drawn from a section of coast, will apply if true, as I believe they are, to the whole region between the Assini and the Volta Rivers.
I went to the Gold Coast with small expectations. I found the Wásá (Wassaw) country, Ancobra section, far richer than the most glowing descriptions had represented it. Gold and other metals are there in abundance, and there are good signs of diamond, ruby, and sapphire.
Remains to be seen if England has still honesty and public spirit enough to work this old-new California as it should be worked. I will answer for its success if the workers will avoid over-exclusiveness, undue jealousy and rivalry, stockjobbing, and the rings of 'guinea-pigs' and 'guinea-worms.'
RICHARD F. BURTON.
CHAPTER I. PRELIMINARY: TRIESTE TO LISBON.Edit
The glory of an explorer, I need hardly say, results not so much from the extent, or the marvels of his explorations, as from the consequences to which they lead. Judged by this test, my little list of discoveries has not been unfavoured of fortune. Where two purblind fever-stricken men plodded painfully through fetid swamp and fiery thorn-bush over the Zanzibar-Tanganyika track, mission-houses and schools may now be numbered by the dozen. Missionaries bring consuls, and consuls bring commerce and colonisation. On the Gold Coast of Western Africa, whence came the good old 'guinea,' not a washing-cradle, not a pound of quicksilver was to be found in 1862; in 1882 five mining companies are at work; and in 1892 there will be as many score.
I had long and curiously watched from afar the movement of the Golden Land, our long-neglected El Dorado, before the opportunity of a revisit presented itself. At last, in the autumn of 1881, Mr. James Irvine, of Liverpool, formerly of the West African 'Oil-rivers,' and now a large mine-owner in the Gulf of Guinea, proposed to me a tour with the object of inspecting his concessions, and I proposed to myself a journey of exploration inland. The Foreign Office liberally gave me leave to escape the winter of Trieste, where the ferocious Bora (nor'-nor'-easter) wages eternal war with the depressing and distressing Scirocco, or south-easter. Some One marvelled aloud and said, 'You are certainly the first that ever applied to seek health in the "genial and congenial climate" of the West African Coast.' But then Some One had not realised the horrors of January and February at the storm-beaten head of the ever unquiet Adriatic.
Thus it happened that on November 18,1881, after many adieux and au revoirs, I found myself on board the Cunard s.s. Demerara (Captain C. Jones), bound for 'Gib.' My wife was to accompany me as far as Hungarian Fiume.
The Cunard route to 'Gib' is decidedly roundabout. We began with a run to Venice, usually six hours from the Vice-Queen of the Adriatic: it was prolonged to double by the thick and clinging mist-fog. The sea-city was enjoying her usual lethargy of repose after the excitement of the 'geographical Carnival,' as we called the farcical Congress of last September. She is essentially a summering place. Her winter is miserable, neither city nor houses being built for any but the finest of fine weather; her 'society'-season lasts only four months from St. Stephen's Day; her traveller-seasons are spring and autumn. We found all our friends either in bed with bad colds, or on the wing for England and elsewhere; we inhaled a quant. suff. of choking vapour, even in the comfortable Britannia Hotel; and, on the morning of the 23rd, we awoke to find ourselves moored alongside of the new warehouses on the new port of Hungarian, or rather Croatian, Fiume.
Fiume had made prodigious strides since I last saw her in 1878; and she is gradually taking the wind out of the sails of her sister-rival. While old Tergeste wastes time and trouble upon futile questions of policy, and angry contrasts between Germans and Slavs, and Italians and Triestines, Fiume looks to the main chance. The neat, clean, and well-watered little harbour-city may be called a two-dinner-a-day place, so profuse is her hospitality to strangers. Here, too, we once more enjoyed her glorious outlook, the warm winter sun gilding the snowy-silvery head of Monte Maggiore and raining light and life upon the indigo-tinted waters of Fiume Bay. Next to Naples, I know nothing in Europe more beautiful than this ill-named Quarnero. We saw a shot or so of the far-famed Whitehead torpedo, which now makes twenty-one miles an hour; and on Nov. 25 we began to run down the Gulf en route for Patras.
It was a pleasure to emerge from the stern and gloomy Adriatic; and nothing could be more lovely than the first evening amongst the Ionian Islands. To port, backed by the bold heights of the Grecian sea-range, lay the hoary mount, and the red cliffs, 780 feet high, of Sappho's Leap, a never-forgotten memory. Starboard rose bleak Ithaca, fronting the black mountain of Cephalonia, now bald and bare, but clothed with dark forests till these were burnt down by some mischievous malignant. Whatever of sterility deformed the scene lay robed under a glory of colour painted with perfect beauty by the last smile of the sun. Earth and air and sea showed every variety of the chromatic scale, especially of rose-tints, from the tenderest morning blush of virgin snow to the vinous evening flush upon the lowlands washed by the purple wave. The pure translucent vault never ceased to shift its chameleon-like hues, that ranged between the diaphanous azure of the zenith and the faintest rainbow green, a border-land where blue and yellow met and parted. The air felt soft and balmy; a holy calm was on the face of creation; all looked delicious after the rude north, and we acknowledged once more that life was worth living.
Patras also has greatly improved since I last saw her in 1872. The malaria-swamps to the north and south of the town have been drained and are being warped up: the 'never-failing succession of aguish fevers' will presently fade out of the guide-books. A macadamised boulevard has been built, and a breakwater is building. The once desert square, 'Georgios A',' has been planted with trees, which should be Eucalyptus; and adorned with two French statues of bronze which harmonise admirably with the surroundings. The thoroughfares are still Sloughs of Despond after rain, and gridirons of St. Laurence in dusty summer; but there are incipient symptoms of trottoirs. And throughout there is a disappearance of the hovels which resembled Port Sa'id in her younger day, and a notable substitution of tall solid houses.
All this has been brought about by 'fruit,' which in Patras means currants; that is, 'Corinthian grapes.' The export this year is unusual, 110,000 tons, including the Morea and the Islands; and of this total only 20,000 go to France for wine-making. It gives a surprising idea of the Christmas plum-pudding manufacture. Patras also imports for all the small adjacent places, inhabited by 'shaggy capotes.' And she will have a fine time when that talented and energetic soldier, General Türr, whom we last met at Venice, begins the 'piercing of the Isthmus.' À propos of which, one might suggest to Patras, with due respect, that (politically speaking) 'honesty is the best policy.'
Being at Patras on St. Andrew's Day, with a Scotch demoiselle on board, we could hardly but pilgrimage to the place of the Apostle's martyrdom. Mrs. Wood kindly sent her daughters to do the honours. Aghyos Andreas lies at the extreme south of the town on the system of ruts, called a road, which conducts down-coast. The church is a long yellow barn, fronting a cypress-grown cemetery, whose contents are being transferred to the new extramural. A little finger of the holy man reposes under a dwarf canopy in the south-eastern angle: his left arm is preserved at Mount Athos in a silver reliquary, set with gems. Outside, near the south-western corner, is the old well of Demeter (Ceres), which has not lost its curative virtues by being baptised. You descend a dwarf flight of brick steps to a mean shrine and portrait of the saint, and remark the solid bases and the rude rubble arch of the pagan temple. A fig-tree, under which the martyrdom took place, grew in the adjacent court; it has long been cut down, probably for fuel.
The population of Patras still affords a fine study of the 'dirty picturesque,' with clothes mostly home-made; sheepskin cloaks; fustanellas or kilts, which contain a whole piece of calico; red leggings, and the rudest of sandals; Turkish caps, and an occasional pistol-belt. The Palikar still struts about in all his old bravery; and the bourgeois humbly imitates the dingy garb of Southern Italy. The people have no taste for music, no regard for art, no respect for antiquities, except for just as much as these will bring. They own two, and only two, objects in life: firstly, to make money, and secondly, to keep and not to spend it. But this dark picture has a bright side. No race that I know is so greedy of education; the small boys, instead of wending unwillingly to school, crowd the doors before they are opened. Where this exceptional feeling is universal we may hope for much.
The last evening at Patras showed us a beautiful view of what is here called Parnassus (Parnassó), the tall bluff mountain up the Gulf, whose snows at sunset glowed like a balass ruby. We left the Morea at 2 A.M. (December 2), and covered the fifty-two miles to Zante before breakfast. There is, and ever has been, something peculiarly sympathetic to me in the 'flower of the Levant.' 'Eh! 'tis a bonny, bonny place,' repeatedly ejaculated our demoiselle. The city lies at the foot of the grey cliffs, whose northern prolongation extends to the Akroteri, or Lighthouse Point. A fine quay, the Strada Marina, has been opened during the last six years along the northern sea-front, where the arcades suggest those of Chester. It is being prolonged southwards to the old quarantine-ground and the modern prison, which rests upon the skirts of the remarkable Skopo, the Prospect Mountain, 1,489 feet high. This feature, which first shows itself to mariners approaching Zakynthos from north or from south, has a saddle-back sky-line, with a knob of limestone shaped like a Turkish pommel and sheltering its monastery, Panaghia of Skopo, alias Our Lady of the Look-out. Below it appears another and a similar outcrop near a white patch which has suggested marble-quarrying; and the northern flank is dotted with farmhouses and villas. The dwarf breakwater, so easily prolonged over the shallows, has not been improved; but at its base rises a brand-new opera-house, big enough for a first-rate city. Similarly at Barletta they raised a loan to build a mole and they built a theatre. Unlike Patras, Zante long had the advantage of Italian and then of English rule; and the citizens care for music more than for transformation-scenes. The Palikar element also is notably absent; and the soldiers are in uniform, not in half-uniform and half-brigand attire. I missed the British flag once so conspicuous upon the southern round tower of the castle, where in days, or rather nights, of old I had spent not a few jolly hours; but I heard with pleasure that it is proposed to make a haute-ville of the now deserted and crumbling triangle, a Sommerfrisch where the parboiled citizens of Athens will find a splendid prospect and a cooling sea-breeze.
Mr. E. Barff kindly accompanied us in the usual drive 'round the Wrekin,' for which we may here read the 'wreck.' We set out along the sea-flank of the Castle hill. This formation, once a regular hog's-back, has been split by weather about the middle; and its southern end has been shaken down by earthquakes, and carved by wind and rain into precipices and pinnacles of crumbling sandstone, which form the 'Grey Cliffs.' Having heard at Patras the worst accounts of Zante since it passed under Greek rule, I was not a little surprised by the excellent condition of the roads and the general look of prosperity.
Turning to the right we entered Mr. Barff's garden-house, where the grounds were bright and beautiful with balsam and mignonette, dahlias and cyclamens, chrysanthemums and oleanders, jasmine and double-violets, orange-blossoms, and a perfect Gulistan of roses, roses of York and Lancaster, white, pink, and purple, yellow and green--a perfumed spring in dreary December. Laden with bouquets we again threaded the olive-grounds, whose huge trunks are truly patriarchal, and saw basking in the sun old Eumæus, the Swine-King, waiting upon his black and bristly herd. The glimpse led to a characteristic tale. A wealthy Greek merchant in London had made the most liberal offers to his brother, a shepherd in the hills of Cephalonia; the latter returned his very best thanks, but declared himself perfectly happy and unwilling to tempt fortune by change of condition to England. Greece, it is evident, has not ceased to breed 'wise men.'
We returned, viâ the landward flank of the hog's-back, along the fine plain ('O Kampos') bounded west by the range called after Mount Meriy, the apex, rising 3,274 feet. Anglo-Zantiots fondly compare its outline with the Jura's. The look of the rich lowlands, 'the vale,' as our charts call it, suggested a river-valley, but river there is none. Every nook and corner was under cultivation, and each country-house had its chapel and its drying-ground for 'fruit,' level yards now hidden under large-leaved daisies and wild flowers. We passed through the Graetani village, whose tenants bear a bad name, and saw none of the pretty faces for which Zante is famed. The sex was dressed in dark jackets and petticoats à l'italienne; and the elders were apparently employed in gathering 'bitter herbs,' dandelion and the wild endive. Verily this is a frugal race.
The drive ended with passing up the Strada Larga, the inner High Street, running parallel with the Marina. After Turkish fashion, trades flock together, shoemakers to the south and vegetable-vendors to the north. There are two good specimens of Venetian palazzetti, one fantastic, the other classical; and there is a rough pavement, which is still wanting in Patras. A visit to the silk-shop of Garafuglia Papaiouanou was obligatory: here the golden-hued threads reminded me of the Indian Tussur-moth. Also de rigueur was the purchase of nougat and raki, the local mandorlato and mastaché, almond-cake and grape-spirit.
Zante appears to me an excellent home for a large family with a small income. A single man lives at the best hotel (Nazionale) for forty-five francs per week. A country-house with nine bedrooms, cellarage, stabling, dog-house, orangery, and large garden, is to be had for 25l. a year. Fowls cost less than a franc; turkeys, if you do not buy them from a shipchandler, two francs and a half. The strong and sherry-flavoured white wine of Zante rarely exceeds three shillings the gallon, sixpence a bottle. And other necessaries in the same proportion.
But, oh that St. Dionysius, patron saint of Zante, would teach his protégés a little of that old Persian wisdom which abhorred a lie and its concomitants, cheating and mean trickery! The Esmeralda, after two days and one night at Zante, was charged 15l., for pilotage, when the captain piloted himself; for church, where there is no parson; and for harbour dues where there is no harbour. It is almost incredible that so sharp-witted a race can also be so short-sighted; so wise about pennies, so foolish about pounds.
On Saturday we left Zante in the teeth of a fresh but purely local north-easter, which whistled through the gear and hurled the spray high up Cape Skinari. The result was, as the poet sings--
That peculiar up-and-down motion
Which belongs to the treacherous ocean.
Not without regret I saw the last of the memorious old castle and of Skopo the picturesque. We ran along the western shore of Cephalonia, the isle of three hundred villages: anyone passing this coast at once understands how Greece produced so many and such excellent seamen. The island was a charming spectacle, with its two culminations, Maraviglia (3,311 ft.) and Elato (5,246 ft.), both capped by purple cloud; its fertile slopes and its fissured bight, Argostoli Bay, running deep into the land.
We fondly expected to pass the Messina Straits by daylight, and to cast another glance upon old Etna, Scylla and Charybdis, the Liparis and Stromboli. And all looked well, as about noon we were abreast of Cape Spartivento, the 'Split-wind' which divides the mild northers and southers of the Straits from the raw Boras and rotting Sciroccos of the Adriatic. But presently a signal for succour was hoisted by a marvellous old tub, a sailer-made-steamer, sans boats, sans gunwales; a something whose dirt and general dilapidation suggested the Flying Dutchman. I almost expected to see her drop out of form and crumble into dust as our boys boarded her. The America, of Barletta, bound from Brindisi to Genoa, had hurt her boilers. We hauled in her cable--these gentry must never be trusted with a chance of slipping loose--and tugged her into Messina, thereby losing a valuable day.
The famous Straits were almost a replica of Ionian Island scenery: the shores of the Mediterranean, limestone and sandstone, with here and there a volcanic patch, continually repeat themselves. After passing the barren heel of the Boot and its stony big toe, the wady-streaked shores become populous and well cultivated, while railway trains on either side, island and continent, toss their snowy plumes in the pride of civilisation. The ruined castles on the crags and the new villages on the lowlands told their own story of Turkish and Algerine piracy, now doomed to the limbo of things that were. In the evening we were safely anchored within the zancle (sickle) of Messina-port, whose depth of water and circular shape have suggested an old crater flooded. It was Sunday, and we were greeted with the familiar sounds, the ringing of cracked bells, the screaming of harsh, hoarse voices, a military band and detached musical performances. The classical facade of the Marina, through whose nineteen archways and upper parallelograms you catch a vista of dark narrow wynd, contrasts curiously with Catania: the former is a 'dicky,' a front hiding something unclean; while the latter is laid out in Eastern style, where, for the best of reasons, the marble palace hides behind a wall of mud. The only new features I noted were a metal fish-market, engineer art which contrasts marvellously with the Ionic pilasters and the solid ashlar of the 'dicky;' and, at the root of the sickle, a new custom-house of six detached boxes, reddest-roofed and whitest-walled, built to copy children's toy cottages. Croatian Fiume would blush to own them. Of the general impurity of the town and of the bouquet de Messine the less said the better.
As we made fast to the Marina our tobacco was temporarily sealed after the usual mean Italian fashion. Next morning an absurd old person, in a broad red baldrick, came on board and counted noses, to ascertain that we had not brought the dreaded small-pox from the Ionian Islands. After being graciously and liberally allowed to land, we were visited by the local chapmen, whose goods appeared rather mixed--polished cowhorns and mildewed figs, dolls in costume and corrosive oranges; by the normal musical barber, who imitates at a humble distance bird and beast; and by the vendor of binoculars, who asks forty francs and who takes ten. The captain noted his protest at the Consulate, and claimed by way of sauvetage 200l. The owners offered 200 lire--punds Scots. Briefly, noon had struck before we passed out of the noise and the smells of Messina.
Our good deed had cost us dear. A wet scirocco had replaced the bright norther and saddened all the view. Passing the tide-rip Charybdis, a meeting of currents, which called only for another hand at the wheel; and the castled crag of naughty Scylla, whose town has grown prodigiously, we bade adieu to the 'tower of Pelorus.' Then we shaped our course for the Islands of Æolus, or the Winds, and the Lipari archipelago, all volcanic cones whose outlines were misty as Ossian's spectres. And we plodded through the dreary dull-grey scene of drizzling scirocco--
Till, when all veilèd sank in darkling air, Naught but the welkin and the wave was there.
Next morning showed us to port the Cone of Maritimo: it outlies Marsala, whose wine caused the blinding of Polyphemus, and since that time has brought on many an attack of liver. The world then became to us pontus et aer. Days and nights were equally uneventful; the diary tells only of quiet seas under the lee of Sardinia and of the Balearics, ghostly glimpses of the North African coast and the steady setting in of the normal wester, the indraught of 'the Straits.'
On Friday (November 9) the weather broke and deluged us with rain. At Gibraltar the downpour lasted twenty-four hours. We found ourselves at anchor before midnight with a very low barometer, which suggested unpleasantries. Next morning we sighted the deep blue waters of the Bay, and the shallow brown waters of the Bayside crested with foam by a furious norther, that had powdered the far Ronda highlands with snow. Before noon, however, the gale had abated and allowed me to transfer myself and African outfit on board the Fez (Capt. Hay), Moroccan Steamship Company, trading to North Africa. This was a godsend: there is no regular line between Gibraltar and Lisbon, and one might easily be delayed for a week.
The few hours' halt allowed me time to call upon my old friend, M. Dautez, a Belgian artist. Apparently he is the only person in the place who cares for science. He has made extensive collections. He owns twenty-four coins from Carteia, whereas Florez (Medallas, Madrid, 1773) shows a total of only thirty-three. Amongst his antiquities there is a charming statuette of Minerva, a bronze miniature admirably finished. He has collected the rock fauna, especially the molluscs, fossil and modern. He is preparing an album of the Flora Calpensis. His birds' nests were lately sold to an Englishman. All these objects, of immense local interest, were offered by him at the lowest possible rate to the Military Library, but who is there to understand their value? I wonder how many Englishmen on the Rock know that they are within easy ride of the harbour which named the 'Ships of Tarshish'? Tartessus, which was Carteia, although certain German geographers would, against the general voice of antiquity, make the former the country and the latter the city, lay on both sides of the little Guadarranque stream, generally called First River; and the row of tumuli on the left bank probably denotes the site of the famous docks. I was anxious to open diggings in 1872, but permission was not forthcoming: now, however, they say that the Duke of Medina Sidonia would offer no objections.
Gib, though barbarous in matters of science, is civilised as regards 'business.' It was a treat to see steamer after steamer puff in, load up with blue peter at the fore, and start off after a few hours which would have been days at Patras, Zante, and Messina. Here men work with a will, as a walk from the Convent to the Old Mole, the Mersa or water-port of a Moroccan town, amply proves. The uniforms are neat and natty--they were the reverse five years ago--and it is a pleasure to look upon the fresh faces of English girls still unstained by unconsumed carbon. And the authorities have had the good sense to preserve the old Moorish town of Tárik and his successors, the triangle of walls with the tall tower-like mosque for apex, and the base facing the bay.
We left Gibraltar at 5 P.M. on Saturday (December 10), giving a wide berth to the hated Pearl Rock, which skippers would remove by force of arms. Seen from east or west Gib has an outline of its own. The Britisher, whose pride it is, sees the 'lion of England who has laid his paw upon the key of the Mediterranean,' and compares it with the king of beasts, sejant, the tail being Europa Point. The Spaniards, to whom it is an eyesore, liken it to a shrouded corpse, the outlined head lying to the north, and declare, truly enough, that to them it is a dead body.
The norther presently changed to the rainy south-wester, the builder of the Moroccan 'bars' and the scourge of the coast fringing North-west Africa, Rolling set in with the usual liveliness. Events were not eventful. The first midnight found us off Cape Trafalgar, and the second off St. Vincent. At 4 P.M. (December 12), we saw the light of Espíchel (Promóntorium Barbaricum), the last that shines upon the voyager bound Brazilwards. Before nightfall we had left Buzio lighthouse to starboard. We then ran up the northern passage in charge of a lagging pilot; and, as the lamps were lighting, we found ourselves comfortably berthed off that pretty toy, Belem Tower.
Next morning broke upon a lovely view: no wonder that the Tagus is the pride of Portuguese bards. The Rosicler, or rosy dawn-light, was that of a May morning--the May of poetry, not of meteorology--and the upper windows of distant Lisbon were all ablaze with the unrisen sun. It was a picture for the loveliest colours, not for 'word-painting;' and the whole scene was classical as picturesque. We may justly say of it, 'Nullum sine nomine saxum.' Far over the rising hills of the north bank rose shaggy Cintra, 'the most blessed spot in the habitable globe,' with its memorious convent and its Moorish castle. The nearer heights were studded with the oldest-fashioned windmills, when the newest are found even in the Canaries; a single crest bore its baker's dozen, mostly decapitated by steam. Advancing we remarked the glorious Belem monastery, defiled by its ignoble modern ruin to the west; the new hippodrome crowning the grassy slope; the Bed House of Belem, now being brightened up for Royal residence during the Exhibition of 1882; the Memoria and the Ajuda Palace, more unfinished, if possible, than ever. As we approached the bulk of the city the marking objects were the cypressed Prazeres Cemetery; the red Necessidades Palace, and the Estrella, whose dome and domelets, built to mimic St. Peter's, look only like hen and chickens. Then in due time came the Carmo Church, still unrepaired since 1755; Blackhorse Square, still bare of trees; the Government offices, still propped to prevent a tumble-down, and the old Custom House, still a bilious yellow; the vast barrack-like pile of S. Vicente, the historic Sé or cathedral with dumpy towers; the black Castle of São Jorge, so hardly wrung from the gallant Moors, and the huge Santa Engracia, apparently ever to be a ruin.
I spent a pleasant week at Lisbon, and had a fair opportunity of measuring what progress she has made during the last sixteen years. We have no longer to wander up and down disconsolate
Mid many things unsightly to strange ee.
If the beggars remain, the excessive dirt and the vagrant dogs have disappeared. The Tagus has a fine embankment; but the land side is occupied by mean warehouses. The sewers, like those of Trieste, still want a cloaca maxama, a general conduit of masonry running along the quay down-stream. The Rocio has been planted with mean trees, greatly to the disgust of the average Lusitanian, who hates such sun-excluding vegetation like a backwoodsman; yet the Quintella squarelet shows what fine use may be made of cactus and pandanus, aloes and palms, not to mention the ugly and useful eucalyptus. The thoroughfares are far cleaner than they were; and Lisbon is now surrounded by good roads. The new houses are built with some respect for architectonic effect of light and shade: such fine old streets as the Rua Augusta offend the eye by façades flat as cards with rows of pips for windows. Finally, a new park is being laid out to the north of the Passeio Publico.
Having always found 'Olisipo' exceptionally hospitable and pleasant, I look forward to the days when she will be connected with Paris by direct railway. Her hotels are first-rate; her prices are not excessive; her winter climate is delightful, and she is the centre of most charming excursions. The capital has thrown off much of her old lethargy. Her Geographical Society is doing hard and honest work; she has nobly expiated the national crime by becoming a 'Camonian' city; and she indulges freely in exhibitions. One, of Ornamental Art, was about to be opened when I last saw her, and it extended deep into the next spring.
CHAPTER II. FROM LISBON TO MADEIRA.Edit
My allotted week in Lisbon came to an end only too soon: in the society of friends, and in the Camonian room (Bibliotheca Nacional), which contains nearly 300 volumes, I should greatly have enjoyed a month. The s.s. Luso (Captain Silva), of the 'Empresa Insulana,' one of the very few Portuguese steamers, announced her departure for December 20; and I found myself on board early in the morning, with a small but highly select escort to give me God-speed.
Unfortunately the 'May weather' had made way for the cacimbas (mists) of a rainy sou'-wester. The bar broke and roared at us; Cintra, the apex of Lisbon's extinct volcano and the Mountain of the (Sun and) Moon, hid her beautiful head, and even the Rock of Lisbon disdained the normal display of sturdy flank. Then set in a brise carabinée, which lasted during our voyage of 525 miles, and the Luso, rolling like a moribund whale, proved so lively that most of the fourteen passengers took refuge in their berths. A few who resisted the sea-fiend's assaults found no cause of complaint: the captain and officers were exceedingly civil and obliging, and food and wines were good and not costly.
From Madeira the Luso makes, once a month, the tour of the Azores, touching at each island--a great convenience--and returning in ten days.
Early on Thursday, the 22nd, the lumpy, churning sea began to subside, and the invisible balm seduced all the sufferers to the quarter-deck. They were wild to sight Madeira as children to see the rising of the pantomime-curtain. There was not much to gaze at; but what will not attract man's stare at sea?--a gull, a turtle, a flying fish! By the by, Captain Tuckey, of the Congo Expedition, remarked the 'extraordinary absence of sea-birds in the vicinity of Madeira and the Canaries:' they have since learned the way thither. Porto Santo appeared as a purple lump of three knobs, a manner of 'gizzard island,' backed by a deeper gloom of clouds--Madeira. Then it lit up with a pale glimmer as of snow, the effect of the sun glancing upon the thin greens of the northern flank; and, lastly, it broke into two masses--northern and southern--of peaks and precipices connected by a strip of lowland.
It is generally held that the discovery of the Madeiran group (1418-19) was the first marking feature of the century which circumnavigated Africa, and that Porto Santo was 'invented 'by the Portuguese before Madeira. The popular account, however, goes lame. For instance, the story that tried and sturdy soldiers and seamen were deterred from advancing a few miles, and were driven back to Portugal by the 'thick impenetrable darkness which was guarded by a strange noise,' and by anile fancies about the 'Mouth of Hell' and 'Cipango,' reads like mere stuff and nonsense. Again, great are the difficulties in determining the nationality of the explorers, and settling the conflicting claims of the French, Genoese, Portuguese, Spanish, English, and Arabs. History, and perhaps an aptitude for claiming, have assigned the honour exclusively to Lusitania: and every guide-book tells the same old tale. But I have lived long enough to have seen how history is written; and the discovery was, at best, a mere re-discovery, as we learn from Pliny (vi. 36), whose 'insulae purpurariae' cannot be confounded [Footnote: Mr. Major, however, would identify the Purple Islands with Oanarian Fuerteventura and Lanzarote, both possibly Continental.] with the Fortunate Islands, or Canaries. The 'Gaetulian dye' of King Juba in the Augustan age is not known. Its origin has been found in the orchilla still growing upon the Desertas; but this again appears unlikely enough. Ptolemy (iv. 1,16) also mentions 'Erythía,' the Red Isle--'red,' possibly, for the same reason; and Plutarch (in Suet.) may allude to the Madeiran group when he relates of the Fortunate Islands: 'They are two, separated only by a narrow channel, and at a distance of 400 leagues (read 320 miles) from the African coast.'
The Jesuit, Antonio Cordeyro, [Footnote: Historia insulana das Ilhas a Portugal sugoytas, pp. 61-96. Lisbon, 1717.] who borrows from the learned and trustworthy Dr. Gaspar Fructuoso, [Footnote: As Saudades da Terra, lib. i. ch. iii, Historia das Ilhas, &c. This lettered and conscientious chronicler, the first who wrote upon the Portuguese islands, was born (A.D. 1522) at Ponta Delgada (Thin Point) of St. Michael, Azores. He led a life of holiness and good works, composed his history in 1590, left many 'sons of his soul,' as he called his books, and died in his natal place, A.D. 1591. The Madeiran portion of the two huge folios (some 4,000 pages of MS.) has been printed at Funchal, with copious notes by Dr. A. Rodrigues de Azevedo, Professor of Literature, &c., at the National Lyceum; and a copy was kindly lent to me, during the author's absence in Lisbon, by Governor Viscount de Villa Mendo.] declares in 1590: 'The first discoverers of the Porto Santo Island, many say, were those Frenchmen and Castilians (Spaniards) who went forth from Castile to conquer the Canaries; these, when either outward or homeward bound, came upon the said island, and, for that they found it uninhabited and small, they abandoned it; but as they had weathered a storm and saved themselves there, they named it Port Holy.' Fructuoso (i. 5) expressly asserts that the Portuguese sailed from Lisbon in June 1419 for 'the Isle of Porto Sancto'(in 32° N. lat.), which two years before had been discovered by some Castilian ships making the Canaries, the latter having been occupied a short time previously by the French; wherefore the pilot took that route.' The Jesuit chronicler continues to relate that after the formally proclaimed annexation of the Canaries by the Normans and Castilians (A.D. 1402-18), Prince Henry, the Navigator, despatched from Lagos, in 1417, an expedition to explore Cape Bojador, the 'gorbellied.' The three ships were worked by the Italian master-seaman Bertholomeu Palestrello or Palestro, commonly called Perestrello. The soldiers, corresponding to our marines, were commanded by the 'sweet warman,' João Gonçales da Camara, nicknamed 'O Zargo,' the Cyclops, not the squint-eyed; [Footnote: Curious to say, Messieurs White and Johnson, the writers of the excellent guide-book, will translate the word 'squint-eyed:' they might have seen the portrait in Government House.] his companion was Tristão Vaz Teyxeyra, called in honour 'the Tristam.' Azurara, [Footnote: Chronica do Descobrimento de Guiné. By Gomes Eannes de Azurara, written between A.D. 1452-53, and quoted by Prof. Azevedo, Notes, p. 830.] a contemporary, sends the 'two noble squires,' Zarco and Tristam, 'who in bad weather were guided by God to the isle now called Porto Sancto' (June 1419). They returned home (marvellous to relate) without touching at Madeira, only twenty-three miles distant; and next year (1420) Prince Henry commissioned Palestrello also.
The Spaniards prefer to believe that after Jehan de Béthencourt's attack upon the Canaries (A.D. 1403), his soldier Lancelot, who named Lanzarote Island, touched at Porto Santo in 1417; and presently, sailing to the south-west, discovered Madeira. This appears reasonable enough.
Patriotic Barbot (1700), in company with the mariner Villault de Belfons, Père Labat, and Ernest de Fréville, [Footnote: Mémoire sur le Commerce Maritime de Rouen.] claims the honour for France. According to that 'chief factor for the African Company,' the merchants of Dieppe first traded to West Africa for cardamoms and ivory. This was during the reign of Charles V., and between 1364 and 1430, or half a century before the Portuguese. Their chief stations were Goree of Cape Verde, Sierra Leone, Cape Mount, the Kru or Liberian coast, then called 'of Grain,' from the 'Guinea grains' or Malaguetta pepper (Amomum granum Paradisi), and, lastly, the Gold Coast. Here they founded 'Petit Paris' upon the Baie de France, at 'Serrelionne;' 'Petit Dieppe,' at the mouth of the St. John's River, near Grand Bassá, south of Monrovia; and 'Cestro' [Footnote: Now generally called Grand Sestros, and popularly derived from the Portuguese cestos--pepper.] or 'Sestro Paris,' where, three centuries afterwards, the natives retained a few words of French. Hence Admiral Bouet-Willaumez explains the Great and Little 'Boutoo' of our charts by butteau, from butte, the old Norman word still preserved in the great western prairies.
Barbot resumes that in 1383 the Rouen traders, combining with the Dieppe men, sent upon an exploring voyage three ships, one of which, La Vierge, ran down coast as far as where Commenda (Komenda or Komání) and Elmina now stand. At the latter place they built a fort and factory just one century before it was occupied by the Portuguese. The Frenchman declares that one of the Elmina castles was called Bastion de France, and 'on it are still to be seen some old arithmetical numbers, which are anno 13' (i.e. 1383); 'the rest being defaced by weather.' This first factory was afterwards incorporated with the modern building; and in 1387 it was enlarged with the addition of a chapel to lodge more than ten or twelve men, the original garrison.
In 1670 Ogilvy [Footnote: London: Printed by Tho. Johnson for the author, and to be had at his house in White Fryers, MDCLXX.] notes: 'The castle (Elmina) was judged to be an Antient Building from several marks of Antiquity about it; as first by a decay'd Battery, which the Dutch repaired some years ago, retaining the name of the French Battery, because it seems to have been built by the French; who, as the Inhabitants say, before the coming of the Portugals harbour'd there. The Dutch when they won it, found the numerical Figures of the year thirteen hundred; but were not able to make anything of the two following Characters. In a small place within also, may be seen a Writing carved in Stone between two old Pillars, but so impair'd and worn out by the weather that it is not legible.' At Groree, too, similar remains were reported.
The adventurers, it is said, carried on a good trade till 1430-90, when the civil wars distracting France left her without stomach for distant adventure; and in 1452 Portugal walked over the course. M. d'Avezac, who found Porto Santo in a French map of the fourteenth century, [Footnote: Bulletin de la Société de Géographie, cinquième série, tome v. p. 260. Also 'Iles de l'Afrique,' in the Univers. Paris, 1868.] seems inclined to take the part of 'quelques précurseurs méconnus contre les prétentions trop exclusives des découvreurs officiels.'
Barbot's details are circumstantial, but they have not been confirmed by contemporary evidence or by local tradition. The Portuguese indignantly deny the whole, and M. Valdez in his 'Complete Maritime Handbook' [Footnote: Six Years of a Traveller's Life in Western Africa. London, Hurst & Blackett, 1861.] alludes contemptuously to 'Norman pirates.' They point out that Diego d'Azembuja, the chief captain, sent in 1481 to found São Jorje da Mina, our 'Elmina Castle,' saw no traces of previous occupation. But had he done so, would he have dared to publish the fact? Professor Azevedo relies upon the silence of Azurara, Barros, and Camoens concerning the French, the Spaniards, and the English in the person of Robert à Machim. But this is also at best a negative argument: the 'Livy of Portugal' never mentions the great mathematician, Martin Behaim, who accompanied Diego Cam to his discovery of the Congo. In those days fair play was not a jewel.
The truth is that it would be as easy to name the discoverer of gunpowder or steam-power as to find the first circumnavigator of the African continent. I have no difficulty in believing that the Phoenicians and Carthaginians were capable of making the voyage. They were followed to West Africa in early days, according to El-Idrisi and Ibn. el-Wardi, by the Arabs. The former (late eleventh century) relates that an Arab expedition sailed from Lisbon, shortly after the eighth century, and named Madeira and Porto Santo the 'Islands El-Ghanam and Rákah.' However that may be, the first Portuguese occupants found neither men nor ruins nor large quadrupeds upon any of the group.
The English accident of hitting upon Madeira, and the romantic tale of Master Robert à Machim, or Machin, or Macham, and Mistress Anne d'Arfet, or Darby, or Dorset, which would have suited Camoens, and which I have told elsewhere, [Footnote: Wanderings in West Africa, vol. i, p. 17. Chapter II., 'A Day at Madeira,' was written after my second and before my third visit.] and need not repeat, was probably an 'ingenious account' invented for politico-international ends or to flatter Dom Enrique, a Britisher by the distaff-side. It is told with a thousand variants, and ignored by the learned Fructuoso. According to the apocryphal manuscript of Francisco Alcoforado, the squire who accompanied the Zargo, this elopement took place in the earlier days of Edward III. (A.D. 1327-77). The historian Antonio Galvão fixes upon September 1344, the date generally accepted. Thus the interval between Machim's death and the Zargo's discovery would be seventy-four years; and--pace Mr. Major--the Castilian pilot, Juan Damores (de Amores), popularly called Morales, could not have met the remnant of the Bristol crew in their Moroccan prison, and could not have told the tale to the Portuguese explorers.
M. d'Avezac (loc. cit. p. 116) supports the claims of the Genoese, quoting the charts and portulans of the fourteenth century in which appear Italian names, as Insule dello Legname (of wood, materia, Madeira), Porto Sancto, Insule Deserte, and Insule Selvaggie. Mr. R. H. Major replies that these Italian navigators were commandants of expeditions fitted out by the Portuguese; and that this practice dated from 1341, when two ships officered by Genoese, with crews of [footnote: Amongst the 'ridiculous little blots, which are "nuts" to the old resident,' I must confess to killing Robert Machim in 1334 instead of 1344; 'Collegio' was also translated 'College' instead of 'Jesuit Church.'] Italians, Castilians, and Hispani (Spanish and Portuguese), were seat to explore the Canaries.
'Holy Port' began badly. The first governor, Perestrello, fled from the progeny of his own she-rabbit. This imprudence was also committed at Deserta Grande; and, presently, the cats introduced by way of cure ran wild. A grass-clad rock in the Fiume Gulf can tell the same tale: sheep and lambs were effectually eaten out by rabbits and cats. It will be remembered that Columbus married Philippa, third daughter of the navigator Perestrello, lived as a mapper with his father-in-law, and thence travelled, between 1470 and 1484, to Guinea, where he found that the equatorial regions are not uninhabitable by reason of the heat. He inherited the old seaman's papers, and thus arose the legend of his learning from a castaway pilot the way to the New World. [Footnote: Fructuoso writes that in 1486 Columbus gave food and shelter to the crew of a shattered Biscayan ship; the pilot dying bequeathed to him papers, charts and valuable observations made on the Western Ocean.]
Long years rolled by before Porto Santo learnt to bear the vine, to breed large herds of small cattle, and to produce cereals whose yield is said to have been 60 to 1. Meanwhile it cut down for bowls, mortars, and canoes, as the Guanches did for shields, its thin forest of 'Dragons.' The Dragoeiro (Dracaena Draco Linn., Palma canariensis Tourn.), which an Irish traveller called a 'dragon-palm,' owed its vulgar name to the fancy that the fruit contained the perfect figure of a standing dragon with gaping mouth and long neck, spiny back and crocodile's tail. It is a quaint tree of which any ingenious carpenter could make a model. The young trunk is somewhat like that of the Oreodoxa regia, or an asparagus immensely magnified; but it frequently grows larger above than below. At first it bears only bristly, ensiform leaves, four feet long by one to three inches broad, and sharp-pointed, crowning the head like a giant broom. Then it puts forth gouty fingers, generally five, standing stiffly up and still capped by the thick yucca-like tufts. Lastly the digitations grow to enormous arms, sometimes eighteen feet in girth, of light and porous, soft and spongy wood. The tree then resembles the baobab or calabash, the elephant or hippopotamus of the vegetable kingdom.
Amongst the minor uses of this 'Dragon,' the sweet yellowish berries called masainhas were famous for fattening pigs. The splinters made tooth-picks which, dipped in the juice, secured health for human gums. But the great virtue resided in the Sanguis Draconis, the 'Indian Cinnabaris' of Pliny, [Footnote: N.H. xxxiii. 38.] who holds it to be the sanies of the dragon mixed with the blood of the dying elephant. The same semi-mystical name is given to the sap by the Arab pharmists: in the Middle Ages this strong astringent resin was a sovereign cure for all complaints; now it is used chiefly for varnishes. The gum forms great gouts like blood where the bark is wounded or fissured: at first it is soft as that of the cherry, but it hardens by exposure to a dry red lump somewhat like 'mummy.' It has no special taste: when burnt the smell is faintly balsamic. The produce was collected in canes, and hence the commercial name 'Dragon's blood in reeds.'
Mr. P. Barker Webb believed the Dragoeiro to be a species peculiar to the Madeiras and Canaries. But its chief point of interest is its extending through Morocco as far as Arabo-African Socotra, and through the Khamiesberg Range of Southern Africa, where it is called the Kokerboom. As it is utterly African, like the hippopotamus, the zebra, and the giraffe, we must account, by transplantation from Socotra, for the D. Draco seen by Cruttenden in the mountains behind Dhofar and on the hills of El-Yemen. [Footnote: Journ. R. Geogr. Soc. p. 279, vol. viii. of 1838.] The line of growth, like the coffee-shrub and the copal-tree, suggests a connection across the Dark Continent: thus the similar flora of Fernando Po Peak, of Camarones volcano, and of the highlands of Abyssinia seems to prove a latitudinal range traversing the equatorial regions, where the glacial epoch banished for ever the hardier plants from the lower levels. When Humboldt determined it to be a purely Indian growth, he seems to have confounded the true 'dragon' with a palm or some other tree supplying the blood. It was a 'dazzling theory,' but unsound: the few specimens in Indus-land, 'its real country,' are comparatively young, and are known to have been imported.
The endogenous monster, indigenous to the Elysian Fields, is to the surrounding vegetation what the cockatrice is to the cock, the wyvern to the python. I should say 'was,' for all the replants at Madeira and the Canaries are modern, and resemble only big toothsticks. But 'dragons' proper have existed, and perhaps memories of these portents long lingered in the brain of protohistoric man. Even if they had been altogether fabulous, the fanciful Hellenic mind would easily have created them. The Dragoeiro with its boa-like bole, its silvery, light-glancing skin, and its scars stained with red blood, growing in a wild garden of glowing red-yellow oranges, would easily become the fiery saurian guarding the golden apples of the Hesperides.
Porto Santo and Madeira, though near neighbours, are contrasts in most respects. The former has yellow sands and brackish water, full of magnesia and lime, which blacken the front teeth; the latter sweet water and black shingles. The islet is exceedingly dry, the island damp as Devonshire. Holy Port prefers wheeled conveyances: Wood-and-Fennel-land corsas or sledges, everywhere save on the New Road. Finally, the wines of the northern mite are comparatively light and acidulous; of the southern, luscious and heady.
Both scraps of ground are of kindred although disputed origin. Classicists [Footnote: Plato, Timaeus, ii. 517. His 'fruit with a hard rind, affording meat, drink, and ointment,' is evidently the cocoanut. The cause of the lost empire and the identity of its site with the Dolphin's Ridge and the shallows noted by H.M.S. Challenger, have been ably pleaded in Atlantis, &c., by Ignatius Donnelly (London, Sampson Low, 1882).] find in these sons of Vulcan, the débris of Platonic Atlantis, a drowned continent, a 'Kingdom of Nowhere,' which some cataclysm whelmed beneath the waters, leaving, for all evidence, three shattered groups of outcrops, like the Channel Islands, fragments of a lost empire, the 'bones of a wasted body.' Geologists, noting that volcanoes almost always fringe mainlands, believe them destined, together with the Cape Verdes, to rampart in future ages the Dark Continent with a Ghaut-chain higher than the Andes. Other theorists hold to a recent connection of the Madeiras with Mount Atlas, although the former rise from a narrow oceanic trough some 13,000 to 15,000 feet deep. Others again join them to Southern Europe and to Northern America. The old Portuguese and certain modern realists make them a continuation of the Serra de Monchique in the Algarves, even as the Azores prolong Cintra; and this opinion is somewhat justified by the flora, which resembles in many points the tertiary and extinct growths of Europe. [Footnote: Such is the opinion of M. Pégot-Ogier in The Fortunate Islands, translated by Frances Locock (London, Bentleys, 1871). Moquet set the example in 1601 by including Madeira also in the 'Elysian Fields and Earthly Paradise' of the ancients.]
Porto Santo was till lately distinguished only for pride, poverty, and purity of blood. Her soil, according to the old chroniclers, has never been polluted, like São Thomé and other colonies, by convicts, Jews, or other 'infected peoples.' She was populated by Portuguese 'noble and taintless'--Palestrellos, Calaças, Pinas, Vieyras, Rabaçaes, Crastos, Nunes, Pestanas, and Concellos. And yet not a little scandal was caused by Holiport when the 'Prophet Fernando' and the 'Prophetess Philippa' (Nunes), 'instigated by the demon and the deceitfulness of mankind,' induced the ecclesiastics to introduce into the introit, with the names of St. Peter and St. Paul, the 'Blessed Prophet Fernando.' The tale of murder is told with holy horror by Dr. Gaspar Fructuoso, and the islanders are still nicknamed 'prophetas.' Foreigners, however, who have lately visited them, speak highly of their simple primitive ways.
I boated to the Holy Port in 1862, when Messieurs Blandy's steamship Falcon was not in existence. And now as the Luso steamed along shore, no external change appeared. A bird's-eye view of the islet suggests a podão or Madeiran billhook, about six miles by three. The tool's broken point is the Ilha da Cima, facing to north-east, a contorted pile which resembles a magnified cinder. The handle is the Ilheu Baixo, to the south; and the blade is the tract of yellow sandy lowlands--the sole specimen of its sort in the Madeiras--connecting the extremities. Three tall cones at once disclose vulcanism; the Pico de Facho, or Beacon Peak (1,660 feet), the Pico de Anna Ferreira (910 feet), and the sugarloaf Pico de Castello (1,447 feet). The latter rises immediately north of the single town, and its head still shows in white points the ruins of the fort which more than once saved the population from the 'Moors.' The lower levels are terraced, as usual in this archipelago, and the valleys are green with vines and cereals. The little white Villa Baleira is grouped around its whiter church, and dotted with dark vegetation, trees, and houses, straggling off into open country. Here lodge the greater part of the islanders, now nearly 1,750 souls. The population is far too thick. But the law of Portugal has, till lately, forbidden emigration to the islanders unless a substitute for military service be provided; the force consists of only 250 men, and the term of service is three years; yet a remplaçant costs upwards of 50l. Every emigrant was, therefore, an energetic stowaway, who landed at Honolulu or Demerara without shoes and stockings, and returned in a few years with pounds sterling enough to purchase an estate and a pardon. Half-a-dozen boats, some of them neat little feluccas with three masts, are drawn up on the beach: there is not much fishing; the vine-disease has raged, and the staple export consists of maize in some quantities; of cantaria, a grey trachyte which works more freely than the brown or black basalt, and of an impure limestone from Ilheu Baixo, the only calcaire used in Funchal. This rock is apparently an elevated coral-reef: it also produces moulds of sea-shells, delicately traced and embedded in blocks of apparently unbroken limestone. Of late a fine vein of manganese has been found in the northern or mountainous part of the island: specimens shown to me by Mr. J. Blandy appeared remarkably rich.
Under the lee of Porto Santo we enjoyed a dry deck and a foretaste of the soft and sensuous Madeiran 'Embate,' the wester opposed to the Leste, Harmattan, Khammasin, or Scirocco, the dry wind which brings wet. [Footnote: The popular proverb is, 'A Leste never dies thirsty.'] Then we rolled over the twenty-five geographical miles separating us from our destination. Familiar sites greeted my eyes: here the 'Isle of Wood' projects a dwarf tail composed of stony vertebræ: seen upon the map it looks like the thin handle of a broad chopper. The outermost or extreme east is the Ilha de Fora, where the A.S.S. Forerunner and the L. and H. Newton came to grief: a small light, one of the many on this shore, now warns the careless skipper; but apparently nothing is easier than to lose ships upon the safest coasts. Inside it is the Ponta de São Lourenço, where the Zargo, when startled, called upon his patron Saint of the Gridiron; others say it was named after his good ship. It has now a lighthouse and a telegraph-station. [Footnote: The line runs all along the southern shore as far as the Ponta do Pargo (of the 'braise-fish,' Pargus vulgaris), the extreme west. At Funchal the cable lands north of Fort São Thiago Minor, where ships are requested not to anchor. It is used chiefly for signalling arrivals from north and south; and there is talk of extending it to the Porto da Cruz, a bay on the north-eastern side. It would be of great advantage to Madeira if steamers could here land their mails when prevented from touching at Funchal by the south winds, which often last a week. Accordingly a breakwater has been proposed, and Messieurs Blandy are taking interest in the improvement.] The innermost of this sharp line of serrated basaltic outliers is the Pedra do Furado, which Englishmen call the Arch-Rock.
The substantial works of the Gonçalo-Machico highway, the telegraph-posts, and the yellow-green lines of sugar-cane, were the only changes I could detect in Eastern Madeira. Nothing more charming than the variety and contrast of colours after the rusty-brown raiment which Southern Europe dons in mid-December. Even the barren, arid, and windswept eastern slopes glowed bright with the volcanic muds locally called laterites, and the foliated beds of saibros and maçapés, decomposed tufas oxidised red and yellow. As we drew nearer to Funchal, which looks like a giant plate-bande, tilted up at an angle of 40°, we were startled by the verdure of every shade and tint; the yellow-green of the sugar and common cane (Arundo sagittata), of the light-leaved aloe, banana, and hibiscus; the dark orange, myrtle, and holm-oak; the gloomy cypress, and the dull laurels and bay-trees, while waving palms, growing close to stiff pines and junipers (Oedro da Serra), showed the contrast and communion of north and south.
Lines of plane-trees, with foliage now blighted yellow and bright green in February, define the embouchures of the three grim black ravines radiating from the upper heights, and broadening out as they approach the bay. The rounded grassy hill-heads setting off the horizontal curtains of dry stone, 'horticultural fortifications' which guard the slopes, and which rise to a height of 3,000 feet; the lower monticules and parasitic craters, Signal Hill, Race-course Hill, São Martinho and Santo Antonio, telling the tale of throes perhaps to be renewed; the stern basaltic cliff-walls supporting the island and prolonged in black jags through the glassy azure of the transparent sea; the gigantic headlands forming abutments for the upper arch; the chequered lights and shades and the wavy play of sunshine and cloudlet flitting over the face of earth; the gay tenements habited in white and yellow, red, green, and, not unfrequently, blue; the houses built after the model of cigar-boxes set on edge, with towers, belvederes, and gazebos so tall that no one ascends them, and with flat roofs bearing rooms of glass, sparkling like mirrors where they catch the eye of day; the toy-forts, such as the Fortaleza do Pico de São João, built by the Spaniards, an upper work which a single ironclad would blow to powder with a broadside; the mariner's landmark, 2,000 feet high, Nossa Senhora do Monte, white-framed in brown-black and backed by its feathery pines, distance-dwarfed to mere shrubs, where the snow-winds sport; the cloud-cap, a wool-pack, iris-tinted by the many-hued western sky, and the soft sweet breath of the serre-chaude below, profusely scented with flower and fruit, all combined to form an ensemble whose first sight Northern travellers long remember. Here everyone quotes, and so will I:--
Hic ver assiduum atque alienis mensibus æstas.
Though it be midwinter, the land is gorgeous with blossoms; with glowing rose, fuchsia, and geranium; with snowy datura, jasmine, belladonna, stephanotis, lily, and camelia; with golden bignonia and grevillea; with purple passion-creeper; with scarlet coral and poinciana; with blue jacaranda (rosewood), solanum and lavender; and with sight-dazzling bougainvillea of five varieties, in mauve, pink, and orange sheets. Nor have the upper heights been wholly bared. The mountain-flanks are still bushy and tufty with broom, gorse, and furze; with myrtle, bilberry and whortleberry; with laurels; with heaths 20 feet high, and with the imported pine.
We spin round fantastic Garajáo, [Footnote: Not the meaningless Garajão, as travellers will write it.] the wart-nosed cliff of 'terns' or 'sea-swallows' (Sterna hirundo), by the northern barbarian termed, from its ruddy tints, Brazen Head. Here opens the well-known view perpetuated by every photographer--first the blue bay, then the sheet of white houses gradually rising in the distance. We anchor in the open roadstead fronting the Fennel-field ('Funchal'), concerning which the Spaniard spitefully says--
Donde crece la escola Nace el asno que la roya.
Wheresoe'er the fennel grows Lives the ass that loves to browse.]
And there, straight before us, lies the city, softly couched against the hill-side that faces the southern sea, and enjoying her 'kayf' in the sinking sun. Her lower zone, though in the Temperates, is sub-tropical: Tuscany is found in the mid-heights, while it is Scotland in the bleak wolds about Pico Ruivo (6,100 feet) and the Paül (Moorland) da Serra. I now see some change since 1865. East of the yellow-washed, brown-bound fort of São Thiago Minor, the island patron, rises a huge white pile, or rather piles, the Lazaretto, with its three-arched bridge spanning the Wady Gonçalo Ayres. The fears of the people forbid its being used, although separated from them by a mile of open space. This over-caution at Madeira, as at Tenerife, often causes great inconvenience to foreign residents; moreover, it is directly opposed to treaty. There is a neat group, meat-market, abattoir, and fish-market--where there is ne'er a flat fish save those who buy--near those dreariest of academic groves, the Praça Academica, at the east end proper, or what an Anglo-Indian would term the 'native town.' Here we see the joint mouth of the torrent-beds Santa Luzia and João Gomes which has more than once deluged Funchal. Timid Funchalites are expecting another flood: the first was in 1803, the second in 1842, and thus they suspect a cycle of forty years. [Footnote: The guide-books make every twenty-fifth year a season of unusual rain, the last being 1879-80.] The lately repaired Sé (cathedral) in the heart of the mass is conspicuous for its steeple of azulejos, or varnished tiles, and for the ruddy painting of the black basaltic façade, contrasting less violently with the huge splotches of whitewash, the magpie-suit in which the church-architecture of the Madeiras and the Canaries delights. The São Francisco convent, with its skull-lined walls, and the foundations of its proposed successor, the law courts, have disappeared from the space adjoining the main square; this chief promenade, the Praça da Constituição, is grown with large magnolias, vinhaticos, or native mahogany (Persea Indica), and til-trees (Oreodaphne foetens), and has been supplemented by the dwarf flower-garden (Jardim Novo) lately opened to the west. The latter, I regret to say, caused the death of many noble old trees, including a fine palm; but Portuguese, let me repeat, have scant sympathy with such growth. The waste ground now belonging to the city will be laid out as a large public garden with fountains and band-stands. Finally, that soundly abused 'Tower of Babel,' alias 'Benger's Folly,' built in 1796, has in the evening of its days been utilised by conversion into a signal-tower. So far so good.
But the stump of caes, or jetty, which was dashed to pieces more than a score of years ago, remains as it was; The landing-place calls loudly for a T-headed pier of concrete blocks, or a gangway supported upon wooden piles and metal pilasters: one does not remark the want in fine weather; one does bitterly on bad days. There has been no attempt to make a port or even a débarcadère by connecting the basaltic lump Loo (Ilheu) Fort with the Pontinha, the curved scorpion's tail of rock and masonry, Messieurs Blandy's coal stores, to the west. Big ships must still roll at anchor in a dangerous open roadstead far off shore; and, during wet weather, ladies, well drenched by the surf, must be landed with the aid of a crane in what should be the inner harbour. The broken-down circus near Reid's is to become a theatre, but whence the money is to come no one knows. The leper hospital cannot afford to make up more than nine or ten beds. The jail is in its old disgraceful state, and sadly wants reform: here the minimum of punishment would suffice; I never saw the true criminal face, and many of the knick-knacks bought in Madeira are the work of these starving wretches. The Funchal Club gives periodically a subscription ball, 'to ameliorate, if possible, the condition of the prisoners at the Funchal jail'--asking strangers, in fact, to do the work of Government. The Praça da Rainha, a dwarf walk facing the huge yellow Government House, alias Palacio de São Lourenço, has been grown with mulberries intended for sericulture. Unfortunately, whatever may here be done by one party (the 'ins') is sure to be undone when the 'outs' become 'ins.' There has been no change in the 'Palace,' except that the quaint portraits of one-eyed Zargo, who has left many descendants in the island, and of the earlier Captains-General, dignitaries who were at once civil and military, have been sent to the Lisbon Exhibition. The queer old views of Machim's landing and of Funchal Bay still amuse visitors. Daily observations for meteorology are here taken at 9 A.M. and 3 and 9 P.M.; the observatory standing eighty feet above sea-level.
As our anchor rattles downwards, two excise boats with the national flag take up their stations to starboard and port; and the boatmen are carefully watched with telescopes from the shore. The wiser Spaniards have made Santa Cruz, Tenerife, a free port. The health-officer presently gives us pratique, and we welcome the good 'monopolist,' Mr. William Reid, and his son. The former, an Ayrshire man, has made himself proprietor of the four chief hostelries. Yates's or Hollway's in the Entrada da Cidade, or short avenue running north from the landing-place, has become a quasi-ruinous telegraph-station. Reid's has blossomed into the 'Royal Edinburgh;' it is rather a tavern than an hotel, admitting the 'casuals' from passing steamers and men who are not welcome elsewhere. One of these, who called himself a writer for the press, and who waxed insultingly drunk, made our hours bitter; but the owner has a satisfactory and sovereign way of dealing with such brutes. Miles's has become the Carmo, and Schlaff's the 'German.' The fourth, Santa Clara, retains her maiden name; the establishment is somewhat collet monté, but I know none in Europe more comfortable. There are many others of the second rank; and the Hôtel Central, with its café-billiard and estaminet at the city-entrance, is a good institution which might be made better.
We throw a few coppers to the diving-boys, who are expert as the Somali savages of Aden, and we quit our water prison in the three-keeled boats,
Magno telluris amore Egressi
'Tellus,' however, is represented at Funchal by chips and pebbles of black basalt like petrified kidneys, stuck on edge, often upon a base of bare rock. They are preferred to the slabs of Trieste and Northern Italy, which here, with the sole exception of the short Rua de Bettencourt, are confined to flights of steps. The surfaces are greased by rags and are polished by the passage of 'cars' or coach-sleighs, which irreverents call 'cow-carts;' these vehicles, evidently suggested by the corsa, or common sleigh, consist of a black-curtained carriage-body mounted on runners. The queer cobble-pavement, that resembles the mosaics of clams and palm-nuts further south, has sundry advantages. It is said to relieve the horses' back sinews; it is never dusty; the heaviest rain flows off it at once; nor is it bad walking when the kidney-stones are small. The black surface is sometimes diapered with white pebbles, lime from Porto Santo. Very strange is the glare of moonlight filtered through the foliage; the beams seem to fall upon patches of iced water.
We had not even the formality of a visit to the Custom-house: our unopened boxes were expected to pay only a small fee, besides the hire of boat, porters, and sledges. A cedula interina, costing 200 reis (11d.), was the sole expense for a permit to reside. What a contrast with London and Liverpool, where I have seen a uniform-case and a cocked hat-box subjected to the 'perfect politeness' of certain unpleasant officials: where collections of natural history are plundered by paid thieves, [Footnote: When we last landed at Liverpool (May 22), the top tray of my wife's trunk reached us empty, and some of the choicest birds shot by Cameron and myself were stolen. Since the days of Waterton the Liverpudlian custom-house has been a scandal and a national disgrace.] and where I have been obliged to drop my solitary bottle of Syrian raki!
I was hotelled at the 'Royal Edinburgh,' and enjoyed once more the restful calm of a quasi-tropical night, broken only by the Christmas twanging of the machete (which is to the guitar what kit is to fiddle); by the clicking of the pebbles on the shore, and by the gentle murmuring of the waves under the window.
NOTE.--The Madeiran Archipelago consists of five islands disposed in a scalene triangle, whose points are Porto Santo (23 miles, north-east), Madeira (west), and the three Desertas (11 miles, south-east). The Great and Little Piton of the Selvagens, or Salvages (100 miles, south), though belonging to Portugal and to the district of Funchal, are geographically included in the Canarian group. Thus, probably, we may explain the 'Aprositos,' or Inaccessible Island, which Ptolemy
[Footnote: The great Alexandrian is here (iv. 6, §§ 33-4) sadly out of his reckoning. He places the group of six islands adjacent to Libya many degrees too far south (N. lat. 10°-16°), and assigns one meridian (0° 0' 0") to Aprositos, Pluitana (Pluvialia? Hierro?), Caspeiria (Capraria? Lanzarote?), and another and the same (1° 0' 0") to Pintouaria (Nivaria? Tenerife?), Hera (Junonia? Gomera?), and Canaria.]
includes in his Six Fortunates; and the Isle of SS. Borondon and Maclovius the Welshman (St. Malo). The run from Lizard's Point is laid down at 1,164 miles; from Lisbon, 535; from Cape Cantin, 320; from Mogador (9° 40' west long.), 380; and 260 from Santa Cruz, Tenerife. The main island lies between N. lat. 32° 49' 44" and 32° 37' 18"; the parallel is that of Egypt, of Upper India, of Nankin, and of California. Its longitude is included within 16° 39' 30" and 17° 16' 38" west of Greenwich. The extreme length is thus 37-1/2 (usually set down as 33 to 54) miles; the breadth, 12-1/2 (popularly 15-16 1/2); the circumference, 72; the coast-line, about 110; and the area, 240--nearly the size of Huntingdonshire, a little smaller than the Isle of Man, and a quarter larger than the Isle of Wight. Pico Ruivo, the apex of the central volcanic ridge, rises 6,050-6,100 feet, with a slope of 1 in 3.75; the perpetual snow-line being here 11,500. Madeira is supposed to tower from a narrow oceanic trough, ranging between 13,200 and 16,800 feet deep. Of 340 days, there are 263 of north-east winds, 8 of north, 7 of east, and 62 of west. The rainfall averages only 29.82 to 30.62 inches per annum. The over-humidity of the climate arises from its lying in the Guinea Gulf Stream, which bends southward, about the Azores, from its parent the great Gulf Stream, striking the Canaries and flowing along the Guinea shore. (White and Johnson's Guide-Book, and 'Du Climat de Madère,' &c., par A. C. Mourão-Pitta, Montpellier, 1859, the latter ably pleading a special cause.)
CHAPTER III. A FORTNIGHT AT MADEIRA.Edit
I passed Christmas week at the 'Flower of the Wavy Field;' and, in the society of old and new friends, found nothing of that sameness and monotony against which so many, myself included, have whilom declaimed. The truth is that most places breed ennui for an idle man. Nor is the climate of Madeira well made for sedentary purposes: it is apter for one who loves to flâner, or, as Victor Hugo has it, errer songeant.
Having once described Funchal at some length, I see no reason to repeat the dose; and yet, as Miss Ellen M. Taylor's book shows,
[Footnote: Madeira: its Scenery, and how to see it. Stanford, London, 1878. This is an acceptable volume, all the handbooks being out of print. I reviewed it in the Academy July 22, 1882.]
the subject, though old and well-worn, can still bear a successor to the excellent White and Johnson handbook.
[Footnote: Mr. Johnson still survives; not so the well-known Madeiran names Bewick, (Sir Frederick) Pollock, and Lowe (Rev, R. T.) The latter was drowned in 1873, with his wife, in the s.s. Liberia, Captain Lowry. The steamer went down in the Bay of Biscay, it is supposed from a collision. I sailed with Captain Lowry (s.s. Athenian) in January 1863, when St. George's steeple was rocking over Liverpool: he was nearly washed into the lee scuppers, and a quartermaster was swept overboard during a bad squall. I found him an excellent seaman, and I deeply regretted his death.]
As early as 1827 'The Rambler in Madeira' (Mr. Lyall) proclaimed the theme utterly threadbare, in consequence of 'every traveller opening his quarto (?) with a short notice of it;' and he proceeded at once to indite a fair-sized octavo. Humboldt said something of the same sort in his 'Personal Narrative,' and forthwith wrote the worst description of the capital and the 'Pike' of Tenerife that any traveller has ever written of any place. He confesses to having kept a meagre diary, not intending to publish a mere book of travels, and drew his picture probably from recollection and diminutive note-books.
I found Funchal open-hearted and open-handed as ever; and the pleasure of my stay was marred only by two considerations, both purely personal. Elysian fields and green countries do not agree with all temperaments. Many men are perfectly and causelessly miserable in the damp heats of Western India and the Brazil. We must in their case simply reverse the Wordsworthian dictum,
Not melancholy--no, for it is green.
They are perfectly happy in the Arabian desert, and even in Tenerife, where others feel as if living perpetually on the verge of high fever.
To this 'little misery' were added the displeasures of memory. Our last long visit was in 1863, when the Conde de Farrobo ruled the land, and when the late Lord Brownlow kept open house at the beautiful Vigia. I need hardly say that we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves: the impressions of that good old time were deep and durable.
Amongst other things, Governor Farrobo indulged his fair friends with a display of the old jogo de canas, or running at the ring. The Praça Academica had been rigged out to serve as a tilting-yard, with a central alley of palisading and two 'stands,' grand and little. The purpose was charitable, and the performers were circus-horses, mounted by professionals and amateurs, who thus 'renowned it' before the public and their damas. The circlet, hanging to a line, equalled the diameter of a small boy's hat; and when the 'knight' succeeded in bearing it off upon his pole, he rode up to be decorated by the hands of a very charming person with a ribbon-baudrière of Bath dimensions and rainbow colours. Prizes were banal as medals after a modern war, and perhaps for the same purpose--to prevent unchristian envy, hatred, and malice. Almost any trooper in an Anglo-Indian cavalry regiment would have done better; but then he would have couched his bamboo spear properly and would have put out his horse to speed--an idea which seemed to elude the Madeiran mind. The fête ended with a surprise less expensive than that with which the Parisian restaurant astonishes the travelling Britisher. A paper chandelier was suspended between two posts, of course to be knocked down, when out sprang an angry hunch-backed dwarf, who abused and fiercely struck at all straight backs within reach.
Madeira is celebrated for excursions, which, however, are enjoyable only in finest weather. Their grand drawback is inordinate expense; you may visit the whole seaboard of Morocco, and run to Tenerife and return for the sum spent in a week of Madeiran travel. The following tour to the north of the island was marked out for us by the late Mr. Bewick; his readiness to oblige, his extensive local knowledge, and his high scientific attainments caused his loss to be long felt in the Isle of Wood. 'You make on the first day Santa Anna, on the opposite coast, a six to eight hours' stage by horse or hammock, passing through the grand scenery of the valleys Metade, Meiometade, and Ribeiro Frio.
[Footnote: Most of these places are given in Views (26) in the Madeiras, &c., by the Rev. James Bulwer. London, Rivington, 1829. He also wrote Rambles in Madeira and in Portugal in 1826.]
The next day takes you to Pico Ruivo, Rothhorn, Puy Rouge, or Red Peak, the loftiest in the island, whose summit commands a view of a hundred hills, and you again night at Santa Anna. The third stage is to the rocky gorge of São Vicente, which abounds in opportunities for neck-breaking. The next is a long day with a necessary guide to the Paül da Serra, the "Marsh of the Wold," and the night is passed at Seixal, on the north-west coast, famous for its corniche-road. The fifth day conducts you along-shore to Ponta Delgada, and the last leads from this "Thin Point" through the Grand Curral back to Funchal.'
I mention this excursion that the traveller may carefully avoid it in winter, especially when we attempted the first part, February being the very worst month. After many days of glorious weather the temper of the atmosphere gave way; the mercury fell to 28.5, and we were indulged with a succession of squalls and storms, mists and rain. The elemental rage, it is true, was that of your southern coquette, sharp, but short, and broken by intervals of a loving relapse into caress. In the uplands and on the northern coast, however, it shows the concentrated spleen and gloom of a climate in high European latitudes.
We contented ourselves with the Caminho do Meio, the highway supposed to bisect the island, and gradually rising to the Rocket Road (Caminho do Foguete) with a pleasant slope of 23°, or 1 in 2 1/3. These roads are heavy on the three h's--head, heart, and hand. We greatly enjoyed the view from the famous Levada, the watercourse or leat-road of Santa Luzia, with its scatter of noble quintas,
[Footnote: The country-house is called a quinta, or fifth, because that is the proportion of produce paid by the tenant to the proprietor.]
St. Lucy's, St. Anne's, Quinta Davies, Palmeira, and Til. Nossa Senhora do Monte, by Englishmen misnamed 'the Convent,' and its break-arm slide-down, in basket-sleighs, is probably as well known, if not better known, to the reader than St. Paul's, City. Here we found sundry votaries prostrating themselves before a dark dwarf 'Lady' with jewelled head and spangled jupe: not a few were crawling on their knees up the cruel cobble-stones of the mount. On the right yawned the 'Little Curral,' as our countrymen call the Curral das Romeiras (of the Pilgrimesses); it is the head of the deluging torrent-bed, João Gomes. Well worth seeing is this broken punch-bowl, with its wild steep gap; and, if the traveller want a vertiginous walk, let him wend his way along the mid-height of the huge tongue which protrudes itself from the gorge to the valley-mouth.
Near the refuge-house called the Poizo, some 4,500 feet above sea-level, a road to the right led us to Comacha, where stood Mr. Edward Hollway's summer quinta. It occupies a ridge-crest of a transverse rib projected southerly, or seawards, from the central range which, trending east-west, forms the island dorsum. Hence its temperature is 60° (F.) when the conservatory upon the bay shows 72°. Below it, 1,800 feet high, and three miles north-east of the city, lies the Palheiro do Ferreiro ('blacksmith's straw-hut'), the property of the once wealthy Carvalhal house. The name of these 'Lords of the Oak-ground' is locally famous. Chronicles mention a certain Count Antonio who flourished, or rather 'larked,' circa A.D. 1500. In those days the land bore giants and heroes, and Madeiran blood had not been polluted by extensive miscegenation with the negro. Anthony, who was feller than More of More Hall, rode with ungirthed saddle over the most dangerous achadas (ledges); a single buffet of this furious knight smashed a wild boar, and he could lift his horse one palm off the ground by holding to a tree branch. The estate has been wilfully wasted by certain of his descendants. Comacha, famous for picnics, is a hamlet rich in seclusion and fine air; it might be utilised by those who, like the novel-heroes of Thackeray and Bulwer, deliberately sit down to vent themselves in a book.
Pico Ruivo was a distressing failure. We saw nothing save a Scotch mist, which wetted us to the bones; and we shivered standing in a slush of snow which would have been quite at home in Upper Norwood. On this topmost peak were found roots of the Madeiran cedar (Juniperus Oxycedrus), showing that at one time the whole island was well wooded.
We need not believe in the seven years' fire; but the contrast of the southern coast with the northern, where the forests primaeval of Lauraceae and Myrtaceae still linger, shows the same destructive process which injured Ireland and ruined Iceland. The peculiarity of these uplands, within certain limits, is that the young spring-verdure clothes them before it appears in the lower and warmer levels. Here they catch a sunshine untarnished by watery vapour.
During our short trip and others subsequent many a little village showed us the Madeiran peasant pure and simple. Both sexes are distressingly plain; I saw only one pretty girl amongst them. Froggy faces, dark skins, and wiry hair are the rule; the reason being that in the good old days a gentleman would own some eighty slaves. [Footnote: As early as 1552 the total of African imports amounted to 2,700.] But they are an industrious and reproductive race.
[Footnote: The following note of the census of 1878 was given to me by my kind colleague, Mr. Consul Hayward:--
Habitations Males Females Total
Madeira.............28,522 62,900 67,367 130,267 Porto Santo......... 435 874 874 1,748
No. of Persons who can read and write.
Males Females Total
Madeira..............................4,454 4,286 8,740 Porto Santo.......................... 77 34 111
No. of Persons who can read but not write.
Males Females Total
Madeira.......1,659 2,272 3,931 Porto Santo... 42 60 102
Miss Taylor (Madeira, p. 58) reduces to 33,000--evidently a misprint--this population about four times as dense as that of Portugal.]
Many Madeirans highly distinguished themselves in the Dutch-Brazilian wars, especially the 'Castriota Lusitano.' His name is unknown; he changed it when he left his islet home, the townlet Santa Cruz. These islanders were the model 'navvies' of the age before steam: Albuquerque applied for Madeirans when he formed the barbarous project of diverting the Nile to the Red Sea. Their descendants are beggars from the cradle; but they beg with a good grace, and not with a curse or an insult like the European 'asker' when refused: moreover, the mendicant pest is not now over-prevalent. In the towns they cheat and pilfer; they gamble in the streets; they drink hard on Saturdays and Sundays, and at times they murder one another. Liquor is cheap; a bottle of aguardente or caxaça (new raw rum) costs only fivepence, and the second distillation ninepence. I heard of one assault upon an English girl, but strangers are mostly safe amongst them. Their extreme civility, docility, and good temper, except when spoilt by foreigners, makes it a pleasure to deal with them. They touch their hats with a frank smile, not the Spanish scowl near Gibraltar, or of Santa Cruz, Tenerife. The men are comparatively noiseless; a bawling voice startles you like a pistol-shot. I rarely heard a crying child or a scolding woman offering 'eau bénite à la Xantippe;' even the cocks and hens tied to old shoes cackle with reserve. The climate tames everything from Dom to donkey. Except in January and February it is still, intensely still--the very leaves seem to hang motionless. This softness shows itself especially in the language, which has none of the abruptness of European Portuguese. The sound is a drawling singsong; the articulation is peculiar, and the vocabulary is in some points confined to the Island.
The country people, an active, agile, unmuscular race, mostly preserve the old national dress. Some men still wear, and both sexes once wore, the ridiculous carapuça, or funnel-cap with a rat-tail for a tassel. The rest of the toilet consists of homespun cottons, shirts and knickerbockers, with buff shoes or boots broad-soled and heelless. The traveller who prefers walking should always use this chaussure, and the 'little girl in topboots' is still a standing joke. The women affect parti-coloured petticoats of home-made baize or woollen stuff, dyed blue, scarlet, brown, or orange; a scalloped cape of the same material bound with some contrasting hue; and a white or coloured head-kerchief, sometimes topped by the carapuça, but rarely by the vulgar 'billycock' of the Canaries. In the villages crimson shawls and capes are general, and they cover the head like mantillas.
The peasant's cot is of the simplest, and those in the plantations suggest African huts. Even the best houses, except when copied from the English, are scantily furnished; and little beyond a roof is absolutely wanted. The home of the cazeiro, or peasant tenant practically irremovable, is whitewashed and thatched, the straw forming a crest along the ridge. It covers only one room, converted by a curtain into 'but' and 'ben.' A parental bed, a rickety table, and two or three stools or settles compose the necessaries; the ornaments are the saints hanging to the walls, and for windows there are shutters with a sliding panel. The feeding apparatus consists of a kind of quern for grinding corn, especially maize,
[Foonote: The word is of doubtful origin, generally derived from the Haytian mahiz. But in northern Europe mayse (Irish maise) bread, and the Old High German maz (Hind. mans) means meat]
which, however, is now too dear for general use; sundry vegetable baskets, and an iron pot for boiling fish and porridge, arums (Inhame), and koko (Colocasia esculenta). They have some peculiar dishes, such as the bolo de mel, a ginger cake eaten at Christmas, and the famous carne de vinho e alhos (meat of wine and garlic). The latter is made by marinating pork in vinegar with garlic and the herb called oragão (origanum, or wild marjoram); it is eaten broiled, and even Englishmen learn to appreciate a dish which is said to conversar. The stewed fowl with rice is also national. As everywhere in Portugal, bacalháo,
[Footnote: Brevoort derives the word from baculus, the stick which keeps the fish open; others from the German boloh, fish. In 1498 Seb. Cabot speaks of 'great fishes which the natives call Baccalaos.' He thus makes the word 'Indian;' whereas Dr. Kohl, when noticing the cod-fisheries of Europe, declares that in Germany it is Backljau. Mr. O. Crawford (Portugal, Old and New. London: C. Kegan Paul, 1880) rightly notes that 'bacalháo' applies equally to the fresh fish and the dried fish.]
or dried cod-fish, cooked with garlic or onions, is deservedly a favourite: it contains more nourishment than beef. There is superior originality amongst the doces (sweetmeats) for which Madeira was once world-famous; and in the queques (cakes), such as lagrimas-cakes, cocoanut-cakes, and rabanadas, the Moorish 'rabanat,' slabs of wheat bread soaked in milk, fried in olive oil, and spread with honey. The drink is water, or, at best, agua-pé, the last straining of the grape. Many peasants, who use no stimulant during the day, will drink on first rising a dram para espantar o Diabo (to frighten the Devil), as do the Congoese paramatar o bicho (to kill the worm).
Here cleanliness is not next to godliness. People bathe only in hot weather--the rule of man and the lower mammalia. A quick and intelligent race they are, like the Spaniards and Bedawi Arabs, a contradiction in religious matters: the Madeiran believes in little or nothing, yet he hates a Calvinista like the very fiend. They have lost, as the census shows, something of their extreme ignorance, and have abated their worst superstitions since the expulsion of the Jesuits by Pombal (1759), and the reforms of 1820, 1828, and 1835. In the latter year Dom Pedro suppressed monkeries and nunneries by disallowing masses, and by pensioning the holy tenantry with 9 dols. per mensem, afterwards, reduced to 5 dols. In 1863 the bishop, Dom Patricio Xavier de Moura, did his best to abolish the pretty refocaria (the hearth-lighter), who, as Griraldus hath it, extinguished more virtue than she lit fires; and now the rectory is seldom gladdened by the presence of noisy little nephews and nieces. The popular morals, using the word in its limited sense, were peculiar. The number of espostos que não se sabe quem, são seus pais (fatherless foundlings) outnumbered those born de legitimo matrimonio; and few of the gudewives prided themselves upon absolute fidelity. This flaw, which in England would poison all domestic affection, was not looked upon in a serious light by the islandry. The priesthood used to lament the degeneracy of the age and sigh for the fine times of foros e fogos, the rights and fires of an auto-da-fé. The shepherds have now learned to move with the times and to secure the respect of their sheep. Imagine being directed to Paradise by a reverend man who gravely asks you where and what Hanover is.
Another important change is being brought about by the emigrant. During the last few years the old rule has been relaxed, and whole families have wandered abroad in search of fortune. Few Madeirans in these days ship for the Brazil, once the land of their predilection. They prefer Cape Town, Honolulu, the Antilles, and especially Demerara; and now the 'Demerarista' holds the position of the 'Brasileiro' in Portugal and the 'Indio' or 'Indiano' of the Canaries: in time he will buy up half the island.
In 1862 we hired rowing and sailing boats to visit the southern coast east and west of Funchal. For the last twelvemonth Mr. Blandy's steam-tug Falcão has carried travellers to and fro: it is a great convenience to the lazy sightseer, who cares only to view the outside of things, and here the outsides are the only things worth viewing.
We will begin with the western trip to Paül do Mar, affording a grand prospect of basaltic pillars and geological dykes, and of the three features--rocky, sylvan, and floral. Steaming by the mouth of the wady or ravine Sao João, whose decayed toy forts, S. Lazaro and the palace-battery, are still cumbered with rusty cannon, we pass under the cliff upon whose brow stand some of the best buildings. These are the Princess Dona Maria Amelia's Hospicio, or Consumptive Hospital, built on Mr. Lamb's plans and now under management of the French soeurs, whose gull wings are conspicuous at Funchal; the Asylo, or Poor-house, opened in 1847 for the tempering of mendicancy; and facing it, in unpleasant proximity, the Portuguese cemetery, decorated as to its entrance with sundry skulls and cross-bones, and showing its tall cypresses to the bay. Here comes the Quinta (Comtesse) Lambert, once occupied by Queen Adelaide. The owner doubled the rent; consequently Las Angustías (the Agonies), as it was called from an old chapel, has been unrented for the last two years. A small pleasaunce overhanging a perpendicular cliff, and commanding a glorious view, shows the Quinta da Vigia, lately bought by Mr. Hollway for 8,000l., and let at 500l. to 1,000l, a year. Nothing more charming than its grounds, which attracted H.I.M. of Austria, and now the charming Countess Tyszkiewicz. Landward it faces the Rua da Imperatriz, which leads to the 'Loo Fields.'
The study of basaltic pillars at once begins: Loo Fort is partly built upon them. Beyond Vigia cliff we pass in succession three jagged island-rocks, called 'gurgulhos,' or black-beetles (curculio), which, like the opposite foreshore, admirably show the formation. As a rule the columns are quadrangular; I saw but few pentagons and hexagons. We cast a look at a spouter of circular shape, the Forja, and the Forno, a funnel-formed blowing-rock. The cliff is pierced with a multitude of caves, large and small, and their regular arches look as if the ejected matter, as happens with lava, had cooled and solidified above, while still flowing out in a fiery torrent below. Mostly, however, they are the work of wind and water.
Then comes the old Gurgulho Fort--a dwarf square, partly thatched and converted into a private dwelling. It lies below Signal Hill, with its dwarf ruined tower, a lumpy parasitic crater whose western slopes have been ruined by disforesting. Between the two runs the New Road, which owes its being to the grape-famine of 1852. It is the 'Rotten Row' of Funchal, where horses tread the earth instead of skating and sliding over the greased pebbles; and where fair amazons charge upon you like Indian irregular cavalry. Five miles long, it is the only level line of any extent in Madeira, and it wants but one thing--prolongation. The lion in the path, however, is Cape Girâo, which would cost a treasure to 'tunnel' or to cut into a corniche.
The next feature is the Ponta da Cruz, a fantastic slice of detached basalt. Here, at the southernmost point of the island, the Descobridores planted a cross, and every boatman doffs his cap to its little iron descendant. Beyond it comes the Praia Formosa, a long line of shingle washed down by a deep ravine. All these brooks have the same origin, and their extent increases the importance of the wady. In 1566 the French pirates under De Montluc, miscalled heretics (hereges Ugnotas) landed here, as, indeed, every enemy should. The colour of 'Fair Reach' is ashen grey, scolloped with cinder-black where the creamy foam breaks: for beauty it wants only golden sands, and for use a few bathing machines.
The next notable feature is the Ribeira dos Soccorridos ('River of the Rescued'), where two of the Zargo's lads were with difficulty saved from the violent stream then flowing. It is now provided with a long bridge-causeway of three arches, approached by a chapel, Nossa Senhora das Victorias, whose tiled and pillared porch reminds one of Istria. This bed is the drain of the Grand Curral, called by the people 'Das Freiras,' because the holy women here took refuge from the plundering French 'Lutherans.' The favourite picnic-ground is reached in three hours from Funchal by two roads, both winding amongst the pap-shaped hillocks which denote parasitic cones, and both abutting upon the ravine-side, east and west. The latter, skirting the Pico dos Bodes (of he-goats), a tall cone seen from near Funchal, and sentinelling the great gap, is the joy-for-ever of midshipmites. To the horror of the burriqueiro, or syce, they gallop hired screws, high-heeled as their grandams, over paths at which an English stag would look twice; and for a dollar they secure as much chance of a broken limb, if not of 'going to pot with a young lady' (Captain Basil Hall's phrase), as reasonable beings can expect.
The Grand Curral is the central vent of a volcano originally submarine, and, like the Peak of Tenerife, of the age miocene. Fossils of that epoch have been found upon the crater-walls of both. Subsequent movements capped it with subaerial lavas and conglomerates; and wind and weather, causing constant degradation, deepened the bowl and almost obliterated signs of igneous action. This is general throughout Madeira; the only craters still noticed by guide-books are the Lagos (Lake) de Santo Antonio da Serra, east of Funchal and west of Machico, 500 feet across by 150 deep; and, secondly, the Fanal to the north-west, about 5,000 feet above sea-level. The Curral floor, smooth and bald, is cut by a silvery line of unsunned rivulet which at times must swell to a torrent; and little white cots like egg-shells are scattered around the normal parish-church, Nossa Senhora do Livramento. The basin-walls, some 2,000 feet high and pinnacled by the loftiest peaks in the island, are profusely dyked and thickly and darkly forested; and in the bright blue air, flecked with woolpack, Manta, the buzzard, and frequent kestrels pass to and fro like flies.
Beyond the Soccorridos lies the charming valley of Camara dos Lobos, popularly Cama di Lobos,
[Footnote: It is placed west instead of east of Cape Girao in the Conoise Handbook of Madeira, by the Rev. J. M. Rendell. London: Kegan Paul and Co., 1881.]
the lair of the sea-wolves, or seals. With its vivid lines of sugar-cane, its terraces, its fine remains of forest vegetation, and its distances of golden lights, of glazed blue half-lights, and of purple shades, it looks like a stage-rake, a décor de théatre. Tunny-fishing, wine-making, and sugar-boiling have made it, from a 'miserable place,' a wealthy townlet whose tall white houses would not disgrace a city; two manufactories show their craft by heaps of bagasse, or trash; and the deep shingly bay, defended by a gurgulho of basaltic pillars, is covered with piscator's gear and with gaily painted green boats. 'Seal's Lair' was the model district of wine-production, like its neighbour on the north-western upland, Campanario, famous for its huge Spanish chestnut: both were, however, wasted by the oidium of 1852. In 1863 it partially recovered, under the free use of sulphur; but now it has been ravaged by the more dangerous phylloxera, which is spreading far faster than Mr. Henry Vizetelly supposes.
[Footnote: Facts about Port and Madeira, by Henry Vizetelly, who visited the island in 1877. The papers first appeared in the (old original) Pall Mall Gazette (August 26-September 4,1877), and then were published in a volume by Ward and Lock, 1880]
The only cure of this pest known to Madeira is the troublesome and expensive process practised by a veteran oenologist, Mr. Leacock.
He bares every vine-root, paints it with turpentine and resin, and carefully manures the plant to restore its stamina. Mr. Taylor, of Funchal, has successfully defended the vines about his town-house by the simple tonic of compost. But the Lobos people have, methinks, done wisely to uproot the infected plant wholesale: indeed, from this point to the furthest west we hardly saw a vine-stock. They have supplied its place with garden-stuff, an article which always finds a ready sale. The island is annually visited by at least 500 English ships, and there is a steady demand for 'green meat.' I am not aware that beet-root, one of the best antiscorbutics, has been extensively tried.
Off Cama di Lobos is the best tunny-fishing. It is practised quite differently from the Mediterranean style; here the labyrinth of nets is supplanted by the line of 300 fathoms. At night the bright fires on board the fishing-canoes make travellers suspect that spears, grains, or harpoons are used. This, however, is not the case; line-fishing is universal, and the lights serve mostly for signals.
From Cama di Lobos the huge hill-shoulder to the west, whose face, Cabo Girão, must be ascended by a rough, steep incline. Far easier to view the scene from a boat. Cape 'Turn Again' is the furthest occidental point reached by the far-famed exploration of O Zargo. The profile suggests it to be the northern half of a dome once regular and complete, but cut in two, as a cake might be, by time and the elements. It has the name of being the 'highest sea-wall in the world' (1,934 feet); if so, little Madeira can boast her 'unicum.' Beaching the summit, you either stand up regardant or you peer couchant, as your nerves incline, down a height whose merit is to be peculiarly high. Facetious picnickers roll over the edge-rocks which may kill the unfortunates gathering grass--dreadful trade!--upon the dizzy ledges. There are also quarrymen who extract cantaria-slabs for sills and copings from the four square apertures which look afar like mortice-holes; and a fine marbled stone, white, blue, and ruddy, has been taken from this part of the cliff-face. Finally, there is a little knot of tiny huts which sticks like a wasp-nest to the very foot of the huge wall.
Seen from the deep indigo-blue water, that turns leek-green in the shallows, Cape Girão ('they turn') is a grand study of volcanic dykes. They are of all sizes, from a rope to a cable multiplied a thousandfold; and they stand out in boldest dado-relief where the soft background of tufa, or laterite, has been crumbled away by rain and storm-blast. Some writers have described them as ramifying like a tree and its branches, and crossing and interlacing like the ties of a building; as if sundry volcanic vents had a common centre below. I saw nothing of this kind. The dykes of light grey material, sometimes hollowed out and converted into gutters by falling water, appeared to have been shot up in distinct lines, and the only crossing was where a slip or a fault occurred.
A front view of Cape Girão shows that it is supported on either side, east and west, by buttresses of a darker rock: the eastern dip at an angle of 45°, the western range between 20° above and 40° below. The great central upheaval seems to have pushed its way through these older strata, once straight, now inclined. The layers of the more modern formation--lavas and scoriae--are horizontal; sheets of sub-columnar, compact basalt have been spread upon and have crushed down to paper-thickness their beds of bright red tufa, here and there white with a saline effervescence. Of such distinct superimpositions we counted in one place five; there may have been many more. All are altered soils, as is shown by remains of trees and decayed vegetation.
Beyond Cabo Girão the scenery is grand enough, but monotonous in the extreme. The island is girt by a sea-wall, more or less perpendicular; from this coping there is a gentle upslope, the marvellous terracing for cultivation being carried up to the mountain-tops. The lower levels are everywhere dotted with white farmhouses and brown villages. The colours of the wall are the grey of basalt, the purple of volcanic conglomerates, and the bright reds and yellows of tufas. Here and there, however, a thread of water pouring from the summit, or bursting from the flank, fills a cavity which it has worn and turned for itself; and from this reservoir the industrious peasant has diverted sufficient to irrigate his dwarf terraced plots of cane, bananas, yams, or other vegetables; not a drop of the precious fluid is wasted, and beds are laid out wherever the vivifying influence can extend. The water-race down the wall is shown by mosses and lichens, pellitories, and rock-plants; curtains and hangers; slides, shrubs, and weepers of the most vivid green, which give life and beauty to the sternest stone.
The only breaks in this regular coast-wall are the spines and spurs protruding seawards; the caverns in which the surges break and roar, and the ribeiras or ravines whose heads are far inland, and whose lines show grey second distances and blue third distances. At their mouths lie the sea-beaches and the settlements: the latter, with their towered churches and their large whitewashed houses, look more like detached bits of city than our notion of villages. Other places are built upon heaps of débris washed down from the heights, which hold out no promise of not falling again. The huts scattered amidst the cultivation remind one of nothing but Africa. In some places, too, a soft layer of tufa has been hollowed for man's abode, suggesting, like the caves, a fine old smuggling-trade. As many as eight doors may be counted side by side. In other places a rock-ledge, or even a detached boulder, has been converted into a house by masonry-walls. We shall seldom see these savageries on the eastern coast of the island.
The seafaring settlements are connected with the interior by breakneck paths and by rude steps, slippery with green moss. The people seem to delight in standing, like wild goats, upon the dizziest of 'jumpy' peaks; we see boys perched like birds upon impossible places, and men walking along precipice-faces apparently pathless. The villages are joined to one another by roads which attempt to follow the sea-line; the chasms are spanned by the flimsiest wooden bridges, and the cliff is tunnelled or cut into a corniche.
After disembarking passengers at Ponta d'Agua and Ribeira Nova we passed the great landslip of 1805, Lugar do Baixo. The heap of ruins has long been greened over. The cause was evidently a waterfall which now descends freely; it must have undermined the cliff, which in time would give way. So in the Brazil they use water instead of blasting powder: a trench is dug behind the slice of highland to be removed; this is filled by the rains and the pressure of the column throws the rock bodily down. We shall find this cheap contrivance useful when 'hydraulicking' the auriferous clays of the Gold Coast.
Then we came to Ponta do Sol, the only remarkable site on the trip, famous for bodice-making and infamous for elephantiasis. Here a huge column of curiously contorted basalt has been connected by a solid high-arched causeway with the cliff, which is equally remarkable, showing a central boss of stone with lines radiating quaquaversally. There are outer steps and an inner flight leading under a blind archway, the latter supplied with a crane. The landing in the levadia, or surf, is abominable and a life-boat waits accidents outside. It works with the heavy Madeiran oars, square near the grip and provided with a board into whose hole the pin fits. The townlet, capital of the 'comarca,' fronted by its little Alameda and a strip of beach upon which I should prefer to debark, shows a tall factory-chimney, noting the sugar-works of Wilhabram Bros. There is a still larger establishment at the Serra d'Agoa in the Arco [Footnote: Arco (bow, arch) is locally applied to a ridge or to the district bounded by it.] da Calheta (Arch of the Creeklet), a property of the Visconde de Calçada. The guide-books mention iron pyrites and specular iron in small quantities behind Ponta do Sol.
Passing the deep ravine, Ribeiro Fundo, and the Ponta da Galéra, with its rooky spur, we sighted Jardim do Mar, a village on a mound of débris with black walls of dry stone defending the terraces from surf and spray. The furthest point, where we halted half an hour, is 'Paül do Mar' (Swamp of the Sea), apparently a misnomer. It is the port of the Fajãa da Ovelha (Ewe's landslip), whose white tenements we see perched on the estreito, or tall horizon-slope. The large harbour-town is backed by a waterfall which may prove disastrous to it; its lands were formerly famous for the high-priced malvasia Candida--Candia malmsey.
The day had been delightful, 'June weather' in fickle April. The sea was smooth as glass, and the skies, sunny in the morning and starry at night, were canopied during the day by clouds banking up from the south-east. The western wind blew crisp and cold. This phase of climate often lasts till the end of June, and renders early summer endurable at Madeira. The steam-tug was more punctual going than coming. She left Funchal at 9 A.M., reached Paül do Mar at half-past twelve, covering some twenty-one direct knots; and returned to her moorings, crowded with passengers, at half-past five, instead of half-past four. My companion, M. Dahse, and I agreed that the coast was well worth seeing.
It would hardly be fair to leave Madeira without a visit to Machico, the scene of Machim's apocryphal death. The realists derive the name from Algarvan Monchique. I have made it on foot, on horseback, and by boat, but never so comfortably as when on board the steam-tug Falcão. Garajáo, whose ruddy rocks of volcanic tufa, embedding bits of lava, probably entitled it 'Brazenhead,' is worth inspecting from the sea. Possibly the classic term 'Purple Islands' may have arisen from the fiery red hue of the volcanic cliffs seen at the sunset hour. Like Girão, the middle block of Tern Point is horizontally stratified, while the western abutment slopes to the water. Eastward, however, there has been immense degradation; half the dome has been shaken down and washed away; while a succession of upheavals and earthquakes has contorted the strata in the strangest manner. Seen from Funchal, the profile of Garajáo is that of an elephant's head, the mahaut sitting behind it in the shape of a red-brown boss, the expanded head of a double dyke seaming the tufas of the eastern face. We distinguish on the brow two 'dragons,' puny descendants of the aboriginal monsters. Beyond Garajáo the shore falls flat, and the upland soil is red as that of Devonshire. It is broken by the Ponta da Oliveira, where there is ne'er an olive-tree, and by the grim ravine of Porto de Caniço o Bispo, the 'bishop' being a basaltic pillar with mitre and pontifical robes sitting in a cave of the same material. I find a better episkopos at Ponta da Atalaia, 'Sentinel Point.' Head, profile, and shoulders are well defined; the hands rest upon the knees, and the plaited folds of the dress are well expressed by the basaltic columns of the central upheaval. Beyond Porto Novo do Cal, with its old fort and its limekiln, is the chapel of São Pedro, famous for its romeiro, 'pattern' or pilgrimage for St. Peter's Day. June 29 is kept even at Funchal by water-excursions; it is homage enough to pay a penny and to go round the ships.
We anchored and screamed abominably off Santa Cruz, the capital of its 'comarca.' The townlet lies on the left of a large ravine, whose upper bed contains the Madre d'Agoa, or water-reservoir. The settlement, fronted by its line of trees, the Alameda, and by its broad beach strewed with boats, consists of white, red, and yellow houses, one-, two-, and three-storied; of a white-steepled church and of a new market-place. East of it, and facing south, lies the large house of 'the Squire' (Mr. H. B. Blandy), a villa whose feet are washed by the waves; the garden shows the lovely union, here common, of pine and palm. The latter, however, promises much and performs little, refusing, like the olive, to bear ripe fruit. Beyond the Squire's is the hotel, approached by a shady avenue: it is the most comfortable in the island after the four of Funchal.
[Footnote: There are only two other country inns, both on the northern coast. The first is at Santa Anna, some 20 miles north-north-east of the capital; the second at São Vicente, to the north-west. All three are kept by natives of Madeira. Unless you write to warn the owners that you are coming, the first will be a 'banyan-day,' the second comfortable enough. This must be expected; it is the Istrian 'Città Nuova, chi porta trova.']
Santa Cruz has a regular spring-season; and the few residents of the capital frequent it to enjoy the sea-breeze, which to-day (April 23) blows a trifle too fresh.
We then pass the Ponta da Queimada, whose layers of basalt are deeply caverned, and we open the Bay of Machico. The site, a broad, green and riant valley, with a high background, is softer and gayer than that of Funchal. It has been well sketched in 'Views in the Madeiras,' and by the Norwegian artist Johan F. Eckersberg in folio, with letterpress by Mr. Johnson of the guide-book. The 'Falcon' anchors close to the landing-stairs, under a grim, grey old fort, O Desembarcadouro, originally a tower, and now apparently a dwelling-place. The débarcadère has the usual lamp and the three iron chains intended to prevent accidents.
The prosperous little fishing-village, formerly the capital of the Tristam, lies as usual upon a wady, the S. Gonsales, and consists of a beach, an Alameda, a church with a square tower, and some good houses. Twenty years ago the people had almost forgotten a story which named the settlement; and the impromptu cicerone carried strangers who sought the scene of Machim's death to the Quinta de Santa Anna,
[Footnote: Here Mr. White made some of his meteorological observations. VOL. I.]
well situated upon a land-tongue up the valley; to the parish church, which was in a state of chronic repair, and in fact to every place but the right. The latter is now supposed to be the little Ermida (chapel) de N. S. da Visitação. with its long steps and wall-belfry on the beach and the left jaw of the wady: it is a mere humbug, for the original building was washed away by the flood of 1803. In those days, too, visitors vainly asked for the 'remains of Machim's cross, collected and deposited here by Robert Page, 1825.' Now a piece of it is shown in frame. About 1863 I was told that a member of the family, whose name, it is said, still survives about Bristol, wished to mark the site by a monument--decidedly encouraging to Gretna-Greenism.
From Machico Bay we see the Fora and other eastern outliers which form the Madeiran hatchet-handle. Some enthusiasts prolong the trip to what is called the 'Fossil-bed,' whose mere agglomerations of calcareous matter are not fossils at all. The sail, however, gives fine views of the 'Deserters' (Desertas), beginning with the 'Ship Rock,' a stack or needle mistaken in fogs for a craft under sail. Next to it lies the Ilheu Chão, the Northern or Table Deserta, not unlike Alderney or a Périgord pie. Deserta Grande has midway precipices 2,000 feet high, bisected by a lateral valley, where the chief landing is. Finally, Cu de Bugio (as Cordeyro terms it) is in plan a long thin strip, and in elevation a miniature of its big brother, with the additions of sundry jags and peaks.
The group is too windy for cereals, but it grows spontaneously orchil and barilla (Mesembryanthemum nodiflorum), burnt for soda. Few strangers visit it, and many old residents have never attempted the excursion. It is not, however, unknown to sportsmen, who land--with leave--upon the main island and shoot the handsome 'Deserta petrels,' the cagarras (Puffinus major, or sheerwater), the rabbits, the goats that have now run wild, and possibly a seal. A poisonous spider is here noticed by the guide-books, and the sea supplies the edible pulvo (octopus) and the dreaded urgamanta. This huge ray (?) enwraps the swimmer in its mighty double flaps and drags him to the bottom, paralysing him by the wet shroud and the dreadful stare of its hideous eyes.
CHAPTER IV. MADEIRA (continued)--CHRISTMAS--SMALL INDUSTRIES--WINE--DEPARTURE FOR TENERIFE.Edit
The Christmas of 1881 at Madeira could by no means be called gay. The foreign colony was hospitable, as usual, with dinners, dances, and Christmas trees. But amongst the people festivities seemed to consist chiefly of promenading one's best clothes about the military band and firing royal salutes, not to speak of pistols and squibs. The noise reminded me of Natal amongst the Cairene Greeks; here, as in the Brazil, if you give a boy a copper he expends it not on lollipops, but on fireworks. We wished one another boas entradas, the 'buon' principio' of Italy, and remembered the procession of seventeen years ago. The life-sized figures, coarsely carved in wood and dressed in real clothes, were St. Francis, St. Antonio de Noto, a negro (Madeiran Catholics recognise no 'aristocracy of the skin'); a couple of married saints (for even matrimony may be sanctified), SS. Bono and Luzia, with half a dozen others. The several platforms, carried by the brotherhoods in purple copes, were preceded by the clergy with banners and crosses and were followed by soldiers. The latter then consisted of a battalion of caçadores, 480 to 500 men, raised in the island and commanded by a colonel entitled 'Military Governor.' They are small, dark figures compared with the burly Portuguese artillerymen stationed at the Loo Fort and São Thiago Battery, and they are armed with old English sniders.
Behind the Tree of Penitence and the crosses of the orders came an Ecce Homo and a bit of the 'true Cross' shaded by a canopy. The peasantry, who crowded into town--they do so no longer--knelt to kiss whatever was kissable, and dodged up and down the back streets to gain opportunities. Even the higher ranks were afoot; they used to acquire in infancy a relish for these mild amusements. And one thing is to be noted in favour of the processions; the taste of town-decoration was excellent, and the combinations of floral colours were admirable. Perhaps there is too much of nosegay in Madeira, making us remember the line--
Posthume, non bene olet qui bane semper olet.
I went to the Jesuit church to hear the predica, or sermon. The preacher does not part his hair 'amidships,' or display cambric and diamond-rings, yet his manner is none the less maniérée. For him and his order, in Portugal as in Spain, the strictest minutiae of demeanour and deportment are laid down. The body should be borne upright, but not stuck up, and when the congregation is addressed the chest is slightly advanced. The dorsal region must never face the Sacrament; this would be turning one's back, as it were, upon the Deity. The elbow may not rest upon the cushion. The head, held erect, but not haughtily, should move upon the atlas gently and suavely, avoiding 'lightness' and undue vivacity. The lips must not smile; but, when occasion calls for it, they may display a saintly joy. The eyebrows must not be raised too high towards the hair-roots; nor should one be elevated while the other is depressed. The voice should be at times tremolando, and the tone periodically 'sing-song.' Finally, the eyes are ordered to wander indiscriminately, and with all pudicity, over the whole flock, and never to be fixed upon a pretty lamb.
Our countrymen are not over-popular in Portugal or in Madeira; such mortal insults as those offered by Byron, to name only the corypheus, will rankle and can never be forgotten. In this island strangers, especially Englishmen, have a bad practice of not calling upon the two governors, civil and military. The former, Visconde de Villa Mendo, is exceptional; he likes England and the English. As a rule the highest classes mix well with strangers; not so the medio ceto who, under a constitutional régime, rule the roast. Men with small fixed incomes have little to thank us for; we make things dear, and we benefit only the working men. Bourgeois exactions have driven both French ships and American whalers to Tenerife; and many of them would do the same with the English and German residents and visitors of Funchal. Not a few have noble and historic names, whose owners are fallen into extreme poverty. Professor Azevedo's book is also a nobiliaire de Madère. The last generation used to be remarkably prim and precise, in dress as in language and manner. They never spoke of 'hogs' or 'horns,' and they wore the skimpy waistcoats and the regulation whiskers of Wellington's day. The fair sex appeared only at 'functions,' at church, and at the Sunday promenade in the Place. The moderns dress better than their parents, who affected the most violent colours, an exceedingly pink pink upon a remarkably green green; and the shape of the garment was an obsolete caricature of London and Paris. They no longer assume the peculiar waddle, looking as if the lower limbs were unequal to the weight of the upper story; but the walk never equals that of the Spanish woman. This applies to Portugal as well. The strong points, here as in the Peninsula, are velvety black eyes and blue-black hair dressed à la Diane. It is still the fashion, as at Lisbon, to look somewhat boudeuse when abroad, by way of hint that man must not expect too much; yet these cross faces at home or with intimates are those of bonnes enfants. Lastly, the dark complexions and the irregular features do not contrast well with the charming faces and figures of Tenerife, who mingle the beauty of Guanchedom with that of Spain and Ireland.
The list of public amusements at Funchal is not extensive. Years ago the theatre was converted into a grain-store, and now it is a wine-store. The circus of lumber has been transferred from under the Peak Fort to near the sea; it mostly lacks men and horses. The Germans have a tolerable lending library; and the public bibliotheca in the Town House, near the Jesuit church, is rich in old volumes, mostly collected from religious houses. In 1851 the books numbered 1,800; now they may be 2,000; kept neat and clean in two rooms of the fine solid old building. Of course the collection is somewhat mixed, Fox's 'Martyrs' and the 'Lives of the Saints' standing peacefully near the 'Encyclopédie' and Voltaire. A catalogue can hardly be expected.
There are three Masonic lodges and two Portuguese clubs, one good, the other not; and the former (Club Funchalense), well lodged in a house belonging to Viscountess Torre Bella, gives some twice or three times a year very enjoyable balls. The Café Central, with estaminet and French billiard-table, is much frequented by the youth of the town, but not by residents. The great institution is the club called the 'English Rooms,' which has been removed from over a shop in the Aljube to Viscondessa de Torre Bella's house in the Rua da Alfandega. The British Consulate is under the same roof, and next door is Messieurs Blandy's ubiquitous 'Steamer Agency.' The roomy and comfortable quarters, with a fine covered balcony looking out upon the sea, are open to both sexes. The collection of books is old; but the sum of 100l. laid out on works of reference would bring it fairly up to the level of the average English country-club. Strangers' names were hospitably put down by any proprietary member as guests and visitors if they did not outstay the fortnight; otherwise they became subscribers. But crowding was the result, and the term has been reduced to three days: a month's subscription, however, costs only 10s. 6d. The doors close at 7.30 P.M.: I used to think this an old-world custom kept up by the veteran hands; but in an invalid place perhaps it is wisely done.
The principal passetemps at Madeira consists of eating, drinking, and smoking; it is the life of a horse in a loose box, where the animal eats pour passer le temps. After early tea and toast there is breakfast à la fourchette at nine; an equally heavy lunch, or rather an early dinner (No. 1), appears at 1 to 2 P.M.; afternoon tea follows, and a second dinner at 6 to 7. Residents and invalids suppress tiffin and dine at 2 to 3 P.M. In fact, as on board ship, people eat because they have nothing else to do; and English life does not admit of the sensible French hours--déjeuner à la fourchette at 11 A.M. and dinner after sunset.
The first walk through Funchal shows that it has not improved during the last score of years, and to be stationary in these days is equivalent to being retrograde. It received two heavy blows--in 1852 the vine-disease; and, since that time, a gradual decline of reputation as a sanatorium. Yet it may, I think, look for a better future when the Land Bill Law system, extending to England and Scotland, will cover the continent with colonies of British rentiers who rejoice in large families and small incomes. Moreover, Anglo-African officials are gradually learning that it is best to leave their 'wives and wees' at Madeira; and the coming mines of the Gold Coast will greatly add to the numbers. For the economist Funchal and its environs present peculiar advantages. The dearness of coin appears in the cheapness of houses and premises. Estates which cost 5,000l. to 15,000l. a generation ago have been sold to 'Demerarists' for one-tenth that sum. 'Palmeira,' for instance, was built for 42,000l., and was bought for 4,000l. A family can live quietly, even keeping ponies, for 500l. per annum; and it is something to find a place four to seven days' sail from England inhabitable, to a certain extent all the year round. The mean annual temperature is 67.3 degrees; that of summer varies from 70 degrees to 85 degrees, and in winter it rarely falls below 50 degrees to 60 degrees. The range, which is the most important consideration, averages 9 degrees, with extremes of 5 degrees to 35 degrees. The moist heat is admirably adapted for old age, and I doubt not that it greatly prolongs life. Youth, English youth, cannot thrive in this subtropical air; there are certain advantages for education at Funchal; but children are sent north, as from Anglo-India, to be reared. Otherwise they will grow up yellow and languid, without energy or industry, and with no object in life but to live.
Madeira has at once gained credit for comfort and has lost reputation as a sanatorium, a subject upon which fashion is peculiarly fickle. During the last century the Faculty sent its incurables to Lisbon and Montpellier despite the mistral and the fatal vent de bise. The latter town then lodged some 300 English families of invalids, presently reduced to a few economists and wine-merchants. Succeeded Nice and Pisa, one of the most wearying and relaxing of 'sick bays;' and Pau in the Pyrenees, of which the native Béarnais said that the year has eight months of winter and four of inferno. Madeira then rose in the world, and a host of medical residents sounded her praises, till Mentone was written up and proved a powerful rival. And the climate of the hot-damp category was found to suit, mainly if not only, that tubercular cachexy and those, bronchial affections and lung-lesions in which the viscus would suffer from the over-excitement of an exceedingly dry air like the light invigorating medium of Tenerife or Thebes. Lastly, when phthisis was determined to be a disease of debility, of anæmia, of organic exhaustion, and of defective nutrition, cases fitted for Madeira were greatly limited. Here instruments deceive us as to humidity. The exceeding dampness is shown by the rusting of iron and the tarnishing of steel almost as effectually as upon the West African coast. Yet Mr. Vivian's observations, assuming 100 to be saturation, made Torquay 76 and Funchal 73. [Footnote: Others make the mean humidity of Funchal 76, and remark that in the healthiest and most pleasant climates the figures range between 70 and 80]. Moreover it was found out that consumption, as well as intermittent fevers, are common on the island, so common, indeed, as to require an especial hospital for the poorer classes, although the people declare them to have been imported by the stranger. I may here observe that while amongst all the nations of Southern Europe great precautions are taken against the contagion of true phthisis, English medicos seem to ignore it. A Pisan housekeeper will even repaper the rooms after the death of a consumptive patient. At Funchal sufferers in every stage of the disease live in the same house and even in the same rooms.
Then came the discovery that for consumptives dry cold is a medium superior to damp heat. Invalids were sent to the Tyrol, to the Engadine, to Canada, and even to Iceland, where phthisis is absolutely unknown, and where a diet of oleaginous fish is like feeding upon cod-liver or shark-liver oil. The air as well as the diet proved a tonic, and patients escaped the frequent cough, catarrh, influenza, and neuralgia which are so troublesome at Funchal. Here, too, the invalid must be accompanied by a 'prudent and watchful friend,' or friends, and the companions will surely suffer. I know few climates so bad and none worse for those fecund causes of suffering in Europe, liver-affections ('mucous fevers'), diarrhoeas, and dysenteries; for nervous complaints, tic douloureux, and neuralgia, or for rheumatism and lumbago. Asthma is one of the disorders which shows the most peculiar forms, and must be treated in the most various ways: here some sufferers are benefitted, others are not. Madeira is reputedly dangerous also for typhoid affections, for paralysis, and for apoplexy. There is still another change to come. The valley north of the beautiful and ever maligned 'Dead Sea' of Palestine, where the old Knights Templar had their sugar-mills and indigo-manufactories, has peculiar merits. Lying some 1,350 feet below the Mediterranean, it enables a man to live with a quarter of a lung: you may run till your legs fail with fatigue, but you can no more get out of breath than you can sink in the saline waters of Lake Asphaltites. When a railway from Jafa to Jerusalem shall civilise the 'Holy Land,' I expect great things from the sites about the Jordan embouchure.
After the 'gadding vine' had disappeared the people returned to their old amours, the sugar-cane, whose five loaves, disposed crosswise, gave the island her heraldic cognisance. Madeira first cultivated sugar in the western hemisphere and passed it on to the New World. Yet the cane was always worked under difficulties. Space is limited: the upper extreme of cultivation on the southern side may be estimated at 1,000 feet. The crop exhausts the soil; the plant requires water, and it demands what it can rarely obtain in quantity--manure. Again, machinery is expensive and adventure is small. Jamaica and her slave-labour soon reduced the mills from one hundred and fifty to three, and now five. My hospitable friend, Mr. William Hinton, is the only islander who works sugar successfully at the Torreão. The large rival mill with the tall regulation smoke-stack near the left mouth of the Ribeira de São' João, though inscribed 'Omnia vincit improbus labor,' and though provided with the most expensive modern appliances, is understood not to be a success for the Companhia Fabril d'Assucar.
Here sugar-working in the present day requires for bare existence high protective duties. The Government, however, has had the common sense, and the Madeirans patriotic feeling enough, to defend their industry from certain ruinous vagaries, by taxing imported growths 80 reis (4d.) per kilo. A hard-grit free-trader would abolish this abomination and ruin half the island. And here I would remark that in England the world has seen for the first time a wealthy and commercial, a great and generous nation proclaim, and take pride in proclaiming, the most immoral doctrine. 'Free Trade,' so called, I presume, because it is practically the reverse of free or fair trade, openly abjures public spirit and the chief obligation of the citizen--to think of his neighbour as well as himself, and not to let charity end, as it often begins, at home. 'Buy cheap and sell dear' is the law delivered by its prophets, the whole duty of 'the merchant and the man.' When its theorists ask me the favourite question, 'Would you not buy in the cheapest market?' I reply, 'Yes, but my idea of cheapness is not yours: I want the best, no matter what its price, because it will prove cheapest in the end.' How long these Free-trade fads and fooleries will last no one can say; but they can hardly endure till that millennium when the world accepts the doctrine, and when Free Trade becomes free trade and fair trade.
As regards petite industrie in Madeira, there is a considerable traffic in 'products of native industry,' sold to steamer-passengers. The list gives jewellery and marquetry or inlaid woodwork; feather-flowers, straw hats, lace and embroidery, the latter an important item; boots and shoes of unblackened leather; sweetmeats, especially guava-cheese; wax-fruits, soap-berry bracelets, and 'Job's tears;' costumes in wood and clay; basketry, and the well-known wicker chairs, tables, and sofas. The cooperage is admirable; I have nowhere seen better-made casks. The handsomest shops, as we might expect, are the apothecaries'; and, here, as elsewhere, they thrive by charging a sixpence for what cost them a halfpenny.
An enterprising Englishman lately imported sheep from home. The native mutton was described in 1842 as 'strong in flavour and lean in condition;' in fact, very little superior to that of Trieste. Now it is remarkably good, and will be better. Silk, I have said, has not been fairly tried, and the same is the case with ginger. Cotton suffered terribly from the worm. Chinchona propagated from cuttings, not from the seed, did well. Dr. Grabham [Footnote: The Climate and Resources of Madeira. By Michael C. Grabham, M.D., F.R.G.S., F.R.C.P. London; Churchill, 1870.] tells us that the coffee-berry ripens and yields a beverage locally thought superior to that of the imported kinds. It has become almost extinct in consequence of protracted blights: the island air is far too damp. Tea did not succeed. [Footnote: Page 189, Du Climat de Madère, etc., par C. A. Mourão Pitta, Montpellier, 1859.] Cochineal also proved a failure. The true Mexican cactus (Opuntia Tuna) was brought to supplant the tree-like and lean-leafed native growth; but there is too much wind and rain for the insects, and the people prefer to eat the figs or 'prickly pears.' Bananas grow well, and a large quantity is now exported for the English market. But the climate does not agree with European fruits and vegetables; strawberries and French beans are equally flavourless. I remarked the same in the glorious valley of the Lower Congo: it must result from some telluric or atmospheric condition which we cannot yet appreciate.
Tobacco has been tried with some success, though the results do not equal those of the Canaries; there, however, the atmosphere is too dry, here it is not. The estanco (monopoly) and the chronic debt to those who farm the import-tax long compelled the public to pay dear for a poor article. Home-growth was forbidden till late years; now it is encouraged, and rate-payers contribute a small additional sum. Hitherto, however, results have not been over-favourable, because, I believe, the tobacco-beds have been unhappily placed. Rich valley-soils and sea-slopes, as at Cuban Vuelta de Abajo and Syrian Latakia, are the proper habitats of the 'holy herb.' Here it is planted in the high dry grounds about the 'Peak Fort' and the uplands east of the city. Manure also is rare and dear, and so is water, which, by the by, is sadly wasted in Madeira for want of reservoirs. Consequently the peasants smoke tobacco from the Azores.
The Casa Funchalense, north of the Cathedral, is the chief depôt for island-growths. It sells 'Escuros' (dark brands) of 20 reis, or 1d., and 50 reis, according to size. The 'Claros,' which seem to be the same leaf steamed, fetch from 40 to 100 reis. A small half-ounce of very weak and poor-flavoured pipe-tobacco also is worth 1d.
An influential planter, Senhor João de Salles Caldeira, kindly sent to Mr. John Blandy some specimens of his nicotiana for me to test in Africa. The leaf-tobaccos, all grown between 1879 and 1881, at Magdalena in the parish of St. Antonio, were of three kinds. The Havano was far too short for the trade; the Bahiano, also dark, was longer; and the so-called 'North-American' was still longer, light-coloured and well tied in prick-shape. The negro verdict was, 'Left, a lilly he be foine,' meaning they want but little to be excellent. The Gold Coast prefers yellow Virginia, whose invoice price is 7d. per lb. The traders are now introducing Kentucky, which, landed from Yankee ships, costs 6d. But, here as elsewhere, it is difficult to bring about any such change.
There were two qualities of Madeiran charutos (cigars): one long Claro which smoked very mild, and a short Escuro, which tasted a trifle bitter. The blacks complained that they were too new; and I should rank them with the average produce of Brazilian Bahia. A papered cigarilha, clad in an outer leaf of tobacco, was exceptionally good. The cígarros (cigarettes), neatly bound in bundles of twenty-five, were of three kinds, fortes (strong), entre-fortes, and fracos (mild). All were excellent and full of flavour; they did not sicken during the voyage, and I should rank them with the far-famed Bragança of the Brazil.
The most successful of these small speculations is that of Mr. E. Hollway. Assisted by an able gardener from Saint Michael, Azores, where the pineapple made a little fortune for Ponta Delgada, he has converted Mount Pleasant, his father's house and grounds on the Caminho do Meio, into one huge pinery. The Madeiran sun does all the work of English fires and flues; but the glass must be whitewashed; otherwise, being badly made, with bubbles and flaws, it would burn holes in the plants. The best temperature for the hot-houses is about 90° F.: it will rise after midday to 140°, and fall at night to 65°. The species preferred are, in order of merit, the Cayena, the black Jamaica, and the Brazilian Abacaxi. The largest of Mr. Hollway's produce weighed 20 lbs.--pumpkin size. Those of 12 lbs. and 15 lbs. are common, but the market prefers 8 lbs. His highest price was 2l., and he easily obtains from 10s. to 15s. In one greenhouse we saw 2,500 plants potted and bedded; the total numbers more than double that figure. The proprietor has a steam-saw, makes his own boxes, and packs his pines with dry leaves of maize and plantain. He is also cultivating a dwarf banana, too short to be wind-wrung. His ground will grow anything: the wild asparagus, which in Istria rises knee-high, here becomes a tall woody shrub.
And now of the wine which once delighted the world, and which has not yet become 'food for the antiquary.' To begin with, a few dates and figures are necessary. In 1852, that terrible year for France, the Oïdium fungus attacked the vine, and soon reduced to 2,000 the normal yearly production of 20,000 and even 22,000 pipes.
[Footnote: Between 1792 and 1827 the yearly average was 20,000. In 1813 it was 22,000.
" 1814 " 14,000. " 1816 " 15,000.
In 1816 it was 12,000.
" 1818 " 18,000. " 1825 " 14,000.
It then decreased to an average of 7,000 till the oïdium-year (Miss E. M, Taylor, p. 74).]
The finest growths suffered first, as animals of the highest blood succumb the soonest to epidemics. When I wrote in 1863 the grape was being replanted, chiefly the white verdelho, the Tuscan verdea. In 1873 the devastating Phylloxera appeared, and before 1881 it had ruined two of the finest southern districts. The following numerals show the rapid decline of yield:--6,000 pipes in 1878, 5,000 in 1879, 3,000 in 1880, and 2,000 in 1881. There are still in store some 30,000 pipes, each=92 gallons (forty-five dozen); and a single firm, Messrs. Blandy Brothers, own 3,000. Mr. Charles R. Blandy, the late head of the house, bought up all the must grown since 1863; but he did not care to sell. This did much harm to the trade, by baulking the demand and by teaching the public to do without it. His two surviving sons have worked hard and advertised on a large scale; they issue a yearly circular, and the result is improved enquiry. Till late years the world was not aware that the Madeiran vine has again produced Madeira wine; and a Dutch admiral, amongst others, was surprised to hear that all was not made at Cettes. I give below Messrs. Blandy's trade-prices, to which some 20 per cent, must be added for retail.
[Footnote: Sound light medium Madeiras from 26s. to 32s. per dozen, packed and delivered in London; light, golden, delicate, 36s.; tawny Tinta, also called 'Madeira Burgundy,' a red wine mixing well with water, 40s.; fine old dry Verdelho, 48s.; rich soft old Bual, not unlike Amontillado, 54s.; very fine dry old Sercial (the Riesling grape), 56s.; and the same for highly-flavoured soft old Malmsey, 'Malvasia Candida,' corrupted from 'Candia' because supposed to have been imported from that island in 1445. 'Grand Old Oama de Lobos' is worth 70s., and the best Old Preserve wine 86s. For wines very old in bottle there are special quotations.]
The lowest price free on board is 23l, and the values rise from 40l. at four years old to 1OOl. at ten years old.
'Madeira' was most popular in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, especially at the Court of Francois I. Shakespeare in 'Henry IV.' makes drouthy Jack sell his soul on Good Friday for a cup of Madeira and a cold capon's leg. Mr. H. Vizetelly, whose professional work should be read by all who would master the subject, marvels why and how this 'magnificent wine' went out of fashion. The causes are many, all easy to trace. Men not yet very old remember the day when England had no vino de pasto fit to be drunk at meals; when they found only ports, sherries, and loaded clarets; and when they sighed in vain for light Rhine or Bordeaux growths, good ordinaire being to drink what bread is to food.
[Footnote: This, however, is a mere individual opinion. I have lately read a book recommending strong and well-brandied wines as preventing the crave for pure alcohol.]
Now, however, the national taste has changed; the supply of Madeira not sufficing for the demand, the class called boticarios (apothecaries) brought rivals into the market; and extensive imitation's with apples, loquats (Japanese medlars), and other frauds, brandied to make the stuff keep, plastered or doctored with Paris-plaster to correct over-acidity, and coloured and sweetened with burnt sugar and with boiled 'must' (mosto) to mock the Madeira flavour, gave the island-produce a bad name. Again, the revolution in the wine-trade of 1860-61 brought with it certain Continental ideas. In France a glass of Madeira follows soup, and in Austria it is drunk in liqueur-glasses like Tokay.
[Footnote: 'Madeira' is the island modification of the Cyprus and the Candia (?) grape. 'Tokay' comes from the Languedoc muscatel, and 'Constantia' from Burgundy, like most of the Rhine-wines.]
The island wine must change once more to suit public taste. At present it ships at the average strength of 18°-25° per cent, of 'proof spirit,' which consists of alcohol and water in equal proportions. For that purpose each pipe is dosed with a gallon or two of Porto Santo or São Vicente brandy. This can do no harm; the addition is homogeneous and chemically combines with the grape-juice; but when potato-spirit and cane-rum are substituted for alcohol distilled from wine, the result is bad. The vintage is rarely ripened by time, whose unrivalled work is imperfectly done in the estufa or flue-stove, the old fumarium, or in the sertio (apotheca), an attic whose glass roofing admits the sun. The voyage to the East Indies was a clumsy contrivance for the same purpose; and now the merchants are beginning to destroy the germs of fermentation not by mere heat, but by the strainer extensively used in Jerez. The press shown to me was one of Messrs. Johnson and Co., which passes the liquor through eighteen thick cottons supported by iron plates. It might be worth while to apply electricity in the form used to destroy fusel-oil. Lastly, the wine made for the market is a brand or a blend, not a 'vintage-wine.' At any of the armazems, or stores, you can taste the wines of '70, '75, '76, and so forth, of A 1 quality; and you can learn their place as well as their date of birth. But these are mixed when wine of a particular kind is required and the produce becomes artificial. What is now wanted is a thin light wine, red or white, with the Madeira flavour, and this will be the drink of the future. The now-forgotten tisane de Madère and the 'rain-water Madeira,' made for the American markets, a soft, delicate, and straw-coloured beverage, must be the models.
I sampled the new wines carefully; and, with due remembrance of the peaches in 'Gil Blas,' I came to the conclusion that they are no longer what they were. The wine is tainted with sulphur in its odorous union with hydrogen. It is unduly saccharine, fermenting irregularly and insufficiently. For years the plant has constantly been treated against oidium with antiseptics, which destroy the spores and germ-growths; and we can hardly expect a first-rate yield from a chronically-diseased stock. Still the drink is rich and highly flavoured; and, under many circumstances, it answers better than any kind of sherry. No more satisfactory refreshment on a small scale than a biscuit and a glass of Bual. Moreover, the palate requires variety, and here finds it in a harmless form. But as a daily drink Madeira should be avoided: even in the island I should prefer French Bordeaux, not English claret, with an occasional change to Burgundy. Meanwhile, 'London particular' is a fact, and the supply will probably exceed the demand of the present generation.
I also carefully sampled the wines of the north coast, which had not, as in Funchal, been subjected to doctoring by stove, by spirits, and by blend. They are lighter than the southern; but, if unbrandied, some soon turn sour, and others by keeping get strong and heady. The proportion of alcoholism is peremptorily determined by climate--that is, the comparative ratio of sun and rain. In Europe, for instance, light wines cannot be produced without 'liquor,' as the trade calls aqua pura, by latitudes lower than Germany and Southern France. When heat greatly exceeds moisture, the wines may be mild to mouth and nose, yet they are exceedingly potent; witness the vino d'oro of the Libanus.
At Funchal I also tasted a very neat wine, a vin de pays with the island flavour and not old enough to become spirituous. If the vine be again grown in these parts, its produce will be drunk in England under some such form. But Madeira has at last found her 'manifest destiny:' she will be an orchard to Northern Europe and (like the England of the future) a kitchen-garden to the West African Coast, especially the Gold Mines.
My sojourn at the Isle of Wood and its 'lotus-eating' (which means double dinners) came to an end on Sunday, January 8, the s.s. Senegal Captain W. L. Keene, bringing my long-expected friend Cameron, of African fame. The last day passed pleasantly enough in introducing him to various admirers; and we ate at Santa Clara a final dinner, perfectly conscious that we were not likely to see its like for many a month. We were followed to the beach by a choice band of well-wishers--Baron Adelin de Vercour, Colonel H. W. Keays Young, and Dr. Struthers--who determined upon accompanying us to Tenerife. The night was black as it well could be, and the white surf rattled the clicking pebbles, as we climbed into the shore-boat with broad cheek-pieces, and were pulled off shipwards. On board we found Mr. William Reid, junior, who had carefully lodged our numerous impediments; and, at 10 P.M., we weighed for Tenerife.
I must not leave the Isle of Wood, which has so often given me hospitality, without expressing a hearty wish that the Portuguese 'Government,' now rhyming with 'impediment,' will do its duty by her. The Canaries and their free ports, which are different from 'free trade,' have set the best example; and they have made great progress while the Madeiras have stood still, or rather have retrograded. The Funchal custom-house is a pest; the import charges are so excessive that visitors never import, and for landing a single parcel the ship must pay high port-charges where no port exists. The population is heavily taxed, and would willingly 'pronounce' if it could only find a head. The produce, instead of being spent upon the island, is transmitted to Lisbon: surely a portion of it might be diverted from bureaucratic pockets and converted into an emigration fund. It is sad to think that a single stroke of the Ministerial pen would set all right and give new life to the lovely island, and yet that the pen remains idle.
And a parting word of praise for Madeira. Whatever the traveller from Europe may think of this quasi-tropical Tyrol, those homeward-bound from Asia and Africa will pronounce her a Paradise. They will enjoy good hotels, comfortable tables d'hôte, and beef that does not resemble horseflesh or unsalted junk. Nor is there any better place wherein to rest and recruit after hard service in the tropics. Moreover, at the end of a month spent in perfect repose the visitor will look forward with a manner of dismay to the plunge into excited civilised life.
But Madeira is not 'played out;' au contraire, she is one of those 'obligatory points' for commerce which cannot but prosper as the world progresses. The increasing traffic of the West African coast will make men resort to her for comforts and luxuries, for climate and repose. And when the Gold Mines shall be worked as they should be this island may fairly look forward to catch many a drop of the golden shower.
The following interesting table, given to me by M. d'Oliveira, clerk of the English Rooms, shows what movement is already the rule of Funchal.
SUMMARY OF VESSELS ENTERED IN THE PORT FROM JANUARY 1 TO DECEMBER 31.
Vessels of War
Frigates Corvettes Schooners/Transports -/Gunboats
American -/1 1/1 -/- -/- Argentine -/- -/- -/- -/- Austrian -/- -/- -/- -/- Belgian -/- -/- -/- -/- Brazilian -/- -/- -/- -/- British -/6 -/3 1/10 -/7 Danish -/- -/1 -/- -/- Dutch -/- -/2 -/- -/1 French 2/2 -/- -/1 -/1 German -/3 -/3 -/- -/- Italian -/- -/1 -/- -/- Norwegian -/- -/1 -/- -/- Portuguese -/- -/- -/- -/2 Russian -/- -/- -/- -/- Spanish -/- -/- -/- -/- Swedish -/- -/1 -/- -/- Totals: 2/12 1/13 1/11 -/11
Nationality Steam Yachts
American - - Argentine - - Austrian - - Belgian - - Brazilian - - British 2 4 Danish - - Dutch - - French - - German - - Italian - - Norwegian - - Portuguese - - Russian - - Spanish - - Swedish - -
Totals: 2 4
Nationality Steamers Ships Barques Barquantines Brigs
American - - 3 - - Argentine 1 - - - - Austrian - 1 2 - - Belgian 26 - - - - Brazilian 3 - - - - British 439 1 9 20 9 Danish - - - - 1 Dutch 1 - - - - French - - 3 - - German 8 - 16 - 2 Italian - - - - - Norwegian - - 5 1 1 Portuguese 48 - 3 - - Russian - - 2 - - Spanish - - 2 - - Swedish - - 2 - -
Totals: 526 2 43 21 13
CHAPTER V. TO TENERIFE, LA LAGUNA, AND OROTAVA.Edit
When I left, in 1865, the western coast of the Dark Continent, its transit and traffic were monopolised by the A(frican) S(team) S(hip) Company, a monthly line established in 1852, mainly by the late Macgregor Laird. In 1869 Messieurs Elder, Dempster, and Co., of Glasgow, started the B(ritish) and A(frican) to divide the spoils. The junior numbers nineteen keel, including two being built. It could easily 'eat up' the decrepit senior, which is now known as the A(frican) S(tarvation) S(teamers); but this process would produce serious competition. Both lines sail from Liverpool on alternate Saturdays, and make Funchal, with their normal unpunctuality, between Fridays and Sundays. This is dreary slow compared with the four days' fast running of the 'Union S. S. C.' and the comfortable 'Castle Line,' alias the Cape steamers.
The B. and A. s.s. Senegal is a fair specimen of the modern West African trader 'improved:' unfortunately the improvements affect the shareholders' pockets rather than the passengers' persons. The sleeping-berths are better, but the roomy, well-lighted, comfortable old saloon, sadly shorn of its fair proportions, has become the upper story of a store-room. The unfortunate stewards must catch fever by frequent diving into the close and sultry mine of solids and fluids under floor. There being no baggage-compartment, boxes and bags are stowed away in the after part, unduly curtailing light and air; the stern lockers, once such pleasant sleeping-sofas, and their fixed tables are of no use to anything besides baskets and barrels. Here the surgeon, who, if anyone, should have a cabin by way of dispensary, must lodge his medicine-chest. Amongst minor grievances the main cabin is washed every night, breeding a manner of malaria. The ice intended for passengers is either sold or preserved for those who ship most cargo. Per contra, the cook is good, the table is plentiful, the wines not over bad, the stewards civil, and the officers companionable.
Both lines, however, are distinctly traders. They bind themselves to no time; they are often a week late, and they touch wherever demand calls them. The freight-charges are exorbitant, three pounds for fine goods and a minimum of thirty-six shillings, when fifteen per ton would pay. The White Star Line, therefore, threatens concurrence. Let us also hope that when the Gold Mines prosper we shall have our special steamers, where the passenger will be more prized than the puncheon of palm-oil. But future rivals must have a care; they will encounter a somewhat unscrupulous opposition; and they had better ship American crews, at any rate not Liverpudlians.
The night and the next day were spent at sea in a truly delicious climate, which seemed to wax softer and serener as we advanced. Here the moon, whose hue is golden, not silvern, has a regular dawn before rising, and an afterglow to her setting; and Venus casts a broad cestus of glimmering light upon the purple sea. Mount Atlas, alias the Pike of Teyde, gradually upreared his giant statue, two and a half miles high: travellers speak of seeing him from Madeira, a distance of some 260 (dir. geog.) miles; but this would be possible only were both termini 15,000 feet in altitude. The limit of sight for terrestrial objects under the most favourable conditions does not exceed 210 miles. Yet here it is not difficult to explain the impossible distances, 200 miles instead of 120, at which, they say, the cone has been sighted: mirage or refraction accounts for what the earth's convexity disallows.
We first see a low and regular wall of cloud-bank whose coping bears here and there bulges of white, cottony cloud. Then a regular pyramid, at this season white as snow, shows its gnomon-like point, impaling the cumuli. Hour by hour the outlines grow clearer, till at last the terminal cone looks somewhat like a thimble upon a pillow--the cumbre, or lofty foundation of pumice-plains. But the aspect everywhere varies according as you approach the island from north, south, east, or west.
The evening of January 9 showed us right abeam a splendid display of the Zodiacal Light, whose pyramid suggested the glow of a hemisphere on fire. The triangle, slightly spherical, measured at its base 22 degrees to 24 degrees and rose to within 6" of Jupiter. The reflection in the water was perfect and lit up with startling distinctness the whole eastern horizon.
At 7 A.M. next morning, after running past the Anaga knuckle-bone--and very bony it is--of the Tenerife gigot, we cast anchor in the Bay of Santa Cruz, took boat, and hurried ashore. In the early times of the A.S.S. halts at the several stations often lasted three days. Business is now done in the same number of hours; and the captain informs you that 'up goes the anchor' the moment his last bale or bag comes on board. This trading economy of time, again, is an improvement more satisfactory to the passenger than to the traveller and sightseer who may wish to see the world.
Brusque was the contrast between the vivid verdure of Sylvania, the Isle of Wood, and the grim nudity of north-eastern Tenerife; brusquer still the stationary condition of the former compared with the signs, of progress everywhere evident in the latter. Spain, under the influence of anticlerical laws and a spell of republicanism, has awoke from her sleep of ages, and we note the effects of her revival even in these colonies. A brand-new red fort has been added to La Ciudadela at the northern suburb, whence a mole is proposed to meet the southern branch and form a basin. Then comes the triangular city whose hypothenuse, fronting east, is on the sea; its chief fault is having been laid out on too small a scale. At the still-building pier, which projects some 500 yards from the central mass of fort and cuadras (insulae or house-blocks), I noticed a considerable growth of buildings, especially the Marineria and other offices connected with the free port. The old pink 'castle' San Cristobal (Christopher), still cumbers the jetty-root; but the least sentimental can hardly expect the lieges to level so historic a building: it is the site of Alonso Fernandez de Lugo's first tower, and where his disembarkation on May 3, 1493, gave its Christian name 'Holy Cross' to the Guanche 'Añasa.' Meanwhile the Rambleta de Ravenal, dated 1861, a garden, formerly dusty, glary, and dreary as the old Florian of Malta, now bears lovers' seats, a goodly growth of planes and tamarinds, a statue, a fountain, and generally a gypsy-like family. By its side runs a tramway for transporting the huge blocks of concrete intended to prolong the pier. The inner town also shows a new palace, a new hospital, and a host of improvements.
Landing at Santa Cruz, a long dull line of glaring masonry, smokeless and shadeless, was to me intensely saddening. A score of years had carried off all my friends. Kindly Mrs. Nugent, called 'the Admiral,' and her amiable daughter are in the English burial-ground; the hospitable Mr. Consul Grattan had also faded from the land of the living. The French Consul, M. Berthelot, who published [Footnote: Histoire naturelle des Iles Canaries, par MM. P. Barker Webb et Sabin Berthelot, ouvrage publié sous les auspices de M. Guizot, Ministre de l'Instruction Publique, Paris, 1839. Seven folio vols., with maps, plans, and sketches, all regardless of expense.] by favour of the late Mr. Webb, went to the many in 1880. One of the brothers Richardson had died; the other had subsided into a clerk, and the Fonda Ingleza had become the British Consulate. The new hotel kept by Señor Camacho and his English wife appeared comfortable enough, but it had none of those associations which make the old familiar inn a kind of home. En revanche, however, I met Mr. Consul Dundas, my successor at the port of Santos, whence so few have escaped with life; and his wife, the daughter of an Anglo-Brazilian friend.
Between 1860 and 1865 I spent many a week in Tenerife, and here I am tempted to transcribe a few extracts from my voluminous notes upon various subjects, especially the Guanche population and the ascent of the Pike. A brief history of the unhappy Berber-speaking goatherds who, after being butchered to make sport for certain unoccupied gentlemen, have been raised by their assailants to kings and heroes rivalling the demi-gods of Greece and Rome, and the melancholy destruction of the race, have been noticed in a previous volume. [Footnote: Yol. i. chap, ii., Wanderings in West Africa. The modorra, lethargy or melancholia, which killed so many of those Numidian islanders suggests the pining of a wild bird prisoned in a cage.] I here confine myself to the contents of my note-book upon the Guanche collections in the island.
One fine morning my wife and I set out in a venerable carriage for San Cristobal de la Laguna. The Camiño de los Coches, a fine modern highway in corkscrew fashion from Santa Cruz to Orotava, was begun, by the grace of General Ortega, who died smoking in the face of the firing party, and ended between 1862 and 1868. This section, eight kilomètres long, occupies at least one hour and a half, zigzagging some 2,000 feet up a steep slope which its predecessor uncompromisingly breasted. Here stood the villa of Peter Pindar (Dr. Walcott), who hymned the fleas of Tenerife: I would back those of Tiberias. The land is arid, being exposed to the full force of the torrid northeast trade. Its principal produce is the cactus (coccinellifera), a fantastic monster with fat oval leaves and apparently destitute of aught beyond thorns and prickles. Here and there a string of small and rather mangy camels, each carrying some 500 lbs., paced par monts et par vaux, and gave a Bedawi touch to the scene: they were introduced from Africa by De Béthencourt, surnamed the Great. We remarked the barrenness of the bronze-coloured Banda del Sur, whose wealth is in cochineal and 'dripstones,' or filters of porous lava. Here few save the hardiest plants can live, the spiny, gummy, and succulent cactus and thistles, aloes and figs. The arborescent tabayba (Euphorbia canariensis), locally called 'cardon,' is compared by some with the 'chandelier' of the Cape, bristling with wax tapers: the Guanches used it extensively for narcotising fish. This 'milk plant,' with its acrid, viscid, and virulent juice, and a small remedial shrub growing by its side, probably gave rise to the island fable of the twin fountains; one killed the traveller by a kind of risus Sardonicus, unless he used the other by way of cure. A scatter of crosses, which are impaled against every wall and which rise from every eminence; a ruined fort here and there; a long zigzag for wheels, not over-macadamised, with an older short cut for hoofs, and the Puente de Zurita over the Barranco Santo, an old bridge made new, led to the cuesta, or crest, which looks down upon the Vega de la Laguna, the native Aguere.
The 'noble and ancient city' San Cristobal de la Laguna was founded on June 26, 1495, St. Christopher's Day, by De Lugo, who lies buried in the San Miguel side-chapel of La Concepcion de la Victorias. The site is an ancient lava-current, the successor of a far older crater, originally submarine. The latest sub-aerial fire-stream, a broad band flowing from north to south--we have ascended it by the coach-road--and garnished with small parasitic craters, affords a bed and basis to the capital-port, Santa Cruz. After rains the lake reappears in mud and mire; and upon the lip where the town is built the north-east and the south-west winds contend for mastery, shedding abundant tears. Yet the old French chronicler says of the site, 'Je ne croy pas qu'il y eu ait en tout le monde aucune autre de plus plaisante.' The mean annual temperature is 62° 51' (F.), and the sensation is of cold: the altitude being 1,740 feet. Hence, like Orotava, it escaped the yellow fever which in October 1862 had slain its 616 victims.
[Footnote: The list of epidemics at Santa Cruz is rather formidable, e.g. 1621 and 1628, peste (plague); 1810 and 1862, yellow Jack; 1814, whooping cough, scarlatina, and measles; 1816-16, small-pox (2,000 victims); 1826, cough and scarlet ferer; 1847, fatal dysentery; and 1861-62, cholera (7,000 to 12,000 deaths).]
La Laguna offers an extensive study of medieval baronial houses, of colonial churches, of ermitas, or chapels, of altars, and of convents now deserted, but once swarming with Franciscans and Augustines and Dominicans and Jesuits. These establishments must have been very rich, for, here as elsewhere,
Dieu prodigue ses biens À ceux qui font voeu d'être siens.
St. Augustine, with its short black belfry, shows a Christus Vinctus of the Seville school, and the institute or college in the ex-monastery contains a library of valuable old books. The Concepcion boasts a picture of St. John which in 1648 sweated for forty days. [Footnote: Evidently a survival of the classic aera sudantia. Mrs. Murray notices the 'miracle' at full length (ii. 76).] The black and white cathedral, bristling with cannon-like gargoyles, a common architectural feature in these regions, still owns the fine pulpit of Carrara marble sent from Genoa in 1767. The chef d'oeuvre then cost 200l.; now it would be cheap at five times that price. In the sacristy are the usual rich vestments and other clerical curios. The Ermita de San Cristobal, built upon an historic site, is denoted as usual by a giant Charon bearing a small infant. There is a Carriera or Corso (High Street) mostly empty, also the great deserted Plaza del Adelantado, of the conqueror Lugo. The arms of the latter, with his lance and banner, are shown at the Ayuntamiento, or town-house; I do not admire his commercial motto--
Quien lanza sabe tener, Ella le da de comer.
Whose lance can wield Daily bread 'twill yield.]
Conquering must not be named in the same breath as 'bread-winning.' There, too, is the scutheon of Tenerife, given to it in 1510; Michael the Archangel, a favourite with the invader, stands unroasted upon the fire-vomiting Nivarian peak, and this grand vision of the guarded mount gave rise to satiric lines by Vieira:--
Miguel, Angel Miguel, sobre esta altura Te puso el Rey Fernando y Tenerife; Para ser del asufre y nieve fria Guardia, administrador y almoxarife.
Michael, archangel Michael, on this brow Throned thee King Ferdinand and Tenerife; To be of sulphur grough and frigid snow Administrator, guard, and reeve-in-chief.]
The deserted streets were long lines with an unclean central gutter. Some of the stone houses were tall, grand, solid, and stately; such are the pavilion of the Counts of Salazar, the huge, heavy abode of the Marquesses de Nava, and the mansions of the Villanuevas del Pardo. But yellow fever had driven away half of the population--10,000 souls, who could easily be 20,000--and had barricaded the houses to the curious stranger. Most of them, faced and porticoed with florid pillars, were mere dickies opening upon nothing, and only the huge armorial bearings showed that they had ever been owned. Mixed with these 'palaces.' were 'cat-faced cottages' and pauper, mildewed tenements, whose rusty iron-work, tattered planks, and broken windows gave them a truly dreary and dismal appearance. The sole noticeable movement was a tendency to gravitate in the roofs. The principal growth, favoured by the vapour-laden air, was of grass in the thoroughfares, of moss on the walls, and of the 'fat weed' upon the tiles. The horse-leek (sempervivum urbium), brought from Madeira, was first described by the 'gifted Swede' Professor Smith, who died on the Congo River. Finally, though the streets are wide and regular, and the large town is well aired by four squares, the whole aspect was strongly suggestive of the cocineros (cooks), as the citizens of the capital are called by the sons of the capital-port. They retort by terming their rival brethren chicharreros, or fishers of the chicharro (horse-mackerel, Caranx Cuvieri.)
From La Laguna we passed forward to Tacoronte, the 'Garden of the Guanches,' and inspected the little museum of the late D. Sebastian Casilda, collected by his father, a merchant-captain de long cours. It was a chaos of curiosities ranging from China to Peru. Amongst them, however, were four entire mummies, including one from Grand Canary. Thus we can correct M. Berthelot, who follows others in asserting that only the Guanches of Tenerife mummified their dead. The oldest description of this embalming is by a 'judicious and ingenious man who had lived twenty years in the island as a physitian and merchant.' It was inserted by Dr. Thomas Sprat in the 'Transactions of the Royal Society,' London, and was republished in John Ogilby's enormous folio [Footnote: The 'physitian' was Dr. Eden, an Englishman who visited Tenerife in 1662.--Bohn's Humboldtr, i. 66] yclept 'Africa.' The merchant 'set out from Guimar, a Town for the most part inhabited by such as derive themselves from the Antient Guanchios, in the company of some of them, to view their Caves and the corps buried in them (a favour they seldom or never permit to any, having the Corps of their Ancestors in great veneration, and likewise being extremely against any molestation of the Dead); but he had done many Eleemosynary Cures amongst them, for they are very poor (yet the poorest think themselves too good to Marry with the best Spaniard), which endeared him to them exceedingly. Otherwise it is death for any Stranger to visit these Caves and Bodies. The Corps are sew'd up in Goatskins with Thongs of the same, with very great curiosity, particularly in the incomparable exactness and evenness of the Seams; and the skins are made close and fit to the Corps, which for the most part are entire, the Eyes clos'd, Hair on their heads, Ears, Nose, Teeth, Lips, and Beards, all perfect, onely discolour'd and a little shrivell'd. He saw about three or four hundred in several Caves, some of them standing, others lying upon Beds of Wood, so hardened by an art they had (which the Spaniards call curay, to cure a piece of Wood) that no iron can pierce or hurt it.[Footnote: The same writer tells that they had earthen pots so hard that they could not be broken. I have heard of similar articles amongst the barbarous races east of Dalmatia.] These Bodies are very light, as if made of straw; and in some broken Bodies he observ'd the Nerves and Tendons, and also the String of the Veins and Arteries very distinctly. By the relation of one of the most antient of this island, they had a particular Tribe that had this art onely among themselves, and kept it as a thing sacred and not to be communicated to the Vulgar. These mixt not themselves with the rest of the Inhabitants, nor marry'd out of their own Tribe, and were also their Priests and Ministers of Religion. But when the Spaniards conquer'd the place, most of them were destroy'd and the art perisht with them, onely they held some Traditions yet of a few Ingredients that were us'd in this business; they took Butter (some say they mixed Bear's-grease with it) which they kept for that purpose in the Skins; wherein they boyl'd certain Herbs, first a kind of wild Lavender, which grows there in great quantities upon the Rocks; secondly, an Herb call'd Lara, of a very gummy and glutinous consistence, which now grows there under the tops of the Mountains; thirdly, a kind of cyclamen, or sow-bread; fourthly, wild Sage, which grows plentifully upon this island. These with others, bruised and boyl'd up into Butter, rendered it a perfect Balsom. This prepar'd, they first unbowel the Corps (and in the poorer sort, to save Charges, took out the Brain behind): after the Body was thus order'd, they had in readiness a lixivium made of the Bark of Pine-Trees, wherewith they washt the Body, drying it in the Sun in Summer and in the Winter in a Stove, repeating this very often: Afterward they began their unction both without and within, drying it as before; this they continu'd till the Balsom had penetrated into the whole Habit, and the Muscle in all parts appear'd through the contracted Skin, and the Body became exceeding light: then they sew'd them up in Goat-skins. The Antients say, that they have above twenty Caves of their Kings and great Personages with their whole Families, yet unknown to any but themselves, and which they will never discover.' Lastly, the 'physitian' declares that 'bodies are found in the caves of the Grand Canaries, in Sacks, quite consumed, and not as these in Teneriff.'
This assertion is somewhat doubtful; apparently the practice was common to the archipelago. It at once suggests Egypt; and, possibly, at one time, extended clean across the Dark Continent. So Dr. Barth [Footnote: Travels, &c., vol. iv. pp. 426-7.] tells us that when the chief Sonni Ali died in Grurma, 'his sons, who accompanied him on the expedition, took out his entrails and filled his inside with honey, in order that it might be preserved from putrefaction.' Many tribes in South America and New Zealand, as well as in Africa, preserved the corpse or portions of it by baking, and similar rude devices. According to some authorities, the Gruanche menceys (kinglets or chiefs) were boxed, Egyptian fashion, in coffins; but few are found, because the superstitious Christian islanders destroy the contents of every catacomb.
In the Casilda collection I observed the hard features, broad brows, square faces, and flavos crines described by old writers. Two showed traces of tongue and eyes (which often were blue), proving that the softer and more perishable parts were not removed. There were specimens of the dry and liquid balsam. Of the twenty-six skulls six were from Grand Canary. All were markedly of the type called Caucasian, and some belonged to exceptionally tall men. The shape was dolichocephalic, with sides rather flat than rounded; the perceptive region was well developed, and the reflective, as usual amongst savages and barbarians, was comparatively poor. The facial region appeared unusually large.
The industrial implements were coarse needles and fish-hooks of sheep-bone. The domestic supellex consisted of wooden ladles coarsely cut, and of rude pottery, red and yellow, generally without handles, round-shaped and adorned with scratches. None of these ganigos, or crocks, were painted like those of Grand Canary. They used also small basaltic querns of two pieces to grind the gofio, [Footnote: The gofio was composed of ripe barley, toasted, pounded, and kneaded to a kind of porridge in leathern bags like Turkish tobacco-pouches. The object was to save the teeth, of which the Guanches were particularly careful.] or parched grain. The articles of dress were grass-cloth, thick as matting, and tamarcos, or smock-frocks, of poorly tanned goatskins. They had also rough cords of palm-fibre, and they seem to have preferred plaiting to weaving; yet New Zealand flax and aloes grow abundantly. Their mahones correspond with Indian moccasins, and they made sugar-loaf caps of skins. The bases of shells, ground down to the thickness of a crown-piece, and showing spiral depressions, were probably the viongwa, necklaces still worn in the Lake Regions of Central Africa. The beads were of many kinds; some horn cylinders bulging in the centre, and measuring 1.25 inch long; others of flattened clay like the American wampum or the ornaments of the Fernando Po tribes; and others flattened discs, also baked, almost identical with those found upon African mummies--in Peru they were used to record dates and events. A few were of reddish agate, a material not found in the island; these resembled bits of thick pipe-stem, varying from half an inch to an inch in length. Perhaps they were copies of the mysterious Popo-bead found upon the Slave Coast and in inner Africa.
The Gruanches were doomed never to reach the age of metal. Their civilisation corresponded with that of the Chinese in the days of Fo-hi. [Footnote: Abel Rémusat tells us that of the two hundred primitive Chinese 'hieroglyphs' none showed a knowledge of metal.] The chief weapons were small triangles of close-grained basalt and iztli (obsidian flakes) for tabonas, or knives, both being without handles. They carried rude clubs and banot, or barbed spears of pine-wood with fire-charred points. The garrotes (pikes) had heads like two flattened semicircles, a shape preserved amongst negroes to the present day. Our old author tells us that the people would 'leap from rock to rock, sometimes making ten Fathoms deep at one Leap, in this manner: First they tertiate their Lances, which are about the bigness of a Half-Pike, and aim with the Point at any piece of a Rock upon which they intend to light, sometimes not half a Foot broad; in leaping off they clap their Feet close to the Lance, and so carry their bodies in the Air: the Point of the Lance comes first to the place, which breaks the force of their fall; then they slide gently down by the Staff and pitch with their Feet on the very place they first design'd; and so from Rock to Rock till they come to the bottom: but their Novices sometimes break their necks in the learning.'
I observed more civilisation in articles from the other islands, especially from the eastern, nearer the African continent. In 1834 Fuerteventura yielded, from a depth of six feet, a dwarfish image of a woman with prominent bosom and dressed in the native way: it appeared almost Chinese. A pot of black clay from Palmas showed superior construction. Here, too, in 1762 a cavern produced a basalt plate, upon which are circular scrawls, which support the assertions of old writers as regards the islanders not being wholly ignorant of letters. I could trace no similarity to the peculiar Berber characters, and held them to be mere ornamentation. The so-called 'Seals of the Kings' were dark stones, probably used for painting the skin; they bore parallelograms enclosed within one another, diaper-work and gridirons of raised lines. In fact, the Guanches of Tenerife were unalphabetic.
Hierro (Ferro), the Barranco de los Balos (Grand Canary), Fuerteventura, and other items of the Fortunates have produced some undoubted inscriptions. They are compared by M. Berthelot with the signs engraved upon the cave-entrance of La Piedra Escrita in the Sierra Morena of Andalusia; with those printed by General Faidherbe in his work on the Numidic or Lybian epigraphs; with the 'Thugga inscription,' Tunis; and with the rock-gravings of the Sahará, attributed to the ancient Tawárik or Tifinegs. Dr. Gran-Bassas (El Museo Canario), who finds a notable likeness between them and the 'Egyptian characters (cursive or demotic), Phenician and Hebrew,' notes that they are engraved in vertical series. Dr. Verneau, of the Academy, Paris, suggests that some of these epigraphs are alphabetic, while others are hieroglyphic. [Footnote: El Museo Canario, No. 40, Oct. 22, 1881.] Colonel H. W. Keays-Young kindly copied for me, with great care, a painting in the Tacoronte museum. It represents a couple of Guanche inscriptions, apparently hieroglyphic, found (1762) in the cave of Belmaco, Isle of Palma, by the ancients called Benahoave. They are inscribed upon two basaltic stones.
[Illustration: THE NOMIDIO INSCRIPTIONS OF HIEBRO.]
I also inspected the collection of a well-known lawyer, Dr. Francisco Maria de Leon. Of the three Guanche skulls one was of African solidity, with the sutures almost obliterated: it was the model of a soldier's head, thick and heavy. The mass of mummy-balsam had been tested, without other result than finding a large proportion of dragon's blood. In the fourteenth century Grand Canary sent to Europe at one venture two hundred doubloons' worth of this drug.
By the kindness of the Governor I was permitted to inspect four Guanche mummies, discovered (June 1862) in the jurisdiction of Candelaria. Awaiting exportation to Spain, they had been temporarily coffined upon a damp ground-floor, where the cockroaches respected nothing, not even a Guanehe. I was accompanied by Dr. Angel M. Yzquierdo, of Cadiz, physician to the hospital, and we jotted down as follows:--
No. 1, a male of moderate size, wanted the head and upper limbs, while the trunk was reduced to a skeleton. The characteristic signs were Caucasian and not negro; nor was there any appearance of the Jewish rite. The lower right leg, foot, and toe-nails were well preserved; the left was a mere bone, wanting tarsus and metatarsus. The stomach was full of dried fragments of herbs (Ohenopodium, &c.), and the epidermis was easily reduced to powder. In this case, as in the other three, the mortuary skins were coarsely sewn with the hair inside: it is a mistake to say that the work was 'like that of a glove.'
No. 2 was large-statured and complete; the framework and the form of the pelvis were masculine. The skin adhered to the cranium except behind, where the bone protruded, probably the effect of long resting upon the ground. Near the right temporal was another break in the skin, which here appeared much decayed. All the teeth were present, but they were not particularly white nor good. The left forearm and hand were wanting, and the right was imperfect; the lower limbs were well preserved even to the toe-nails.
No. 3, also of large size, resembled No. 2; the upper limbs were complete, and the lower wanted only the toes of the left foot. The lower jaw was absent, and the upper had no teeth. An oval depression, about an inch in its greater diameter, lay above the right orbit. If this be a bullet-mark, the mummy may date from before the final conquest and submission in A.D. 1496. But it may also have resulted from some accident, like a fall, or from the blow of a stone, a weapon which the Guanches used most skilfully. Mr. Sprat, confirmed by Glas, affirms that they 'throw Stones with a force almost as great as that of a Bullet, and now use Stones in all their fights as they did antiently.'
No. 4, much smaller than the two former, was the best preserved. The shape of the skull and pelvis suggested a female; the arms also were crossed in front over the body, whereas in the male mummy they were laid straight. The legs were covered with skin; the hands were remarkably well preserved, and the nails were darker than other parts. The tongue, in all four, was absent, having probably decayed.
These crania were distinctly oval. The facial angle, well opened, and ranging from 80° to 85°, counterbalanced the great development of the face, which showed an animal type. A little hair remained, coloured ruddy-chestnut and straight, not woolly. The entrails had disappeared, and the abdominal walls not existing, it was impossible to detect the incisions by which the tanno-balsamic substances, noted by Bory de Saint-Vincent and many others, were introduced. The method appears uncertain. It is generally believed that after removing the entrails through an irregular cut made with the tabona, or obsidian (knife), the operators, who, as in Egypt, were of the lowest caste, injected a corrosive fluid. They then filled the cavities with the balsam described above; dried the corpse; and, after, fifteen to twenty days, sewed it up in tanned goatskins. Such appears to have been the case with the mummies under consideration.
The catacombs, inviolable except to the sacrilegious, were numerous in the rockiest and least accessible parts of the island. Mr. Addison found them in the Cañádas del Pico, 7,700 feet above sea-level. [Footnote: Tenerife: 'An Ascent of the Peak and Sketch of the Island,' by Robert Edward Alison. Quarterly Journal of Science, Jan. 1806.] Hence it has been remarked of the Guanches that, after a century of fighting, nothing remained of them but their mummies. The sharp saying is rather terse than true.
The Guanches were barbarians, not savages. De Béthencourt's two chaplains, speaking in their chronicle of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, tell us 'there are many villages and houses, with numerous inhabitants.' The ruins still found in the Isles are called 'casas hondas' ("deep houses"); because a central excavation was surrounded by a low wall. The castle of Zonzamas was built of large stones without lime. In Port Arguineguin (Grand Canary) the explorers sent by Alfonso IV. (1341) came upon 300 to 400 tenements roofed with valuable wood, and so clean inside that they seemed stuccoed. They encircled a larger building, probably the residence of the chief. But the Tenerifans used only caves.
The want of canoes and other navigating appliances in Guanche-land by no means proves that the emigration took place when the Canaries formed part of the Continent. The same was the case with the Australians, the Tasmanians, and the New Zealanders. The Guanches, at the same time, were admirable swimmers, easily able to cross the strait, nine miles wide, separating Lanzarote from La Graciosa. They could even kill fish with sticks when in the water. The fattening of girls before marriage was, and is still, a Moroccan, not an Arab custom. The rude feudalism much resembled that of the Bedawi chiefs. George Glas, [Footnote: The History of the Discovery and Conquest of the Canary Islands, &c. 4to. London, 1764. I have given some notices of the unfortunate 'master mariner' in Wanderings in West Africa, vol. i. p. 79] or rather Abreu Galindo, his author, says of their marriages, 'None of the Canarians had more than one wife, and the wife one husband, contrary to what misinformed authors affirm.' The general belief is that at the time of the conquest polyandry prevailed amongst the tribes. It may have originated from their rude community of goods, and probably it became a local practice in order to limit population. Possibly, too, it was confined to the noble and the priestly orders.
Humboldt remarks, [Footnote: Personal Narrative, chap, i. p. 32, Bohn's ed. London, 1852.] 'We find no example of this polyandry except amongst the people of Thibet.' Yet he must have heard of the Nayr of Malabar, if not of the Todas on the Nilagiri Hills. D. Agustin Millares [Footnote: Historia de la Gran Canaria. Published at Las Palmas.] explains the custom by 'men and women being born in almost equal proportions,' the reverse being the fact. Equal proportions induce the monogamic relation.
Learned M. d'Avezac derives 'Guanche' from Guansheri or Guanseri, a Berber tribe described by El-Idrisi and Leo Africanus. This is better than finding it in the Keltic gwuwrn, gwen, white. Older authorities hold it a corruption of 'Vinchune,' the indigenous name of the Nivarian race. Again, 'the inhabitants of Tenerife called themselves Guan (the Berber Wan), one person, Chinet or Chinerf, Tenerife; so that Guanchinet meant a man of Tenerife, and was easily corrupted to Guanche. Thus, too, Glas's 'Captain Artemis' was Guan-arteme, the one or chief ruler. Vieira derives 'Tenerf' or'Chenerf' from the last king; and old MSS. have 'Chenerife.' The popular voice says it is composed of 'Tener,' mountain or snow, and of 'ryfe,' snow or mountain. Pritchard [Footnote: Researches into the Physical History of Mankind, book iii. chap. ii.] applied the term Guanche to all the Canarian races, and he is reproached for error by M. de Macedo, [Footnote: 'Ethnological Remarks,' &c., by J. J. de Costa de Macedo, of Lisbon, Royal Geographical Society's Journal, vol. ii. p. 172. Wanderings in West Africa, i. 116, contains my objections to his theory.] who would limit it to the Tenerifans. The same occurs in the Eev. Mr. Delany [Footnote: Notes of a Residence in the Canary Islands, &c. London, 1861.] and in Professor Piazzi Smyth, [Footnote: An Astronomer's Experiment, p. 190. L. Reeve, London, 1868.] who speaks of the 'Guanches of Grand Canary and Teneriffe.' According to popular usage all were right, 'Guanche' being the local and general term for the aborigines of the whole archipelago. But the scientific object that it includes under the same name several different races.
The language is also a point of dispute: some opine that all the islanders had one tongue, others that they were mutually unintelligible; many that it was Berber (Numidian, Getulian, and Garamantan), a few that it was less distinctly Semitic. The two chaplains of De Béthencourt [Footnote: Bontier and Le Verrier, Histoire de la première Découverte e Conquête des Canaries. Bergeron, Paris, 1630.] noted its resemblance with that of the 'Moors' of Barbary. Glas, who knew something of Shilha, or Western Berber, made the same observation. But the Genoese pilot Niccoloso di Recco during the expedition of A.D. 1344 collected the numerals, and two of these, satti (7) and tamatti (8), are less near the original than the Berberan set and tem.
The catalogue of Abreu Galindo, who lived here in 1591 and printed his history in 1632, preserves 122 words; Vieira only 107, and Bory de Saint-Vincent [Footnote: Essai sur les Iles fortunées. Humboldt has only five.] 148. Webb and Berthelot give 909. Of these 200 are nouns, including 22 names of plants; 467 are placenames, and 242 are proper names. Many are questionable. For instance, sabor (council-place) is derived from cabocer, 'expression par laquelle les nègres de la Sénégambie dénotent la réunion de leurs chefs.' [Footnote: Vol. i. part i. p. 223.] As all know, it is the corrupted Portuguese caboceiro, a headman.
Continuing our way from Tacoronte we reached Sauzal, beyond which the coach did not then run; the old road was out of condition, and the new not in working order. We offered a dollar each for carrying our light gear to sturdy men who were loitering and lying about the premises. They shook their heads, wrapped their old blanket-cloaks around them, and stretched themselves in the sun like dogs after a cold walk. I could hardly wonder. What wants have they? A covering for warmth, porridge for food, and, above all, the bright sun and pure air, higher luxuries and better eudaemonics than purple and fine linen. At last some passing muleteers relieved us of the difficulty.
The way was crowded with Laguneros, conspicuous in straw-hats; cloth jackets, red waistcoats embroidered at the back; bright crimson sashes; white knickerbockers, with black velveteen overalls, looking as if 'pointed' before and behind; brown hose or long leather gaiters ornamented with colours, and untanned shoes. Despite the heat many wore the Guanche cloak, a blanket (English) with a running string round the neck. The women covered their graceful heads with a half-square of white stuff, and deformed the coiffure by a hideous black billycock, an unpleasant memory of Wales. Some hundreds of men, women, and children were working on the road, and we were surprised by the beauty of the race, its classical outlines, oval contours, straight profiles, magnificent hair, and blue-grey eyes with black lashes. This is not the result of Guanche blood, as a town on the south-western part of the island presently showed me. Also an orderly of Guanche breed from the parts about Arico, who had served for years at the palace, was pointed out as a type. He stood six feet four, with proportional breadth; his face was somewhat lozenge-shaped, his hair straight, black like a Hindu's, and his tawny skin looked only a little darker than that of Portuguese Algarves. The beauty of the islanders results from a mixture of Irish blood. During the Catholic persecution before 1823 many fled the Emerald Isle to Tenerife, and especially to Orotava. The women's figures in youth are charming, tall, straight, and pliant as their own pine-trees. All remark their graceful gait.
We passed through places famed in the days of the conquest--La Matanza, the native Orantapata, where De Lugo's force was nearly annihilated. Now it is the half-way station to Orotava; and here the coche stops for dinner, prices being regulated by Government. The single inn shows the Pike, but not the subjacent valley. Then to Acentejo, the local Roncesvalles, where the invaders were saved only by St. Michael; and next to La Vitoria, where they avenged themselves. At Santa Ursula we first saw the slopes of Orotava, the Guanche Tavro or Atanpalata; and on the Cuesta de la Villa we were shown near its mark, a date-palm, the cave that sheltered the patriot chief, unfortunate Bencomo. As the fashionables came forth to walk and drive we passed the calvario and the place leading to the Villa Orotava, and found quarters in the fonda of D. José Gobea. The sala, or chief room, some 30 feet long, wanted only an Eastern divan round the walls; it was easily converted into a tolerable place of bivouac, and here we resolved to try country life for a while.
The first aspect of the Orotava Tempe was disappointing after Humboldt's dictum, 'Voici ce qu'il y a de plus délicieux au monde.' But our disappointment was the natural reaction of judgment from fancy to reality, which often leads to a higher appreciation. At last we learned why the Elysian [Footnote: In Arabic El-Lizzat, the Delight, or from the old Egyptian Aahlu,] Fields, the Fortunate Islands, the Garden of the Hesperides--where the sea is no longer navigable, and where Atlas supports the firmament on a mountain conical as a cylinder; the land of evening, of sunset, where Helios sinks into the sea, and where Night bore the guardians of the golden apples--were such favourites with the poets. And we came to love every feature of the place, from the snowy Pike of Teyde flushing pink in the morning sun behind his lofty rampart, to the Puerto, or lower town, whose three several reef-gates are outlaid by creamy surf, and whose every shift of form and hue stands distinct in the transparent and perfumed air. The intermediate slopes are clothed with a vegetation partly African, partly European; and here Humboldt, at the end of the last century, proposed to naturalise the chinchona.
La Villa lies some two miles and a half from and about 1,140 feet above the Puerto; and the streets are paved and precipitous as any part of Funchal. The population varied from 7,000 to 8,000 souls, whereas the lower town had only 3,500. It contains a few fine houses with huge hanging balconies and interior patios (courts) which would accommodate a regiment. They date from the 'gente muy caballerosa' (knightly folk) of three centuries ago. The feminine population appeared excessive, the reason being that some five per cent. of the youths go to Havannah and after a few years return 'Indianos,' or 'Indios,' our old 'nabobs.'
At the Puerto we were most kindly received by the late British Vice-Consul, Mr. Goodall, who died about the normal age, seventy-seven: if this be safely passed man in Tenerife becomes a macrobian. All was done for our comfort by the late Mr. Carpenter, who figures in the 'Astronomer's Experiment' as 'the interpreter.' Amongst the scanty public diversions was the Opera. The Villa theatre occupied an ancient church: the length of the building formed pit, boxes, and gallery; and 'La Sonnambula' descended exactly where the high altar had been. At the Puerto an old monastery was chosen for 'La Traviata:' the latter was realistic as Crabbe's poetry; even in bed the unfortunate 'Misled' one could not do without a certain truncated cylinder of acajou. I sighed for the Iberian 'Zarzuela,' that most charming opera buffa which takes its name from a 'pleasaunce' in the Pardo Palace near Madrid.
The hotel diet was peculiarly Spanish; already the stews and 'pilaffs' (puláos) of the East begin in embryo. The staple dish was the puchero, or cocido, which antiquated travellers still call 'olla podrida' (pot-pourri). This lesso or bouilli consists of soup, beef, bacon, and garbanzos (chick-peas, or Cicer arietinium) in one plate, and boiled potatoes and small gourds (bubangos) in another. The condiments are mostly garlic and saffron, preferred to mustard and chillies. The pastry, they tell me, is excellent.
In those days the Great Dragon Tree had not yet lost its upper cone by the dreadful storm of January 3, 1868; thus it had survived by two centuries and a half the Garoe Laurel, or Arbol Santo, the miraculous tree of Hierro (Ferro). It stood in the garden of the Marquez de Sauzal, who would willingly have preserved it. But every traveller had his own infallible recipe, and the proprietor contented himself with propping up the lower limbs by poles. It stood upon a raised bank of masonry-work, and the north-east side showed a huge cavity which had been stopped with stone and lime. About half a century ago one-third came down, and in 1819 an arm was torn off and sent, I believe, to Kew. When we saw the fragment it looked mostly like tinder, or touchwood, 'eld-gamall,' stone-old, as the Icelanders say. Near it stood a pair of tall cypresses, and at some distance a venerable palm-tree, which 'relates to it,' according to Count Gabriel de Belcastel,
[Footnote: I quote from the Spanish translation, Las Islas Canarias y el Valle Orotava, a highly popular work contrasting wonderfully with some of ours. The courteous Frenchman even promised that Morocco would be the Algeria of the Canaries. His observations for temperature, pressure, variation, hygrometry, and psychrometry of the Orotavan climate, which he chose for health, are valuable. He starts with a theory of the three conditions of salubrity--heat-and-cold, humidity, and atmospheric change. The average annual mean of Orotava is 66.34 degrees (F.), that of Southern France in September; it never falls below 54.5 degrees nor rises above 73.88 degrees, nor exceeds 13.88 degrees in variation.]
'in the murmurs of the breeze the legends of races long disappeared.'
Naturalists modestly assigned to the old Dragon 5,000 to 10,000 years, thus giving birth to fine reflections about its witnessing revolutions which our planet underwent prior to the advent of man. So Adamson made his calabash a contemporary of the Noachian Deluge, if that partial cataclysm [Footnote: The ancient Egyptians, who ignored the Babylonian Deluge, well knew that all cataclysms are local, not general, catastrophes.] ever reached Africa. The Orotava relic certainly was an old tree, prophetic withal, [Footnote: It was supposed infallibly to predict weather and to regulate sowing-time. Thus if the southern side flowered first drought was to be expected, and vice versa. Now the peasant refers to San Isidro, patron of Orotava: he has only changed the form of his superstition.] when De Lugo and the conquistadores entered the valley in 1493 and said mass in its hollow. But that event was only four centuries ago, and dates are ticklish things when derived from the rings and wrinkles of little-studied vegetation. Already Mr. Diston, in a letter to Professor Piazzi Smyth, [Footnote: 'Astronomical Experiment on the Peak of Tenerife,' Philosoph. Trans., part ii. for 1858.] declared that a young 'dragon,' which he had planted in 1818, became in 38 years so tall that a ladder was required to reach the head. And let us observe that Nature, though forbidden such style of progression by her savans, sometimes does make a local saltus, especially in the change of climates. Centuries ago, when the fires about Teyde were still alight, and the lava-fields about Orotava were still burning, the rate of draconian increase, under the influence of heat and moisture, might have been treble or quadruple what it would now be.
[Footnote: The patriarch was no 'giant of the forest.' Its stature did not exceed 60 feet. Humboldt made it only 45 French feet(= 47 ft. ll ins. English) round the base. Dr. Wilde (Narrative, p. 40) blames the measurer and gives about the same measurement, Professor Piazzi Smyth, who in 1856 reproduced it in an abominable photo-stenograph, reckons 48.5 feet at the level of the southern foot, 35.6 feet at 6 feet above the ground, and 28.8 feet at 14.5 feet, where branches spring from the rapidly narrowing conical trunk. The same are said to have been its proportions in the days of the conquest. In 1866 Mr. Addison made it 60 feet tall, 35.5 feet at 6 feet from the ground, and 49.5 in circumference at the base which he cleared. Mr. Barker Webb's sketch in 1830 was the best; but the tree afterwards greatly changed. Mr. J. J. Williams made a neat drawing in boarding-school style, with a background apparently borrowed from Richmond Hill.]
The Jardin de Aclimatacion, or Botanical Garden, mentioned by Humboldt
[Footnote: Page 59. It is regretable that his forecasts have failed. Neither of the ohinohonas (C. tanoifolia and C. oblongifolia) has been naturalised in Southern Europe. Nor has the Hill of Duragno yet sent us the 'protea, the psidium, the jambos, the chirimoya of Peru, the sensitive plant, the heliconia, and several beautiful species of glyoine from New Holland.']
as far back as 1799, still flourishes. It was founded in 1788-95 by an able savan, the Marquis de Villanueva del Pardo (D. Alonso de Nava y Grimon), who to a Government grant of 1,000l. added 4,000l. of his own, besides 400l. a year for an average generation. The place is well chosen, for the Happy Valley combines the flora of the north and the south, with a Nivaria of snow-land above it and a semi-tropical temperature on the shores of the 'Chronian Sea.'
CHAPTER VI. THE ROUTINE ASCENT OF MOUNT ATLAS, THE 'PIKE' OF TENERIFE.Edit
The trip was so far routine that we followed in the steps of all previous travellers, and so far not routine that we made it in March, when, according to all, the Mal Pais is impassable, and when furious winds threaten to sweep away intruders like dry leaves.
[Footnote: The usual months are July and August. Captain Baudin, not favourably mentioned by Humboldt, ascended in December 1797 with M. Le Gros and the naturalists Advenier, Mauger, and Riedlé. He rolled down from half-way on the cone to the bottom of La Rambleta, and was stopped only by a snow-covered lava-heap. Mr. Addison chose February, when he 'suffered more from enormous radiation than from cold.' He justifies his choice (p. 22) by observing that 'the seasons above are much earlier than they are below, consequently the latter part of the spring is the best season to visit the Peak.' In October, at an elevation of 10,700 feet, he found the cold greater than it was in February. In July 1863 I rode round the island, to the Cumbre pumice-plains, and by no means enjoyed the southern ride. A place near Guimar showed me thirty-six barrancos (deep ravines) to be crossed within three leagues.]
The good folk of the Villa, indeed, declared that the Ingleza could never reach even the Estancia de los Inglezes.
Our train was modest--a pair of nags with their attendants, and two excellent sumpter-mules carrying provisions and blankets. The guide was Manoel Reyes, who has already appeared in the 'Specialities of a Residence Above the Clouds.' He is a small, wizen-faced man, quiet, self-contained, and fond--exceedingly fond--of having his own way. By dint of hard work we left the Fonda Gobea at 9 A.M. on March 23, with loud cries of 'Mulo!' and 'Anda, caballo!' and 'So-o-o!' when the bât-beasts indulged in a free fight.
Morning smiled upon our incept. Nothing could be lovelier than the weather as we crossed the deluging Martinianez Fiumara; struck the coast-road westward, and then, bending to the south-west, made for the 'Gate of Taoro,' a gap in the Cañáda-wall. From the higher level truly charming was the aspect of Orotava: it was Funchal many times improved. Beyond the terraced foreground of rich deep yellow clay, growing potatoes, wheat, and the favourite chochos (lupines), with apple and chestnut trees, the latter of two kinds, and the lower fields marked out by huge agaves, lay the Happy Valley. Its contrast of vivid greens, of white quintas, of the two extinct volcanos overlooking Orotava, and of the picturesque townlets facing the misty blue sea, fringed with a ceaseless silvery surf by the brisa, or north-east trade, the lord of these latitudes, had not a symptom of the Madeiran monotony of verdure. Behind us towered high the snowy Pilon (Sugar-loaf), whose every wave and fold were picked out by golden sunlight, azure half-light, and purple shade.
As we advanced up the Camiño de Chasna, a road only by name, the quintas were succeeded by brown-thatched huts, single or in clumps. On the left, 3,400 feet above sea-level, stood the Pino del Dornajito ('of the Little Trough'), one of the few survivors in this once wealthy pine-ground. The magnificent old tree, which was full grown in the days of the conquest, and which in the seventeenth century was a favourite halting-point, suffered severely from the waterspout of November 7, 1826; but still measured 130 feet long by 29 in girth. The vegetation now changed. We began brushing through the arbutus (callicarpa), the wild olive (Olea excelsa), the Canarian oak, the daphne, the myrtle entwined with indigenous ivy (Hedera canariensis); the cytisus, the bright green hypericum of three species, thyme, gallworts, and arborescent and other ferns in numbers, especially the hare's-foot and the peculiar Asplenium canariense, the Trichomanes canariensis, and the Davallia canariensis; the brezo (Erica aborea and E. scoparia), a heath whose small white bells scented the air; and the luxuriant blackberry, used to fortify the drystone walls. The dew-cloud now began to float upwards from the sea in scarf-shape, only a few hundred feet thick; it had hangings and fringes where it was caught by the rugged hill-flanks; and above us globular masses, white as cotton bales, rolled over one another. As in the drier regions of Africa the hardly risen sun made itself felt.
At 10.20 A.M. we had passed out of the cultivated region to the Montijo, or Monte Verde, the laurel-region. The 'wood' is the remains of a fine forest accidentally fired by charcoal-burners; it is now a copse of arborescent heath-worts, ilex (I. Perado), and Faya (Myrica Faya), called the 'Portugal laurel,' some growing ten feet high. We then entered upon rough ground, El Juradillo ('the Hollow'); this small edition of the Mal Pais, leading to the Canadas, is a mass of lava-beds and dry barrancos (ravines) grooved and sheeted by rushing torrents. The latter show the anatomy of the land--tufas, lavas, conglomerates, trachytes, trachydolerites, and basalts of various kinds. Most of the rocks are highly magnetic, and are separated by thin layers of humus with carbonised plant-roots. Around El Juradillo rises a scatter of montanetas, shaped like half-buried eggs: originally parasitic cones, they evidently connect with the main vent. About 1 P.M., after four hours' ride, we dismounted at the Estancia de la Sierra (6,500 feet); it is a pumice-floor a few feet broad, dotted with bush and almost surrounded by rocks that keep off a wind now blowing cold and keen. Consequently, as broken pots and bottles show, it is a favourite resting-place.
After halting an hour we rode up a slope whose obtuser talus showed that we were reaching the far-famed platform, called Las Cañádas del Pico. The word, here meaning level ground, not, as usual, a canefield, applies especially to the narrow outer rim of the hollow plain; a bristling fortification of bluffs, pointing inwards, and often tilted to quoins 300 feet high, with an extreme of 1,000. Trachyte and basalt, with dykes like Cyclopean walls, are cut to jagged needles by the furious north-easter. Around the foot, where it is not encumbered with débris like the base of an iceberg, a broad line of comminuted pumice produces vegetation like a wady-growth in Somali Land. The central bed allows no short cut across: it is a series of rubbish-heaps, parasitic cones, walls, and lumps of red-black lavas, trachytes, and phonolites reposing upon a deluge of frozen volcanic froth ejected by early eruptions. The aspect was rejoicing as the Arabian desert: I would willingly have spent six months in the purest of pure air.
These flats of pumice, 'stones of emptiness,' loose incoherent matter, are the site of the first great crater. Tenerife is the type of a three-storied volcano, as Stromboli is of one and Vesuvius of two stages. The enormous diameter of this ancient feature is eight by seven miles, with a circumference of twenty-three--greater even than Hawaii--and here one feels that our earth was once a far sublimer scene. Such forms belong to the earlier volcanic world, and astronomers still suspect them in the moon. [Footnote: Las Cañádas was shown to be a volcanic crater in 1803 by Professor Cordier, the first scientific visitor in modern days (Lettre à Devilliers fils), and in 1810 by D. Francisco Escobar (Estadistica). They make the old vent ten leagues round.] The altitude is 6,900 feet, nearly double the height of Vesuvius (3,890 feet); and the lines sweep upwards towards the Pilon, where they reach 8,950 feet.
The tints of Las Cañádas, seen from above, are the tenderest yellow and a brownish red, like the lightest coat of vegetation turning ruddy in the sun. Where level, Las Cañádas is a floor of rapilli and pumice-fragments, none larger than a walnut, but growing bigger as they approach the Pike. The colours are dun (barriga de monja), golden-yellow, and brown burnt red like autumnal leaves. There is marvellous colouring upon the bluffs and ridges of the rim--lamp-black and brown-black, purple (light and dark), vermilion-red, and sombre hues superficially stained ruddy by air-oxygen. The picture is made brighter by the leek-green vegetation and by the overarching vault of glaring blue. Nor are the forms less note-worthy. Long centuries of weathering have worked the material into strange shapes--here a ruined wall, there an old man with a Jesuit's cap; now a bear, then a giant python. It is the oldest lava we have yet seen, except the bed of the Orotava valley. The submarine origin is denoted by fossils found in the flank; they are of Miocene age, like those common in Madeira, and they were known as early as the days of Clavijo (1772).
Las Canadas is not wholly a 'dead creation;' the birds were more numerous than on the plains. A powerful raptor, apparently an eagle with black-barred wings, hung high in air amongst the swallows winging their way northwards, and the Madeiran sparrow-hawk was never out of sight; ravens, unscared by stone-throwing boys, flew over us unconcernedly, while the bushes sheltered many blackbirds, the Canary-bird (Fringilla canaria) showed its green belly and grey back and wings, singing a note unknown to us; and an indigenous linnet (F. teydensis), small and green-robed, hopped over the ground tame as a wren. We saw nothing of the red-legged partridge or the Tetraonidae, reported to be common.
The scattered growths were composed of the broomy Codeso and Retama. The former (Adenocarpus frankenoides), a leguminous plant, showed only dense light-green leaves without flower, and consequently without their heavy, cloying perfume. The woody stem acts in these regions as the doornboom of South Africa, the wild sage of the western prairies, and the shih (absinthium) of the Arabian desert. The Arabic Retama, or Alpine broom (Cytisus fragrans, Lam.; Cyt. nubigenus, Decan.; Spartium nubigenum, Alton and Von Buch), is said to be peculiar to Tenerife, where it is not found under one vertical mile of height. Some travellers divide it into two species, Spartium monospermum and S. nubigenum. The bush, 9 to 10 feet tall by 7 to 15 inches diameter, is easily distinguished from the Codeso by its denser and deeper green. This pretty rounded growth, with its short brown stem throwing out lateral branches which trail on the ground, flavours meat, and might be naturalised in Europe. From June till August it is covered with a profusion of white blossoms, making Las Canadas a Hymettus, an apiarian heaven. It extends as far as the second cone, but there it shrinks to a foot in height. We did not see the tree growing, but we met a party of Chasna men, [Footnote: A romantic tale is told of the origin of Chasna. In 1496, before the wars ended, one Pedro de Bracamonte, a captain under De Lugo, captured a 'belle sauvage,' who made her escape after a few days. He went about continually repeating, 'Vi la flor del valle' (I saw the valley flower), and died after three months. His soldiers buried him and priests said masses for the soul of this 'hot amorist.'] driving asses like onagers, laden with the gummy wood of the Tea or Tiya pine (P. canariensis). The valuable material, which resists damp and decay for centuries, and which Decandolle declares would grow in Scotland, is rapidly disappearing from the Pinals. The travellers carried cochineal-seed, for which their village is famous, and a hive which might have been Abyssinian. It was a hollow cylinder of palm-bole, closed with board at either end; in July and August it is carried up the mountain, where the bees cannot destroy the grapes. We searched in vain for M. Broussonet's white violet (V. teydensis), [Footnote: Humboldt's five zones of vegetation on the Pike are vines, laurels, pines, broom, and grasses (p. 116). Mr. Addison modifies this scale to vines, laurels, pines and junipers, mountain-brooms and pumice-plains, I should distribute the heights as growing cochineal, potatoes, and cereals, chestnuts, pines, heaths, grasses, and bare rock.] and for the lilac-coloured Viola cheiranthifolia, akin to V. decumbens.
The average annual temperature of Las Canadas is that of N. latitude 53 degrees, Holland and Hanover; in fact, here it is the Pyrenees, and below it Africa. The sun blazed from a desert of blue, and the waving heat-reek rose trembling and quivering from the tawny sides of the foregrounds. The clouds, whose volumes were disposed like the leaves of a camellia, lay far down to the north-east, as if unable to face the fires of day. And now the great trachytic dome, towering in the translucent air, was the marking feature. Its angle, 35 to 42 degrees, or double that of the lower levels, suggests distant doubts as to its practicability, nor could we believe that it rises 3,243 feet above its western base, Las Cañádas. The summit, not including the terminal Pilon--a comparatively dwarf cone [Footnote: There is a very bad sketch of the Pike in Mr. Scrope's popular work on Volcanoes (p. 5); the eruptive chimney is far too regularly conical.]--is ribboned with clinker, and streaked at this season with snow-lines radiating, like wheel-spokes from a common centre. Here and there hang, at an impossible angle, black lava-streams which were powerless to reach the plain: they resembled nothing so much as the gutterings of a candle hardening on the outside of its upright shaft. Evidently they had flowed down the slope in a half fluid state, and had been broken by contraction when cooling. In places, too, the surface was streaked with light yellow patches, probably of sun-gilt tosa or pumice.
On our right, or to the north-north-east of the Pike, rose La Fortaleza, alias the Golliada del Cedro. The abrupt wall had salient and re-entering angles, not unlike the Palisades of the Hudson River, with intercalated strata and a smooth glacis at the base, except between the east and north-west, where the periphery has been destroyed. It is apparently basalt, as we may expect in the lower levels before reaching the trachytic region. The other notable features were Monte Tigayga, with its vertical cliff, trending northwards to the sea; the gap through which the Orotava lava-bed burst the crater-margin; the Llano de Maja ('Manja' in Berthelot), a strip of Las Canadas, and the horizontally striated Peak of Guajara (8,903 feet).
Riding over the 'pumice-beach of a once fiery sea,' whose glare and other accidents suggested the desert between Cairo and Suez, we made our way towards the Rastrojito. This 'Little Stubble' is a rounded heap of pumice, a southern offset of the main mountain. On the left rose the Montana Negra (Black Mountain) and the Lomo de la Nieve ('Snow Ridge),' a dark mass of ribbed and broken lavas (8,970 feet), in which summer-snow is stored. A little black kid, half wild, was skipping over the rocks. Our men pursued it with the garrotes (alpenstocks), loudly shouting,' Tio Jose!': 'Uncle Joseph,' however, escaped, running like a Guanche. Here it is allowed to shoot the animals on condition of leaving a shilling with the skin. The latter is used in preparing the national gofio, the Guanche ahoren, the kuskusu of north-western Africa, the polenta, or daily bread, of the Neo-Latins.
Climbing the Rastrojito slopes, we sighted the Pedras Negras: these are huge travelled rocks of basalt, jet-black, breaking with a conchoidal fracture, and showing debris like onion-coats about their base. The aspect was fantastic, resembling nothing so much as skulls 10 to 15 feet high. They are doubtless the produce of the upper slopes, which by slow degrees gravitated to the present pumice-beds.
The first step of the Pike is Las Canadas, whose glacis forms the Cumbre, or pumice-plains (6,500 feet), the long dorsum, which shows far out at sea. Bending abruptly to the east, we began to breast the red pumice-bed leading to the Estancia de Abajo or de los Inglezes. 'El es Inglez porque subio al Pico' ('he is English, because he climbed the Pike'), say the people. This ramp, whose extreme angle is 26 degrees, bordered by thick bands of detached lava-rocks, is doubtless the foundation-matter of the Pike. Hence the latter is picturesquely termed 'Hijo de las Canadas.' [Footnote: Especially by D. Benigno Carballo Wanguement in his work, Las Afortunadas (Madrid, 1862), a happy title borrowed from D. Francisco Escobar. Heyley (Cosmography), quoted by Glas and Mrs. Murray, tells us of an English ambassador who, deeming his own land the 'Fortunate Islands,' protested against Pope Clement VI. so entitling the Canaries in a deed of gift to D. Luis de la Cerda, the 'Disinherited' Conde de Claramonte. The latter was deprived of the Crown of Castile by his uncle, Sancho IV., and became the founder of the Medina Celi house.]
After a total climb and ride of six hours, we reached the 'English station.' M. Eden (Aug. 13, 1715) [Footnote: Trans. Royal Soc. of London, 1714-16.] calls it simply Stancha, and M. Borda 'Station des Rochers.' Pere Feutree, a Frenchman who ascended in 1524, and wrote the earliest scientific account, had baptised it Station de St. Francois de Paul, and set up a cross. It is a shelf in the pumice-slope, 9,930 feet high, and protected against the cold night-winds of the north-north-east, the lower or polar current, by huge boulders of obsidian, like gigantic sodawater-bottles. The routine traveller sleeps upon this level a few hundred yards square, because the guides store their fuel in an adjacent bed of black rocks. Humboldt miscalls the station 'a kind of cavern;' and a little above it he nearly fell on the slippery surface of the 'compact short-swarded turf' which he had left 4,000 feet below him.
The bât-mules were unpacked and fed; and a rough bed was made up under the lea of the tallest rock, where a small curral of dry stone kept off the snow. This, as we noticed in Madeira, is not in flakes, nor in hail-like globes: it consists of angular frozen lumps, and the selvage becomes the hardest ice. Some have compared it with the Swiss 'firn,' snow stripped of fine crystals and granulated by time and exposure. In March the greatest depth we saw in the gullies radiating from the mountain-top was about three feet. But in the cold season all must be white as a bride-cake; and fatal accidents occur in the Canada drifts. Professor Piazzi Smyth characterises the elevated region as cold enough at night, and stormy beyond measure in winter, when the south-wester, or equatorial upper current, produces a fearful climate. Yet the Pike summit lies some 300 feet below the snow-line (12,500 feet).
The view was remarkable: we were in sight of eighty craters. At sunset the haze cleared away from the horizon, which showed a straight grey-blue line against a blushing sky of orange, carmine, pale pink, and tender lilac, passing through faint green into the deep dark blue of the zenith. In this cumbre, or upper region, the stars did not surprise us by their brightness. At 6 P.M. the thermometer showed 32 degrees F.; the air was delightfully still and pure, [Footnote: We had no opportunity of noticing what Mr. Addison remarks, the air becoming sonorous and the sound of the sea changing from grave to acute after sunset and during the night. He attributes this increased intensity to additional moisture and an equability of temperature in the atmospheric strata. Perhaps the silence of night may tend to exaggerate the impression.] and Death mummifies, but does not decay.
A bright fire secured us against the piercing dry night-cold; and the arrieros began to sing like capirotes [Footnote: The Capirote or Tinto Negro, a grey bird with black head (Sylvia atricapilla), is also found in Madeira, and much resembles the Eastern bulbul or Persian nightingale. It must be caged when young, otherwise it refuses to sing, and fed upon potatos and bread with milk, not grain. An enthusiast, following Humboldt (p. 87), describes the 'joyous and melodious notes' of the bird as 'the purest incense that can ascend to heaven.'] (bulbuls), sundry seguidillas, and El Tajaraste. The music may be heard everywhere between Morocco and Sind. It starts with the highest possible falsetto and gradually falls like a wail, all in the minor clef.
We rose next morning with nipped feet and hands, which a cup of hot coffee, 'with,' speedily corrected, and were en route at 4.30 A.M. Formerly animals were left at the lower estancia; now they are readily taken on to Alta Vista. My wife rode a sure-footed black nag, I a mule which was perfect whilst the foot-long lever acting curb lay loose on its neck. Returning, we were amazed at the places they had passed during the moonless night.
Our path skirted the Estancia de los Alemanos, about 300 yards higher than the English, and zig-zagged sharply up the pumice-slope. The talus now narrowed; the side-walls of dark trachytic blocks pinching it in. At this grisly hour they showed the quaintest figures--towers and pinnacles, needles and tree-trunks, veiled nuns and monstrous beasts. Amongst them were huge bombs of obsidian, and masses with translucent, vitreous edges that cut like glass. Most of them contained crystals of felspar and pyroxene.
After half an hour we reached the dwarf platform of Alta Vista, 700 feet above the Estancia and 10,730, in round numbers, above sea-level. The little shelf, measuring about 100 to 300 yards, at the head of the fork where the north-eastern and the south-western lava-streams part, is divided by a medial ledge. Here we saw the parent rock of the pumice fragments, an outcrop of yellowish brown stone, like fractured and hardened clay. The four-footed animals were sent back: one rides up but not down such places.
Passing in the lower section the shell of a house where the Astronomer's
[Footnote: The author came out in 1856 to make experiments in astronomical observations. Scientific men have usually a contempt for language: we find the same in Our Inheritanse, &c. (Dalby & Co., London, 1877), where the poor modern hierogrammats are not highly appreciated. But it is a serious blemish to find 'Montana Blanco,' 'Malpays,' 'Chahzorra' (for Chajorra), and 'Tiro del Guanches.' The author also is wholly in error about Guanche mummification. He derides (p. 329) the shivering and shaking of his Canarian guide under a cloudy sky of 40°F., when the sailor enjoyed it in their 'glorious strength of Saxon (?) constitution.' But when the latter were oppressed and discouraged by dry heat and vivid radiation, Manoel was active as a chamois. Why should enduring cold and not heat be held as a test of manliness?]
experiment had been tried, Guide Manoel pointed out the place where stood the tormentos, as he called the instruments. Thence we toiled afoot up the Mal Pais. This 'bad country' is contradictorily described by travellers. Glas (A.D. 1761) makes it a sheet of rock cracked cross-wise into cubes. Humboldt (1799) says, 'The lava, broken into sharp pieces, leaves hollows in which we risked falling up to our waists.' Von Buch (1815) mentions 'the sharp edges of glassy obsidian, as dangerous as the blades of knives.' Wilde (1857) tamely paints the scene as a 'magnified rough-cast.' Prof. Piazzi Smyth is, as usual, exact, but he suggests more difficulty than the traveller finds. I saw nothing beyond a succession of ridge-backs and shrinkage-crevasses, disposed upon an acute angle. These ragged, angular, and mostly cuboidal blocks, resembling the ice-pack of St. Lawrence River, have apparently been borne down by subsequent lava-currents, which, however, lacked impetus to reach the lower levels of Las Cañádas.
Springing from boulder to boulder, an exhilarating exercise for a time, over a 'surface of horrible roughness,' as Prof. Dana says of Hawaii, we halted to examine the Cueva de Hielo, whose cross has long succumbed to the wintry winds. The 'ice-house' in a region of fire occupies a little platform like the ruined base of a Pompey's Pillar. This is the table upon which the neveros pack their stores of snow. The cave, a mere hole in the trachytic lava, opens to the east with an entrance some four feet wide. The general appearance was that of a large bubble in a baked loaf. Inside we saw a low ceiling spiky with stalactites, possibly icicles, and a coating of greenish ice upon the floor. A gutter leads from the mouth, showing signs of water-wear, and the blocks of trachyte are so loaded with glossy white felspar that I attempted to dust them before sitting down.
Local tradition connects this ice-cave with the famous burial-cavern near Ycod, on the northern coast; this would give a tunnel 8 miles long and 11,040 feet high. Many declare that the meltings ebb and flow with the sea-tide, and others recount that lead and lines of many fathoms failed to touch bottom. We are told about the normal dog which fell in and found its way to the shore through the cave of Ycod de los Vinos. In the latter a M. Auber spent four hours without making much way; in parts he came upon scatters of Guanche bones. Mr. Robert Edwards, of Santa Cruz, recounted another native tradition--that before the eruption of A.D. 1705 there was a run of water but no cave. Mr. Addison was let down into it, and found three branches or lanes, the longest measuring 60-70 feet. What the neveros call el hombre de nieve (the snow-man) proved to be a honeycombed mass of lava revetted with ice-drippings. He judged the cave to be a crater of emission; and did not see the smoke or steam issuing from it as reported by the ice-collectors.
Professor P. Smyth goes, I think, a little too far in making this contemptible feature compose such a quarrel as that between the English eruptionist and the Continental upheavalist. Deciding a disputed point, that elevation is a force and a method in nature, he explains the cave by the explosion of gases, which blew off the surface of the dome, 'when the heavy sections of the lava-roof, unsupported from below, fell downward again, wedging into and against each other, so as nearly to reform their previous figure.' But the unshattered state of the stones and the rounded surfaces of the sides show no sign of explosion. The upper Piton is unfitted for retaining water, which must percolate through its cinders, pumices, and loose matter into many a reservoir formed by blowing-holes. Snow must also be drifted in and retain, the cold. Moisture would be kept in the cavern by the low conducting power of its walls; so Lyell found, on Etna, a bed of solid ice under a lava-current. Possibly also this cave has a frozen substratum, like many of the ice-pools in North America.
We then toiled up to another little estancia, a sheltered, rock-girt hollow. The floor of snow, or rather frozen rain, was sprinkled with red dust, and fronts the wind, with sharp icy points rising at an angle of 45°. Here, despite the penetrating cold, we gravely seated ourselves to enjoy at ease the hardly won pleasures of the sunrise. The pallid white gleam of dawn had grown redder, brighter and richer. An orange flush, the first breaking of the beams faintly reflected from above, made the sky, before a deep and velvety black-blue, look like a gilt canopy based upon a rim of azure mist. The brilliancy waxed golden and more golden still; the blending of the colours became indescribably beautiful; and, lastly, the sun's upper limb rose in brightest saffron above the dimmed and spurious horizon of north-east cloud. The panorama below us emerged dimly and darkly from a torrent of haze, whose waving convex lines, moving with a majestic calm, wore the aspect of a deluge whelming the visible world. Martin the Great might have borrowed an idea from this waste of waters, as it seemed to be, heaving and breaking, surging and sweeping over the highest mountain-tops. We saw nothing of the immense triangular gnomon projected by the Pilon as far as Gomera Island, [Footnote: At sunset of July 10, 1863, I could trace it extending to Grand Canary, darkening the southern half and leaving the northern in bright sunshine: the right limb was better defined than the left.] and gradually contracting as the lamp of day rises. Item, we saw nothing of the archipelago like a map in relief; the latter, however, is rarely visible in its entirety. Disappointment!
During the descent we had a fair prospect of the Canarian Triquetra. Somewhat like Madeira, it has a longitudinal spine of mountains, generically called Las Cañádas; but, whilst the volcanic ridge of the Isle of Wood runs in a latitudinal line, the Junonian Cordillera has a whorl, the ancient as well as the modern seat of eruption. Around the island appeared to be a rim, as if the sea-horizon formed a raised saucer--a common optical delusion at these altitudes.
As we advanced the Mal Pais became more broken: the 'bad step' was ugly climbing, and we often envied our men, who wore heelless shoes of soft untanned leather with soles almost as broad as they were long. The roughness of the trachytic blocks, however, rendered a slip impossible. At 6.45 we reached the second floor of this three-storied volcano, here 11,721 feet high. The guides call it the Pico del Pilon, because it is the ancient Peak-Crater, and strangers the Rambleta (not Rembleta) Volcano, which strewed Las Cañádas with fiery pumice, and which shot up the terminal head 'conical as a cylinder.' It has now become an irregular and slightly convex plain a mile in diameter, whose centre is the terminal chimney. Its main peculiarity is in the fumaroles, or escapes of steam, and mofetti, mephitic emanations of limpid water and sulphur-vapour. Of these we counted five narices within as many hundred yards. Their temperature greatly varies, 109° and 158° Fahr. being, perhaps, the extremes; my thermometer showed 130°. These soupiraux or respiradouros are easily explained. The percolations from above are heated to steam by stones rich in 'grough brimstone.' Here it was that Humboldt saw apparent lateral shiftings and perpendicular oscillations of fixed stars; and our Admiralty, not wishing to be behind him, directed Professor P. Smyth's attention to 'scintillations in general.' Only the youngest of travellers would use such a place as an observatory; and only the youngest of observers would have considered this libration of the stars an extraordinary phenomenon.
Directed by a regular line of steam-puffs, we attacked El Pilon, the third story, the most modern cone of eruption, the dwarf chimney which looks like a thimble from the sea. The lower third was of loose crumbling pumice, more finely comminuted than we had yet seen; this is what Humboldt calls 'ash-cones.' There was also a strew of porphyritic lava-chips covered with a red (ochreous?) crust. Presently we reached a radiating rib of lately ejected lava, possibly the ridge of a dyke, brown below and gradually whitening with sulphuric acid as it rose towards the crater-walls. The resting took longer than the walking up the steep talus; and at 7.45: after a total of nine hours and a morning's work of two hours and a half, which occupied two in descending, we stood upon the corona or lip of 'Teyde.'
The height of the Tenerife Pike, once held the loftiest in the world, is 12,198 feet, in round numbers 12,200. Thus it stands nearly at the altitude of Mont Blanc (15,784 feet) above the Chamounix valley, a figure of 12,284 feet. The slope from the base is 1 in 4.6. The direct distance from Orotava on the map measures 10.5 miles; along the road 18, according to the guides. The terminal chimney and outlet for vapours which would erupt elsewhere, rises 520 feet from its pedestal, the central Rambleta, and its ascent generally occupies an hour. One visitor has reduced this montagne pelée to 60-70 feet, and compares it with the dome of a glass-house. From below it resembles nothing so much as a cone of dirty brown cassonade, and travellers are justified in calling it a sugarloaf. I can hardly rest satisfied with Von Buch's description. 'Teyde is a pointed tower surrounded by a ditch and a circular chain of bastions.'
The word Teyde is supposed to be a corruption of Echeyde, meaning Hades: hence the title Isla Infierno, found in a map of A.D. 1367. The Guanches also called it Ayadyrma, and here placed their pandemonium, under Guayota, the head-fiend. The country-folk still term the crater-ring 'la caldera de los diablos en que se cuecen todas las provisiones del Infierno' (the Devil's caldron, wherein are cooked all the rations of the infernals). Seen by moonlight, or on a star-lit night, the scenery would be weird and ghostly enough to suggest such fancies, which remind us of Etna and Lipari.
I had been prepared by descriptions for a huge chasm-like crater or craters like those on Theon Ochéma, Camerones Peak. I found a spoon-shaped hollow, with a gradual slope to the centre, 100 × 150 feet deep, the greater length of the oval running north-east, where the side is higher, to south-west, where there is also a tilt of the cup. The floor was a surface of burning marl and whitish earthy dough-like paste, the effect of sulphurous acid vapours upon the argile of the lava. This stratum was in places more than 80 feet thick; and fumes rose fetid with sulphuric acid, and sulphates of soda, alumina, and ammonia from the dead white, purple red, vivid green, and brilliant yellow surface of the solfatara. Hence the puffs of vapour seen from below against the sparkling blue sky, and disappearing like huge birds upon the wings of the wind: hence, too, the tradition of the mast and the lateen sail. A dig with the Guanche magada or lanza, the island alpen-stock, either outside or inside the crater, will turn up, under the moist white clay, lovely trimetric crystals of sulphur, with the palest straw tint, deepening to orange, and beautifully disposed in acicular shapes. The acid eats paper, and the colours fade before they leave the cone.
[Footnote: Dr. Wilde (1837) analysed the sulphur as follows: Silica, 81·13; water, 8·87; and a trace of lime. Others have obtained from the mineral, when condensed upon a cold surface, minute crystals of alum. Mr. Addison found in the 'splendid crystals of octahedral sulphur' a glistening white substance of crystalline structure, yet somewhat like opal. When analysed it proved to contain 91 per cent. silex and the rest water.]
When sitting down it is advisable to choose a block upon which dew-drops pearl. A few minutes of rest upon a certain block of marl, whose genial warmth is most grateful, squatting in the sharp cold air, neatly removes all cloth in contact with the surface. More than one excursionist has shown himself in that Humphrey Clinker condition which excited the wrath of Count Tabitha. It is evident that Teyde is by no means exhausted, and possibly it may return to the state of persistent eruption described by the eye-witness Ca da Mosto, who landed on the Canaries in A.D. 1505.
Not at all impressed with the grandeur of the Inferno, we walked round the narrow rim of the crater-cirque, and were shown a small breach in the wall of porphyritic lava facing west. Mrs. Murray's authorities describe the Caldera as being 'without any opening:' if this be the case the gap has lately formed. The cold had driven away the lively little colony of bees, birds, and butterflies which have been seen disporting themselves about the bright white cauldron. There was not a breath of the threatened wind. Manoel pointed out Mount Bermeja as the source of the lateral lava-stream whose 'infernal avalanche,' on May 5, 1706, [Footnote: Preceding Ca da Mosto's day another eruption (1492) was noted by Columbus, shortly before his discovery of the Antilles. Garachico was the only port in Tenerife, with a breakwater of rocky isle and water so deep that the yardarms of men-of-war could almost touch the vineyards. Its quays were bordered by large provision-stores, it had five convents, and its slopes were dotted with villas. After an earthquake during the night a lava-stream from several cones destroyed the village Del Tanque at 3:30 A.M., and at 9 P.M. another flood entered Garachico at seven points, drove off the sea, ruined the mole, and filled the port. It was followed by a cascade of fire at 8 A.M. on the 13th of the same month, and the lava remained incandescent for forty days.] overwhelmed 'Grarachico, pueblo rico,'
[Footnote: Alluding to the curse of the Franciscan Friar, who devoted the town to destruction in these words:--
'Garachico, pueblo rico, Gastadero de dinero, Mal risco te caiga encima!']
and spared Guimar, which it enclosed between two fiery streams. Despite the white and woolly mists, the panorama of elevations, craters and castellated eminences, separated by deep gashes and by currals like those of Madeira, but verdure-bare, was stupendous. I have preserved, however, little beyond names and heights. We did not suffer from puna, or mountain sickness, which Bishop Sprat, of Rochester, mentions in 1650, and which Mr. Darwin--alas that we must write the late!--cured by botanising. I believe that it mostly results from disordered liver, and, not unfrequently, in young Alpinists, from indigestion.
The descent of the Teyde Piton, in Vesuvian fashion, occupied ten minutes. Our guides now whistled to their comrades below, who had remained in charge of the animals. Old authors tell us that the Guanche whistle could be heard for two leagues, and an English traveller declares that after an experiment close to his ear he did not quite recover its use for a fortnight. The return home was wholly without interest, except the prospects of cloud-land, grander than those of Folkestone, which seemed to open another world beneath our feet. Near the Santa Clara village all turned out to prospect two faces which must have suggested only raw beef-steaks. It was Sunday, and
(Garachico, wealthy town; wasteful of thy wealth, may an ill rock fall upon thy head!)
both sexes were in their 'braws.' The men wore clean blanket-mantles, the women coloured corsets laced in front, gowns of black serge or cotton, dark blue shawls hardly reaching to their waist, and the usual white kerchief, the Arab kufiyah, under the broad-brimmed straw or felt hat, whose crown was decorated with the broadest and gayest ribbons. But even this unpicturesque coiffure, almost worthy of Sierra Leone, failed to conceal the nobility of face and figure, the well-turned limbs, the fine hands and feet, and the meneo, or swimming walk, of this Guanchinesque race, which everywhere forced itself upon the sight. The proverb says--
De Tenerife los hombres; Las mugeres de Canária.
It is curious to compare the realistic accounts of the nineteenth century with those of the vulcanio two centuries ago. Ogilby (1670) tells us that the Moors called it El-Bard (Cold), and we the 'Pike of Teneriff, thought not to have its equal in the world for height, because it spires with its top so high into the clouds that in clear weather it may be seen sixty Dutch miles off at sea.' His illustration of the 'Piek-Bergh op het Eilant Teneriffe' shows an almost perpendicular tower of natural masonry rising from a low sow-back whose end is the 'Punt Tenago' (Anaga Point). The 'considerable merchants and persons of credit,' whose ascent furnished material for the Royal Society, set out from Orotava. 'In the ascent of one mile some of our Company grew very faint and sick, disorder'd by Fluxes, Vomitings, and Aguish Distempers; our Horses' Hair standing upright like Bristles.' Higher up 'their Strong waters had lost their Virtue, and were almost insipid, while their Wine was more spirituous and brisk than before.' In those days also iron and copper, silver and gold, were found in the calcined rocks of the Katakaumenon. It is strange to note how much more was seen by ancient travellers than by us moderns.
CHAPTER VII. THE SPANISH ACCOUNT OF THE REPULSE OF NELSON FROM SANTA CRUZ DE TENERIFE.Edit
[Footnote: From the Relacion circumstanciada de la Defensa que hizo la Plaza de Santa Cruz, by M. Monteverde. Published in Madrid, 1798.]
The following pages afford a circumstantial and, I believe, a fairly true account of an incident much glossed over by our naval historians. The subject is peculiarly interesting. At Santa Cruz, as at Fontenoy, the Irish, whom harsh measures at home drove for protection to more friendly lands, took ample share in the fighting which defeated England's greatest sailor. Again, the short-sighted policy which sent to the Crimea 20,000 British soldiers to play second instrument in concert with 40,000 Frenchmen, thus lowering us in the eyes of Europe, made Nelson oppose his 960 hands to more than eight times their number. The day may come when the attack shall be repeated. Now that steam has rendered fleets independent of south-west winds, it is to be hoped the assailant will prefer day to night, so that his divisions can communicate; that he will not land in the 'raging surf' of the ebb-tide, and that he will attack the almost defenceless south instead of the well-fortified north of the city.
Already the heroic Island had inflicted partial or total defeat upon three English admirals. [Footnote: Grand Canary also did her duty by beating off, in October 1795, Drake's strong squadron.] In April 1657 the Roundhead 'general at sea,' Admiral Sir Robert Blake, of Bridgewater, attempted to cut out the Spanish galleons freighted with Mexican gold and with the silver of Peru. Of these the principal were the Santo-Cristo, the Jesus-Maria, the Santo Sacramento, La Concepcion, the San Juan, the Virgen de la Solitud, and the Nuestra Señora del Buen Socorro. This 'silver fleet' was moored under the guns of the 'chief castle,' San Cristobal, the mean work at the root of the mole. The English were preparing to board, when the Captain-General, D. Diego de Egues, whom our histories call 'Diagues,' ordered the fleet to be fired, after all the treasure had been housed in the fort. A steady fight lasted three hours, during which the wife of the brave Governor, D. Estevan de la Guerra, distinguished herself. 'I shall not be useless here,' she exclaimed when invited to leave the batteries; and this 'maid of Tenerife' continued to animate the garrison till the end. As was the case with his great successor, Roundhead Blake's failure proved to him far better than a success. For his francesada, or coup de tête, Nelson expected to lose his commission, instead of which some popular freak flung to him honour and honours. So Protector Cromwell sent a valuable diamond ring to his 'general at sea,' in token of esteem on his part and that of his Parliament. Our histories, relying on the fact that a few weak batteries were silenced, claim for the Admiral a positive victory, despite his losses--fifty killed and 500 wounded.
[Footnote: The late Mr. Hepworth Dixon (Life of Blake, p. 346) describes the open roadstead of Santa Cruz as a 'harbour shaped like a horse-shoe, and defended at the north side of the entrance by a regular castle.' In p. 350 we also read of the bay and its entrance. Any hydrographic chart would have set him right.]
In 1706, during the Spanish war of succession, Admiral Jennings sailed into Santa Cruz bay--the old Bay of Anaga or Anago--and lay off San Cristobal
[Footnote: This work still remains. It is a parallelogram with four bastions in star-shape, fronting the sea, and an embrasured wall facing the town. It began as a chapel, set up by De Lugo to N. S. de la Consolacion, and a tower was added in 1493. It was destroyed by the Guanches and rebuilt by Charles Quint: the present building assumed its shape in 1579. The main square, inland of San Cristobal, shows by a marble cross where the conqueror planted with one hand a large affair of wood--hence Santa Cruz. The original is, or was till lately, in the Civil Hospital.]
with twelve ships of the line. The Plaza was commanded, in the absence of the Captain-General, by the Corregidor, D. Antonio de Ayala, who assembled all the nobles in the castle's lower rooms and swore them to loyalty. The English attempted to disembark, and were beaten back; whereupon, as under Nelson, they sent a parliamentary and summoned the island to surrender to the Archduke Charles of Austria. The envoy informed the Governor, who is described by Dampier as sitting in a low, dark, uncarpeted room, adorned only with muskets and pikes, that Philip V. had lost Gibraltar, that Cadiz and Minorca had nearly fallen, and that the American galleons in the port of Vigo had been burnt or captured by the English, whose army, entering Castile, had overrun Aragon, Catalonia, and Valencia. The braves reply was, 'If Philip, our king, had lost his all in the Peninsula, these islands would still remain faithful to him.' And the castle guns did such damage that the Jennings squadron sailed away on the same evening.
The third expedition, detached by Admmiral Sir John Jervis, afterwards Earl St. Vincent, to 'cut out a richly freighted Manilla ship,' also resulted in a tremendous failure. Captain Brenton, to gratify national complacency, grossly exaggerates in his 'Naval History' the difficulty of the enterprise. 'Of all places which ever came under our inspection none, we conceive, is more invulnerable to attack or more easily defended than Teneriffe.' He forgets to mention its principal guard, the valour of the inhabitants. And now to my translation.
'At dawn on July 2, [Footnote: James (Naval History, vol. ii. p. 56) more correctly says July 20. So the Despatches, &c., of Lord Nelson, Sir H. Nicholas, vol. ii. p. 429. The thanksgiving for the victory took place on July 27, the fête of SS. Iago and Cristobal.] 1797, the squadron [Footnote: The squadron was composed as follows:--1. Theseus (74), Captain Ralph Willett Miller, carried the Rear-Admiral's flag; 2. Culloden (74), Commodore and Captain Thos. Troubridge; 3. Zealous (74), Captain Sam. Hood; 4. Leander (50), Captain Thos. Boulden Thomson, which joined on the day before the attack. There were three frigates:--1. Seahorse (38), Captain Thos. Francis Fremantle; 2. Emerald (36), Captain John Waller; and 3. Terpsichore (32), Captain Richard Bowen; also the Fox (cutter), Lieut. Commander John Gibson, and a mortar-boat or a bomb-ketch, probably a ship's launch with a shell-gun.] of Rear-Admiral Horatio Nelson, K.B., composed of nine ships, and carrying a total of 393 guns, appeared off Santa Cruz, the port of Tenerife, Canarian archipelago. The enemy at once manned and put off his boats. One division of sixteen occupied our front; the other twenty-three took the direction of the Bufadero valley, a wild gap two or three miles to the north of the harbour.
'An alarm signal was immediately made in the town, when the enemy returned to his ships, and made his troops prepare to disembark. At ten A.M. the three frigates, towed by their boats, cast anchor out of cannon-shot, near the Bufadero; whilst the other vessels plied to windward, [Footnote: At the time the weather was calm in the town, but a violent levante, or east wind, prevented vessels from approaching the bay, where the lee shore is very dangerous.] and disembarked about 1,200 men on the beach of Valle Seco, between the town and the valley. This party occupied the nearest hill before it could be attacked; its movements showed an intention to seize the steep rocky scarp commanding the Paso Alto--the furthest to the north of the town. [Footnote: Nelson's rough sketch, vol. ii. p. 434, shows that it had 26 guns. San Cristobal de Paso Alto commands the large ravine called by the Guanches 'Tahoide' or 'Tejode,' which is now defended by San Miguel. This is a small rockwork carrying six guns in two tiers, the upper en barbette and the lower casemated.] Thus the enemy would have been enabled to land fresh troops during the night; and, after gaining the heights and roads leading to the town, to attack us in flank as well as in front.
'Light troops were detached to annoy the invader, and they soon occupied the passes with praiseworthy celerity and boldness. One party was led by the Capitaine de Frégate Citizen Ponné [Footnote: James calls him Zavier Pommier. He commanded the French brig Mutine (14), of 349 tons, with a crew of 135. As he landed at Santa Cruz with 22 of his men on May 28, 1797, the frigates Lively, Captain Benjamin Hallowell, and the Minerva, Captain George Cockburn, descried the hostile craft. Lieutenant Hardy, of the Minerva, supported by six officers and their respective boats' crews, boarded her as she lay at anchor. Despite the fire of the garrison and of a large ship in the roads, he carried her, after an hour's work, safe out of gunshot. Only 15 men were wounded, including Lieutenant Hardy. This officer was at once put in command of the Mutine, which he had so gallantly won.] and by the Lieutenant de Vaisseau Citizen Faust. Both officers, who had been exchanged and restored at the same port, showed much presence of mind on this occasion, and on July 25 they applied to be posted at a dangerous point of attack--the beach to the south of the town, near Puerto Caballas, beyond where the Lazaretto now lies. When the enemy purposed assaulting a more central post, they came up at the moment of the affair, ending in our victory.
'A second party was composed of the Infantry Battalion of the Canaries, [Footnote: This battalion afterwards distinguished itself highly in the Peninsular war.] under Sub-Lieutenant Don Juan Sanchez. A third, composed of 70 recruits from the Banderas [Footnote: Bandera is a flag, a depôt, also a levy made by officers of Government.] of Havana and Cuba, was led by Second Lieutenant Don Pedro Castillo; a fourth numbered seventeen artillerymen and two officers, Lieutenant Don Josef Feo and Sub-Lieutenant Don Francisco Dugi. A fifth, and the last, was of twenty-five free chasseurs belonging to the town, and commanded by Captains Don Felipe Viña and Don Luis Roman.
'Our Commandant-General, H. E. Señor Don Juan Antonio Gutierrez, [Footnote: Not Gutteri, as James has it, nor 'Gutienez,' as Mrs. Murray prefers.] was residing in the principal castle of San Cristobal. His staff consisted of the commandants of the Royal Corps of Artillery and Engineers, Don Marcelo Estranio and Don Luis Margueli; of the Auditor of War (an old office, the legal military adviser and judge), Don Vicente Patiño; of Lieutenant-Colonel Don Juan Creagh (locally pronounced Cré-ah); of the Secretary of Inspection Captain Don Juan Creagh; of the Secretary to Government and Captain of Militia Don Guillermo de los Reyes; of the Captain of Infantry Don Josef Victor Dominguez; of Lieutenants Don Vicente Siera and Don Josef Calzadilla, Town-Adjutant--the latter three acting as aides-de-camp to his Excellency--and of the first officers of the Tobacco and Postal Bureaux, Don Juan Fernandez Uriarte and Don Gaspar de Fuentes.
'The five parties before alluded to, numbering a total of 191, were, at his own request, placed under Lieutenant-Colonel the Marquess de la Fuente de las Palmas, commanding the division of chasseurs. The first to mount the hill nearest the enemy, he saw the increased force of the attacker, who had placed a 4-pounder in position; whereupon he sent for reinforcements and some pieces of cannon. Our Commandant-General, on receipt of the message, ordered up four guns (3- and 4-pounders) with fifty men under a captain of the Infantry Battalion of the Canaries. Universal admiration was excited by the agility and intrepidity with which twenty militiamen of the Laguna Regiment, under the chief of that corps, Florencio Gonsalez, scaled the cliffs, carrying on their shoulders, besides their own arms and ammunition, the four guns and their appurtenances.
'Meanwhile our troops replied bravely to the enemy's deliberate fire of musketry and field-pieces. As he sallied out to a spring in the Valle Seco, two of his men were killed by the French party and the levies of Havana and Cuba, whilst a third died of suffocation whilst scaling the heights. At the same time Lieutenant-Colonel Don Juan Creagh, commanding the Infantry Battalion, accompanied by a volunteer, Don Vicente Siera, Lieutenant of the local corps (fixo) of Cuba, led thirty of his men and fifty Rozadores [Footnote: The insular name of an irregular corps, now done away with. Literally taken, the word means sicklemen.] belonging to the city of La Laguna. They proceeded across country in order to reconnoitre the enemy's rear. Before nightfall they succeeded in occupying high ground in the same valley opposite the heights held by the English, and in manning the defiles through which the latter must pass on their way to the town.
'As soon as the enemy saw these troops, he formed in five companies near his field-gun. Lieutenant-Colonel Creagh was joined by some 500 men of the Laguna militia, and their lieutenant, Don Nicholas Quintin Garcia, followed by the peasantry of the adjoining districts, under the Alcalde or Mayor of Taganana. These and all the other troops were liberally supplied with provisions by the Ayuntamiento (municipality) of the Island.
'On the next morning (July 23) our scouts being sent down to the valley, found that the enemy had disappeared during the night. Notwithstanding which, the Marquess de las Palmas ordered a deliberate fire to be kept up in case of surprise. Our General, when informed of the event, recalled the troops. The Marquess, who unfortunately received a fall which kept him hors de combat for many days, [Footnote: I find pencilled in the original volume, 'Que caida tam oportuna!' (What a lucky fall!)] obeyed with his command at 5 P.M., leaving behind him thirty men under Don Felix Uriundo, second lieutenant of the Battalion of Canaries. Don Juan Creagh did the same with his men. But as the French commandant reported that some of the enemy were still lurking about the place, our General-in-Chief directed Captain Don Santiago Madan, second adjutant of the same corps, to reconnoitre once more the Valle Seco with 120 Rozadores. This duty was well performed, despite the roughness of the paths and the excessive heat of the sun.
'The enemy's squadron now seemed inclined to desist from its attempt. At 6 A.M. of July 23 Rear-Admiral Nelson's flagship, which, with the other ships of the line, had kept in the offing, drew near, and signalled the frigates to sheer off from the point and to rejoin the rest of the squadron. These, however, at 3 P.M., allowed themselves to drop down the coast towards the dangerous southern reaches between Barranco Hondo, beyond the Quarantine-house and the village of Candelaria, distant a day's march from Santa Cruz. To prevent their landing men, Captain Don Antonio Eduardo, and the special engineer, Don Manuel Madera, reconnoitred the shore about Puerto Caballas, to see if artillery could be brought there. Meanwhile Sub-Lieutenant Don Cristobal Trinidad, of the Guimar Regiment, watched, with fifty of his men, the coast near San Isidro, [Footnote: Here the landing is easiest.] which is not far from Barranco Hondo. The squadron, however, retired to such a distance that it could hardly be discerned from the town, as it bore S.E. 1/4 E.: notwithstanding which, all preparations were made to give the enemy a warm reception.
'At daylight on July 24 the squadron again appeared, crowding on all sail to gain the weather-side. The look-out at Anaga Point, north of the island, signalled three ships from that direction, and two to the south, where we could distinguish only one of fifteen guns, which was presently joined by the rest. At 6 P.M. the enemy anchored with his whole force on the same ground which the frigates chose on the 22nd, and feinted to attack Paso Alto Fort. Our General and chiefs were not deceived. Foreseeing that we should be assaulted in front, and to the right or south, [Footnote: The town of Santa Cruz runs due north and south in a right line; the bay affords no shelter to shipping, and the beach is rocky.] they made their dispositions accordingly, without, however, neglecting to protect the left.
'At 6 P.M. a frigate and the bomb-ketch approached Paso Alto, and the latter opened fire upon the fort and the heights behind it. These positions were occupied by 56 men of the Battalion of the Canaries, 40 Rozadores, under Second Lieutenant Don Felix Uriundo, and 16 artillerymen, commanded by Sub-Lieutenant of Militia Artillery Don Josef Cambreleng. [Footnote: A Flemish name, I believe: the family is still in the island.] Of 43 shells, however, only one fell in the fort, bursting in a place where straw for soldiers' beds had been stored, and this, like the others, did no damage. [Footnote: A fragment of this shell is preserved in the Fort Chapel for the edification of strangers.] Paso Alto, commanded by the Captain of the Royal Corps of Artillery, Don Vicente Rosique, replied firmly. At the same time Don Juan del Castillo, sub-lieutenant of militia, with 16 men, reconnoitred, by H. E. the Governor's orders, the Valle Seco. The operation was boldly performed, despite the darkness of night and other dangers; and our soldiers returned with a prisoner, an Irish sailor of the Fox cutter, who had swum off from his ship.
'The enemy now prepared his force for the attack. One thousand five hundred men, [Footnote: James numbers 200 seamen and marines from each of the three line-of-battle ships, and 100 from each of the three frigates, besides officers, servants, and a small detachment of Royal Artillery. This made a total of 1,000 to 1,060 men, commanded by Captain, afterwards Admiral, Sir Thomas Troubridge, Bart. Nelson (Despatches, vol. ii. p. 43) says 600 to 700 men in the squadron boats, 180 on board the Fox, and about 70 or 80 in a captured boat; total, at most, 960.] as we were afterwards informed, well armed with guns, pistols, pikes, swords, saws, and hatchets, and led by their best officers, among whom was the Rear-Admiral, embarked in their boats. At 2.15 A.M. (July 25) they put off in the deepest silence. The frigate of the Philippine Islands Company, anchored outside the shipping in the bay, discovered them when close alongside. Almost at the same moment the Paso Alto Fort, under Lieutenant-Colonel Don Pedro de Higueras, and the Captain of Artillery Don Vicente Rosique, gave the signal to the (saluting) battery of San Antonio [Footnote: This old work, à fleur d'eau, still remains; and near it are the ruins of the Bateria de los Melones, on land bought by the Davidson family.] in the town, held by the Captain of Militia Artillery Don Patricio Madan. They alarmed the citizens by their fire, and the enemy attacked with rare intrepidity.
'The defence was gallantly kept up by the battery of San Miguel, under Sub-Lieutenant of Artillery Don Josef Marrero; by the Castle of San Pedro, [Footnote: The San Pedro battery dated from 1797. It defended the southern town with six embrasures and three guns en barbette. For many years huge mortars and old guns lay outside this work.] under the Captain of Artillery Don Francisco Tolosa; by the Provisional Battery de los Melones, [Footnote: Now destroyed. It was, I have said, near the new casemates north of the town.] under the Sergeant of Militia Juan Evangelista; by the Mole-battery, under Lieutenant of the Royal Corps of Artillery Don Joaquim Ruiz and Sub-Lieutenant of Militia Don Francisco Dugi; by the Castle of San Cristobal, under the Captain of the Royal Regiment of Artillery and Brigade-Major Don Antonio Eduardo, who commanded the central and right batteries, and Lieutenant of Militia Artillery Don Francisco Grandi, to whom were entrusted the defences on our left; by the battery of La Concepcion, [Footnote: Where the Custom House now is, in the middle of the town.] under Captain of the Royal Regiment of Artillery Don Clemente Falcon; and by that of San Telmo, [Footnote: Near the dirty little square south of the Custom House. The word is thus written throughout the Canary Islands; in Italy, Sant' Elmo.] under the Captain of Militia Artillery Don Sebastian Yanez.
'The rest of our line did not fire, because the enemy's boats had not passed the Barranco, or stony watercourse, which divides the southern from the northern town. In the Castle of San Juan,
[Footnote: It is the southernmost work, afterwards used as a powder-magazine. To the south of the town are also the Bateria de la Rosa, near the coal-sheds, and the Santa Isabel work. The latter had 22 fine brass guns, each of 13 centimètres, made at Seville, once a famous manufactory.]
however, Captain Don Diego Fernandez Calderia trained four guns to bear upon the beach, which was protected by the Laguna militia regiment, under Lieutenant-Colonel Juan de Castro.
'So hot and well-directed was our fire, that almost all the boats were driven back, and the Fox cutter, with her commander and 382 of the landing party--others said 450--also carrying a reserve store of arms and ammunition, was sunk. [Footnote: Nelson, loc. cit., says 180 men were in the Fox, and of these 97 were lost. So Captain Brenton, Naval History, says 97. In vol. ii. p. 84, speaking of Trafalgar, he informs us that the French ship Indomptable (84), M. Hubart, was wrecked off Rota, where her crew, said to be 1,500 men, all perished. Add, 'except M. Maffiote, of Tenerife, and about 143 others.'] Rear-Admiral Nelson lost his right arm before he could touch ground, and was compelled to return to his flag-ship, with the other officers of his boat all badly wounded. [Footnote: The grape-shot was fired from the Castle of San Pedro; others opine from San Cristobal; and the Canarese say that a splinter of stone did the work. According to most authorities, Nelson was half-way up the mole. James declares that Nelson's elbow was struck by a shot as he was drawing his sword and stepping out of his boat. In Nelson's Despatches, loc. cit., we read that the 'mole was instantly stormed and carried, although defended by 400 or 500 men, and the guns--six 24-pounders--were spiked; but such a heavy fire of musketry and grape-shot was kept up from the citadel and houses at the head of the mole that we could not advance, and nearly all were killed.'] The brave Captain Bowen was killed on the first step of the Mole, a volley of grape tearing away his stomach. [Footnote: This officer is said to have caused the expedition, by describing it to Admiral Jervis and the British Government as an easy exploit. He had previously cut out of this bay a Philippine Island frigate, El Principe Fernando; and he had with him, as guide, a Chinese prisoner, taken in that vessel. The guide was also killed. Captain Bowen's family made some exertions to recover certain small articles which he carried about him--watch, pistols, &c.--and failed. One pistol was lost, and for the other its possessor modestly demanded 14l.] Nineteen other Englishmen were struck down by a discharge of grape. The gun which fired it had, on that same night, been placed by the governor of the Castle of San Cristobal, Don Josef Monteverde, [Footnote: There is a note in my volume, 'Father of the adopted son, Miguelito Morales.'] at a new embrasure which he caused to be opened in the flank of the bastion. [Footnote: This part of the castle has now been altered, and mounted with brass 80-pounders.] Thus it commanded the landing-place, where before there was dead ground. The enemy afterwards confessed that the injury thus done was the first cause of his misfortunes.
'Notwithstanding the Rear-Admiral's wound and the enemy's loss in men and chief officers, a single boat, carrying Captain and Commodore Troubridge, covered by the smoke and the darkness, landed at the Caleta [Footnote: 'Caleta' means literally a cul de sac. At Santa Cruz it is applied to a rocky tract near the Custom-house Battery: in those days it was the place where goods were disembarked.] beach. At the same time the main body of the English, who had escaped the grape of the Castle of San Cristobal and the batteries La Concepcion and San Telmo, disembarked a little further south, at the Barranquillo del Aceyte, [Footnote: This ditch is now built over and converted into a drain. It runs a little above the present omnibus stables.] at the Butcheries, and at the Barranco Santo. [Footnote: Also called de la Cassona--'of the Dog-fish'--that animal being often caught in a charco, or pool, in the broad watercourse. So those baptised in the parish church are popularly said to have been 'dipped in the waters of the Dog-fish Pool.'] The levies of Havana and Cuba, posted in the Butcheries under Second Lieutenant Don Pedro de Castilla, being unable to repulse the enemy's superior force, retreated upon the Battalion of Infantry of the Canaries, consisting of 260 men and officers, including the militia. This corps, supported by two field-guns, [Footnote: In the original 'canones violentos,' i.e. 4-pounders, 6-pounders, or 8-pounders.] ably and energetically worked by the pilots, Nicolas Franco and Josef Garcia, did such damage that the English were in turn compelled to fall back upon the beaches of the Barranco and the Butcheries.
'These were the only places where the enemy was able to gain a footing in the town. He marched in two columns, one, with drums beating, by the little square of the parish church (La Concepcion) to the convent of Santo Domingo, [Footnote: Afterwards pulled down to make room for a theatre and a market-place.] and the other to the Plaza [Footnote: Plaza here means the square behind the castle. In other places it applies to the fortified part of the town.] of the San Cristobal castle. His plan of attack was to occupy the latter post, but he was driven back from the portcullis after losing one officer by the hot fire of the militia-Captain Don Esteban Benitez de Lugo. Thus driven back to the Caleta, the invaders marched along the street called "de las Tiendas." [Footnote: It is now the 'Cruz Verde.' In those days it was the principal street; the Galle del Castello (holding at present that rank) then showed only scattered houses.] They then drew up at the head of the square, maintaining a silence which was not broken by nine guns discharged at them by the Captain of Laguna Chasseurs Don Fernando del Hoyo, nor by the aspect of the two field-pieces ranged in front of them by the Mayor, who was present at all the most important points in the centre of the line. The cause was discovered in an order afterwards found in the pocket of Lieut. Robinson, R.M. It ran to this effect:--[Footnote: This and other official documents are translated into English from the Spanish. According to our naval despatches and histories the senior marine officer who commanded the whole detachment was Captain Thomas Oldfleld, R.M. The 'Relacion circumstanciada' declares that the original is in the hands of Don Bernardo Cologan y Fablon, another Irish-Spanish gentleman who united valour and patriotism. He was seen traversing, sabre in hand, the most dangerous places, encouraging the men and attending to the wounded so zealously that he parted even with his shirt for bandaging their hurts.]
'July 24, night.
'SIR,--You will repair with the party under your command to H.M.S. Zealous, where you will receive final instructions. Care must be taken to keep silence in the ranks, and the only countersign which you and your men are to use is that of "The Leander."
'I am, Sir, &c. &c.,
'(Signed) T. THOMPSON.
'Lieutenant Robinson, R.M.
'Standing at the head of the square, the enemy could observe that not far from them was a provision-store, guarded by Don Juan Casalon and Don Antonio Power, [Footnote: The original has it 'Pouver,' a misprint. The Irish-Spanish family of Power is well known in the Canaries.] the two "deputies of Abastos." [Footnote: Now called regidores--officers who are charged with distributing rations.] The English seized it, wounding Dons Patricio Power and Casalon, who, after receiving two blows with an axe, escaped. They then obliged, under parole, the deputy Power and Don Luis Fonspertius to conduct into the Castle a sergeant sent to parly. Our Commandant-General, when summoned to surrender the town within two minutes, under pain of its being burned, returned an answer worthy of his honour and gallantry. "Such a proposal," he remarked, "requires no reply," and in proof thereof he ordered the party to be detained. [Footnote: According to James, who follows Troubridge's report, the sergeant was shot in the streets and no answer was received.]
'Meanwhile our militiamen harassed the first column of the enemy, compelling it, by street-fighting, to form up in the little squares of Santo Domingo and of the parish church. Our Commandant-General was startled when he found that this position cut off direct communication between San Cristobal and the Battalion of the Canaries, whose fire, like that of the militiamen on the right, suddenly ceased. But he was assured that the battalion was unbroken, and all the central posts except the Mole were supported, by the report of Lieutenant Don Vicente Siera: this officer had just attacked with 30 men of that battalion the enemy's boats as they lay grounded at the mouth of the Barranco Santo, dislodging the defenders, who had taken shelter behind them, and making five prisoners. The English were stopped at the narrow way near the base of the pier by the hot fire of the troops under Captain and Adjutant of Chasseurs Don Luis Roman, the nine militiamen under Don Francisco Jorva, the sergeant of the guard Domingo Mendez, and a recruit of the Havana levy; these made forty-four prisoners, including six officers, whilst twelve were wounded. Our Commandant-General was presently put out of all doubt by Don Josef Monteverde. This governor of San Cristobal, when informed that 2,000 Englishmen had entered the town, intending probably to attack the Castle with the scaling-ladders brought from their boats, resolved himself to inspect the whole esplanade, and accordingly reconnoitred the front and flank of the Citadel.
'All our advantages were well-nigh lost by a report which spread through the garrison when our firing ceased. A cry arose that our chief was killed, and that as the English who had taken the town were marching upon La Laguna, they must be intercepted at the cuesta, or hill, behind Santa Cruz. It is easy to conceive what a panic such rumours would cause among badly armed and half-drilled militia. The report arose thus:--Our Commandant-General seeing the defenders of the battery at the foot of the Mole retreating, and hearing them cry, "Que nos cortan!" (We are cut off!), sallied out with Don Juan Creagh and other officers, the Port Captain, the Town Adjutant, and the chief collector of the tobacco-tax. After ordering the corps of Chasseurs, 89 men and 9 officers, to fire, our chief returned, leaning upon the arm of Don Juan Creagh, and some inconsiderate person thought that he was wounded. Fortunately this indiscretion went no further than the Chasseur Battalion of the Canaries and the militiamen on our right.
'When this battalion was not wanted in its former position it was ordered to the square behind the Citadel. The movement was effected about daybreak by Don Manuel Salcedo, Lieutenant of the King. [Footnote: An old title (now changed) given to the military governor of Santa Cruz and the second highest authority in the archipelago. Marshal O'Donnell was Teniente del Rey at Tenerife, and he was born in a house facing the cross in the main square of Santa Cruz.] That officer had never left his corps, patrolling with it along the beaches where the enemy disembarked, and he had sent to the barracks twenty-six prisoners, besides three whom he captured at San Cristobal. When the battalion was formed up and no enemy appeared, the Adjutant-Major enquired about them in a loud voice. Meanwhile the Laguna militia, who in two divisions, each of 120 men, under Lieut.-Col. Don Juan Baptista de Castro, had been posted from San Telmo to the Grariton, [Footnote: Meaning a large garita, or sentry-box. It is a place near the windmills to the south of the town.] were also ordered to the main square. In two separate parties they marched, one in direct line, the other by upper streets, to cut off the enemy's retreat and place him between two fires. As the latter, however, entered the little square of Santo Domingo, their commander, Lieut.-Col. de Castro, hearing a confusion of tongues, mistook for Spaniards and Frenchmen the English who were holding it. Thereupon the enemy fired a volley, which killed him and a militiaman and wounded many, whilst several were taken prisoners.
'The attackers presently manned the windows of Santo Domingo, and kept up a hot fire against our militiamen. They then determined to send an officer of marines to our Commandant-General, once more demanding the surrender of the town under the threat of burning it. At the order of Lieut.-Col. Don Juan Guinther the parliamentary was conducted to the Citadel by Captain Don Santiago Madan. Our chief replied only that the city had still powder, ball, and fighting men.
'Thereupon the affair recommenced. One battalion came up with two field-guns to support its friends, and several militiamen died honourably, exposing themselves to the fire of an entrenched enemy. Our position was further reinforced by the militia-pickets that had been skirmishing in the streets, and by the greater part of those who, deceived by a false report, had retired to the slopes of La Laguna.
'Already it was morning, when a squadron of five armed boats was seen making for our right. Our brave artillerymen had not the patience to let them approach, but at once directed at them a hot fire, especially from the Mole battery, under Don Francisco Grandi. That officer, accompanied by the second constable, Manuel Troncos, had just passed from the Citadel [Footnote: La Ciudadela, to the north of the mole, is not built, as we read in Colburn (U. S. Magazine, January 1864), on an artificial wall. It has a moat, casemates, loopholes, and twelve bouches à feu for plunging fire. The lines will connect with La Laguna and complete the defences of the capital.] to the battery in question, and had removed the spikes driven into the guns by Citoyen François Martiney when he saw them abandoned. [Footnote: The English diary shows that the Spaniards had spiked the guns.] The principal Castle and the Mole batteries, supported by that of La Concepcion, rained a shower of grape at a long range with such precision that three boats were sunk and the two others fell back upon the squadron. At the same time the Port Captain and Flag Officer of the frigate ordered his men to knock out the bottoms of eighteen boats which the enemy after his attack had left on the beach.
'The English posted in the convent, seeing the destruction of their reinforcements, lost heart and persuaded the prior, Fray Carlos de Lugo, and the master, Fray Juan de Iriarte, to bear another message to our chief. The officer commanding the enemy's troops declared himself ready to respect the lives and property of those about him provided that the Royal Treasury and that of the Philippine Company were surrendered, otherwise that he could not answer for the consequences.
'This deputation received the same laconic reply as those preceding it. Seeing the firmness of our Commandant-General and the crowds of peasantry gathering from all parts, the enemy's courage was damped, and his second in command, Captain Samuel Hood, came out to parley. This officer, perceiving that the Militiamen who had joined the Chasseurs were preparing to attack, signalled with a white flag a cessation of hostilities, and our men were restrained by the orders of Don Fernando del Hoyo. Both parties advanced to the middle of the bridge, where they were met by Lieutenant-Colonel Don Juan Guinther, commanding the Battalion of the Canaries, who could speak many languages, and by the Adjutant-Major, Don Juan Battaler. These officers also withheld their men, who were opening fire as they turned the corner of the street in which, a little before, Don Rafael Fernandez, a sub-lieutenant of the same corps, had fallen, shot through the body, whilst heading an attack upon the enemy.
'With a white flag and drums beating, the English officer, accompanied by those who had already parleyed with our Commandant-General, marched to the citadel. At the bridge of the street "de las Tiendas" he was met by the Lieutenant of the King, by the Sergeant-Major of the town, by Lieutenant-Colonel Creagh, by Captain Madan, carrying the flag of truce, and by the Town Adjutant, who conducted him with eyes bandaged to the presence of our chief. Captain Hood did not hesitate again to demand surrender, which was curtly refused. This decision, and the chances of destruction in case of hostilities continuing, made him alter his tone. At length both chiefs came to terms. The instrument was written by Captain Hood, and was at once ratified by Captain Thomas Troubridge, commanding H.B.M.'s troops. The following is a copy of the Terms agreed upon with the Governor of the Canary Islands.
[Footnote: The original is in the Nelson Papers. It is written by Captain Hood, and signed by him, Captain Troubridge, and the Spanish Governor.]
'Santa Cruz: July 25,1797.
'That the troops, &c., belonging to his Britannick Majesty shall embark with their arms of every kind, and take their boats off, if saved, and be provided with such others as may be wanting; in consideration of which it is engaged on their part that the ships of the British squadron, now before it, shall in no way molest the town in any manner, or any of the islands in the Canaries, and prisoners shall be given up on both sides.
'Given under my hand and word of honour.
'T. TROUBRIDGE, Commander of the British Troops; 'JN. ANTONIO GUTIERREZ, Com'te.-Gen. de las Islas de Canaria.
'This done, Captain Samuel Hood was escorted back to his men by those who had conducted him to the Citadel.
'At this moment a new incident occurred at sea. The squadron, convinced of the failure of its attempt, began to get under way: already H.B.M.'s ship Theseus, carrying the Rear-Admiral's flag, and one of the frigates had been swept by the current to opposite the valley of San Andres. [Footnote: A gorge lying to the north of the town, like the 'Valle Seco' and the Bufadero.] From its martello-tower the Lieutenant of Artillery Don Josef Feo fired upon them with such accuracy that almost every shot told, the Theseus losing a yardarm and a cable, She replied with sundry broadsides, whilst the bomb-ketch, which had got into position, discharged some ten shells, and yet was so maltreated, one man being killed and another wounded, that she was either crippled or hoisted on board by the enemy.
'When the terms of truce were settled, the English troops marched in column out of the convent; and, reaching the bridge of the Barranquillo del Aceyte, fired their pieces in the air. Then with shouldered arms and drums beating they made for the Mole, passing in front of our troops and of the French auxiliaries, who had formed an oblong square in the great plaza behind the Citadel, from whose terrace our chief watched them.
'When Captain Hood suddenly sighted his implacable enemies the French, he gave way to an outbreak of rage and violent exclamations, and he even made a proposal which might have renewed hostilities had he failed to give prompt satisfaction. He presently confessed to having gone too far and renewed his protestations to keep the conditions of peace.
'Boats and two brigantines (island craft) were got ready to receive the British troops at the Mole. Meanwhile our Commandant-General ordered all of them to be supplied with copious refreshments of bread and wine, a generous act which astonished them not less than the kindness shown to their wounded by the officials of the hospital. They hardly knew how to express their sense of a treatment so different from what they had expected. During their cruise from Cadiz their officers, hoping to make them fight the better, told them that the Canarians were a ferocious race who never gave quarter to the conquered.
'Our chief invited the British officers to dine with him that day. They excused themselves on the plea that they must look after their men, upon whom the wine had taken a strong effect, and deferred it till the morrow. They also offered to be the bearers of the tidings announcing our success and to carry to Spain all letters entrusted to their care. Our chief did not hesitate to commit to their charge, under parole, his official despatches to the Crown; and all the correspondence was couched in terms so ingenuous that even the enemy could not but admire so much moderation.
'During the course of the day the English re-embarked, bearing with a guard of honour the corpses of Captain Bowen and of another officer of rank. [Footnote: This is fabulous. Captain Richard Bowen, 'than whom a more enterprising, able, and gallant officer does not grace H.M.'s naval service,' was the only loss of any consequence. All the rest were lieutenants.] They (who?) had stripped off his laced coat when he expired in a cell of the Santo Domingo convent, [Footnote: In Spanish two saints claim the title 'Santo,' viz. Domingo and Thomas: all the rest are 'San.'] disfigured his face, and dressed him as a sailor. The wounded, twenty-two in number, did not leave the hospital till next day: among them was Lieutenant Robinson in the agonies of death.
'Rear-Admiral Sir Horatio Nelson hearing the politeness, the generosity, and the magnanimity with which our Commandant-General followed up his success, and feeling his own noble heart warm with grateful sentiments, dictated to him an official letter, which he signed for the first time with his left hand. [Footnote: The original of this peculiarly interesting document, written on official paper, was kept in a tin box under lock at the Captain-General's office, Santa Cruz, and in 1864 it was transferred to the archives of Madrid. The writing is that of a secretary, who put by mistake 1796 for 1797. A copy of it, published in Harrison's Life of Nelson (vol. i. p. 215), was thence transferred to Nicolas's Despatches and Letters. It is bonâ fide the first appearance of Nelson's signature with his left hand, despite the number of 'first signatures' owned by the curious of England.]
To His Excellency Don Antonio Gutierrez, Commandant-General of the Canary Islands.
'His Majesty's ship Theseus, opposite Santa Cruz de Teneriffe: July 26, 1796.
'Sir,--I cannot take my departure from this Island without returning your Excellency my sincerest thanks for your attention towards me, by your humanity in favour of our wounded men in your power or under your care, and for your generosity towards all our people who were disembarked, which I shall not fail to represent to my Sovereign; hoping also, at a proper time, to assure your Excellency in person how truly I am, Sir, your most obedient humble Servant,
'(Signed) HORATIO NELSON.
'P.S. I trust your Excellency will do me the honour to accept of a cask of English beer and a cheese.
'To Señor Don Antonio Gutierrez, Commandant-General, Canary Islands.
'Having received with due appreciation this honourable letter, our chief replied as follows:--
'Muy Señor mio de mi mayor attencion! [Footnote: This courteous Castilian phrase would lose too much by translation.]--I have received with the greatest pleasure your estimable communication, the proof of your generosity and kindly feeling. My belief is that the man who follows only the dictates of humanity can claim no laurels, and to this may be reduced all that has been done for the wounded and for those who disembarked: I must consider them my brethren the moment hostilities terminate.
'If, sir, in the state to which the ever uncertain fortunes of war have reduced you, either I or anything which this island produces could afford assistance or relief, it would afford me a real pleasure. I hope that you will accept two demijohns of wine which is, I believe, not the worst of our produce.
'It would be most satisfactory to me if I could personally discuss, when circumstances permit, a subject upon which you, sir, display such high and worthy gifts. In the meantime I pray that God may preserve your life for many and happy years.
'I am, Sir,
'Your most obedient and attentive Servant,
'(Signed) Don ANTONIO GUTIERREZ.
'Santa Cruz de Tenerife: July 26, 1797.
'P.S. I have received and duly appreciated the beer and the cheese with which you have been pleased to favour me.
'PP.S. I recommend to your care, sir, the petition of the French, which Commodore Troubridge will have reported to you in my name.
'To Admiral Don Horatio Nelson.
'Such was the end of an event which will ever be memorable in the annals of the Canarian Islands. When we know that on our side hardly 500 men armed with firelocks entered into action, and that the 97 cannon used on this occasion, and requiring 532 artillery-men, were served by only 320 gunners, of whom but 43 were veterans and the rest militia; [Footnote: According to James, who follows the report of Captain Troubridge (vol. ii. p. 427), there were 8,000 Spaniards and 100 Frenchmen under arms. Unfortunate Clio!] when we remember that we took from the enemy a field-gun, a flag, [Footnote: This was the ensign of the Fox cutter, sunk at the place where the African steamships now anchor.] two drums, a number of guns, pikes, swords, pistols, hand-ladders, ammunition, &c. &c., with a loss on our part of only 23 killed [Footnote: Two officers--viz. Don Juan Bautista de Castro, before alluded to; Don Rafael Fernandez, also mentioned--and 21 noncommissioned officers, 5 soldiers of the Canarian battalion, 2 chasseurs, 4 militiamen, 1 militia artilleryman, 4 French auxiliaries, and 5 civilians.] and 28 wounded, [Footnote: Namely, 3 officers--Don Simon de Lara, severely wounded at the narrow part of the Mole, Don Dionisio Navarro, sub-lieutenant of the Provincial Regiment of La Laguna, and Don Josef Dugi, cadet of the Canarian battalion--25 noncommissioned officers, 5 men of the same battalion, 1 chasseur, 1 sergeant, 11 militiamen, 1 soldier of the Havana depôt, 1 ditto of Cuban ditto, 1 militia artilleryman, and 5 French auxiliaries. This, however, does not include those suffering from contusions, amongst whom was Don Juan Rosel, sub-lieutenant of the Provincial Regiment of Orotava.] whereas the enemy lost 22 officers and 576 men [Footnote: Nelson (Despatches, vol. ii. p. 424) says 28 seamen, 16 marines killed (total 44); 90 seamen, 15 marines wounded; 97 seamen and marines drowned; 5 seamen and marines missing. Total killed, 141; wounded, 105; and grand total, 246 hors de combat. The total of 251 casualties nearly equals that of the great victory at Cape St. Vincent.]--when, I say, we take into consideration all these circumstances, we cannot but consider our defence wonderful and our triumph most glorious.
'We must not forget the gallant part taken in this affair by the two divisions of the Rozadores irregulars, who were provided with sickles, knives, and other weapons by the armoury of La Laguna. One division of forty peasants was placed under the Marquess del Prado and the Viscount de Buenpaso, who both, though not military men, hastened to the town when the attack was no longer doubtful. The other body of thirty-five men was committed to Don Simon de Lara, already mentioned amongst the wounded. In the heat of the affair and the darkness of night the first division was somewhat scattered as it entered the streets leading to the Barranco Santo (watercourse), where the Canarian battalion was attacking the English as they landed. The Marquess, after escaping the enemy, who for half an hour surrounded without recognising him, and expecting instant death, attempted to cross the small square of Santo Domingo to the Plaza of the Citadel. He was prevented from so doing by the voices of the attacking party posted in the little place. He therefore retired to the upper part of the town, and took post on the Convent-flank. The Viscount marched his men to the square of the Citadel, where they were detained by Lieutenant Jorva to reinforce the post and to withdraw a field-gun that had been dangerously placed in the street of San Josef.
'Equally well deserving of their country's gratitude were sundry others, especially Diego Correa, first chief of the Provincial Regiment of Guimar, who, forgetting his illness, sprang from his bed at the trumpet's sound, boldly met the foe with sword and pistol, and took eleven prisoners to the Citadel. Don Josef de Guesala, not satisfied with doing the mounted duties required of him, followed the enemy with not less courage than Diego Correa, at the head of certain militiamen who had lost their way in the streets.
'Good service was also done by the Alcalde and the deputies [Footnote: The local aldermen.] of the district. In charge of the four parties, composed of tradesmen and burghers, they patrolled the streets and guarded against danger from fire. They also issued to all those on duty rations of bread and wine punctually and abundantly from the night of the 22nd till that of the 25th of July.
'No circumstantial account of our remarkable success would be complete without recording, in the highest and the most grateful terms, the zeal with which the very noble the Municipality (ayuntamiento) of Tenerife took part in winning our laurels. Since July 22, when the first alarm-signal was made at Santa Cruz, Don Josef de Castilla, the Chief Magistrate (Corregidor), with the nobility and men at arms (armas-tomar) assembled in force on the main square of La Laguna (Plaza del Adelantado). The Mayor (Alcalde Mayor), Don Vicente Ortiz de Rivera, presided over the court (cabildo), at which were present all those members ( regidores ) who were not personally serving against the enemy. These were the town deputies, Don Lopo de la Guerra, Don Josef Saviñon, Don Antonio Riquel, Don Cayetano Pereza, Don Francisco Fernandez Bello, Don Miguel de Laisequilla, and Don Juan Fernandez Calderin, with the Deputy Syndic-General, Don Filipe Carillo. Their meetings were also attended by other gentlemen and under-officers ( curiales ), who were told off to their respective duties according to the order laid down for defending the Island. After making a careful survey of the bread and provisions in the market, also of the wheat and flour in the bakeries and of the reserve stores, they promptly supplied the country-people who crowded into the city. Wind being at this season wanting for the mills, we were greatly assisted by a cargo of 3,000 barrels of flour taken before Madeira from an Anglo-American prize by the Buonaparte, a French privateer, who brought her to our port. This supply sufficed for the militia stationed on the heights of Taganana, in the Valle Seco, near the streams of the Punta del Hidalgo, Texina, Baxamar, the Valley of San Andrés, and lastly the line of Santa Cruz, Guadamogete, and Candelaria, whose posts cover more than twenty-four miles of coast between the north-west and the south of the island.
'Equally well rationed were the peasants who passed by La Laguna en route to Santa Cruz and other parts; they consumed about 16,000 lbs. of bread, 300 lbs. of biscuit, seven and a half pipes of wine; rice, meat, cheese, and other comestibles. Meanwhile, at the application of the Municipality to the venerable Vicar Ecclesiastic, and to the parish priests and superiors of the community (prelados), prayers were offered up in the churches, and certain of the clergy collected from the neighbouring houses lint and bandages for the wounded. The soldiers in the Paso Alto and Valle Seco received 100 pairs of slippers, for which our Commandant-General had indented. Many peasants who had applied for and obtained guns, knives, and other weapons from the Laguna armoury were sent off to defend the northern part of the island. On the main road descending to Santa Cruz the Chief Magistrate planted a provisional battery with two field-pieces belonging to the Court of Aldermen. When thus engaged an unfortunate fall from his horse compelled him to retire.
'That patriotic body the Municipality of Santa Cruz sat permanently in the Mansion House, engaged in the most important matters from the dawn of July 22 to noon on the 25th; nor was its firmness shaken even by the sinister reports to which others lent ear. When on the morning of the latter day our chief communicated to them the glowing success of our arms and the disastrous repulse of the enemy, they hastened to appoint July 27 for a solemn Te Deum. It is the day on which the island of Tenerife was conquered exactly three centuries before, and thus it became the annual festival of San Cristobal, its patron.
'The secular religious and the regular monastic communities performed this function with pomp and singular apparatus in the parish church of Our Lady of the Conception. The Town-court carried the banner which had waved in the days of the Conquest, escorted by a company of the Canarian battalion and its band. These stood during the office at the church door, and saluted with three volleys the elevation of the host. Master Fray Antonio Raymond, of the Order of St. Augustine, preached upon the grateful theme to a sympathising congregation. The court, retiring with equal ceremony, gave a brilliant banquet to the officers of the battalion, to the chiefs of the provincial regiments of La Laguna and Guimar, and to all their illustrious compatriots who had taken part in the contest. Volleys and band performances saluted the three loyal and patriotic toasts--"the King," "the Commandant-General," and "the Defenders of the Country." The town, in sign of jubilee, was illuminated for several successive nights.
'A Te Deum was also sung in the parish church of Los Remedios at La Laguna, with sermon and high mass performed at the expense of Don Josef Bartolomé de Mesa, Treasurer-General of the Royal Exchequer. Our harbour settlement obtained from the King the title of "very noble, loyal, and invict town, [Footnote: Villa, town, not city.] port and fort of Santa Cruz de Santiago." [Footnote: Holy Cross of St. James.] Recognising the evident protection of St. James, patron saint of Spain, on whose festival the enemy had been defeated, a magnificent procession was consecrated to him on July 30. His image was borne through the streets by the four captains of the several corps, whilst six other officers, followed by a picket of garrison troops and a crowd of townspeople, carried the colours taken from the English.
'On the next day were celebrated the obsequies of those who had fallen honourably in defence of their beloved country. The ceremony took place in the parish church of Santa Cruz, and was repeated in the cathedral of Grand Canary and in the churches and convents of the other islands. The Ecclesiastical Court of Tenerife ordered the Chapter of Music to sing a solemn Te Deum, at which the municipal body attended. On the next day a mass of thanksgiving was said, with exposition of the Holy Sacrament throughout the day, and a sermon was preached by the canon superior, Don Josef Icaza Cabrexas. Lastly, a very solemn funeral function, with magnificent display, did due honour to their memory who for their country's good had laid down their lives.' Mrs. Elizabeth Murray, wife of H.B.M.'s Consul for Tenerife and author of an amusing book, [Footnote: Sixteen Years of an Artist's Life in Morocco, &c. Hurst and Blackett, 1859. I quote from vol. i. chap. iv.] adds certain local details concerning Nelson's ill-fated attack. It is boldly stated that during the rash affair the Commandant-General and his staff remained safely inside the Castle of San Cristobal, and that when the English forces captured the monastery the Spanish authorities resolved to surrender. This step was opposed by a sergeant, Manoel Cuera, who, 'with more familiarity than is usual when soldiers are separated so far by their respective ranks, placed his hand upon the shoulder of his commanding officer and said, "No, your Excellency, you shall not give up the Plaza; we are not yet reduced to such a strait as that."' Whereupon the General, 'assuming his usual courage, followed his sergeant's advice, and continued the engagement till it was brought to a termination equally honourable to Englishmen and Spaniards.'
Mrs. Murray also declares that Captain Troubridge, when invested in the monastery by superior numbers, placed before his men a line of prisoners, and that these being persons of influence, the assailants fired high; moreover that Colonel M(onteverde?), the commander of the island troops, was an Italian who spoke bad Spanish, and kept shouting to his men, 'Condanate vois a matar a la Santisima Trinitate!' The officer sent to parley (Captain Hood) was, we are told, accompanied to the citadel by a gentleman named Murphy, whom the English had taken prisoner. A panic (before mentioned) came from three militia officers, who, mounting a single animal, rode off to La Laguna, assuring the cabildo and the townspeople that Santa Cruz had fallen. One of this 'valiant triumvirate' had succeeded to a large property on condition of never disgracing his name, and after the flight he had the grace to offer it to a younger brother who had distinguished himself in South America. The junior told him not to be a fool, and the property was left to the proprietor's children, 'his grandson being in possession of it at the present day.'
The chapter ends with the fate of one O'Rooney, a merchant's clerk who cast his lot with the Spaniards, and whom General Gutierrez sent with an order to the commandant of Paso Alto Fort. Being in liquor, he took the Marina, or shortest road; and, when questioned by the enemy, at once told his errand. 'In those days and in such circumstances,' writes the lively lady, 'soldiers were very speedy in their decisions, and the marine who had challenged O'Rooney at once bayonetted him, while his comrade rifled his pockets and appropriated his clothes.'
Remains only to state that the colours of the unfortunate cutter Fox and her boats are still in the chapel of Sant' Iago, on the left side of the Santa Cruz parish church, La Concepcion. Planted against the wall flanking the cross, in long coffin-like cases with glass fronts, they have been the object of marked attention on the part of sundry British middies. And the baser sort of town-folk never fail to show by their freedom, or rather impudence of face and deportment, that they have not forgotten the old story, and that they still glory in having repulsed the best sailor in Europe.
CHAPTER VIII. TO GRAND CANARY--LAS PALMAS, THE CAPITAL.Edit
At noon (January 10) the British and African s.s. Senegal weighed for Grand Canary, which stood in unusually distinct relief to the east, and which, this time, was not moated by a tumbling sea. Usually it is; moreover, it lies hidden by a bank of French-grey clouds, here and there sun-gilt and wind-bleached. We saw the 'Pike' bury itself under the blue horizon, at first cloaked in its wintry ermines and then capped with fleecy white nimbus, which confused itself with the snows.
I had now a good opportunity of observing my fellow-passengers bound down south. They consisted of the usual four classes--naval, military, colonial officials, and commercials. The latter I noted narrowly as the quondam good Shepherd of the so-called 'Palm-oil Lambs.' All were young fellows without a sign of the old trader, and well-mannered enough. When returning homewards, however, their society was by no means so pleasant; it was noisy, and 'larky,' besides being addicted to the dullest practical jokes, such as peppering beds. On board Senegal each sat at meat with his glass of Adam's ale by his plate-side, looking prim, and grave, and precise as persons at a christening who are not in the habit of frequenting christenings. Captain Keene took the earliest opportunity of assuring me that since my time--indeed, since the last ten years--the Bights and the Bightsmen had greatly changed; that spirit-drinking was utterly unknown, and that ten-o'clock-go-to-bed life was the general rule. But this unnatural state of things did not last long. Wine, beer, and even Martell (three stars) presently reappeared; and I noted that the evening-chorus had preserved all its peculiar verve. The fact is that West Africa has been subjected to the hateful espionage, that prying into private affairs, which dates in Western India from the days of a certain nameless governor. Every attempt at jollification was reported to the houses at home, and often an evil rumour against a man went to Liverpool and returned to 'the Coast' before it was known to himself and his friends in the same river. May all such dismal attempts to make Jack and Jill dull boys and girls fail as utterly!
Early in the afternoon we steamed past Galdar and La Guia, rival villages famed for cheeses on the north-western coast of lumpy Grand Canary, sheets of habitation gleaming white at the feet of their respective brown montañetas. The former was celebrated in local story; its Guanche guanarteme, or great chief, as opposed to the subordinate mencey, being one of the two potentates in 'Tameran,' the self-styled 'Island of Braves.' This, too, was the site of the Tahoro, or Tagoror, temple and senate-house of the ancients. The principal interest of these wild people is the mysterious foreknowledge of their fate that seems to have come to them by a manner of intuition, of uninspired prophecy. [Footnote: So in Candelaria of Tenerife the Virgin appeared in effigy to the shepherds of Chimisay in 1392, a century before the Norman Conquest, and dwelt fifty-four years amongst the Gentiles of Chinguaro. At least so say DD. Juan Nuñez de la Peña (Conquista i Antiguidades de la Gran Canaria, &c., Madrid, 1676); Antonio Viana (Antiguidades de las Islas Afortunadas, &c., Seville, 1604) in his heroic poem, and Fray Alonzo de Espinosa (Historia de la Aparicion y Milagres de la Imagem de N.S. de Candelaria). The learned and unprejudiced Canon Viera y Clavijo (Noticias de la Historia geral de las Islas de Canaria, 3 vols.) bravely doubts whether reason and sane criticism had flourished together in those times.]
In the clear winter-air we could distinctly trace the bold contour of the upper heights tipped by the central haystack, El Nublo, a giant trachytic monolith. We passed Confital Bay, whose 'comfits' are galettes of stone, and gave a wide berth to the Isleta and its Sphinx's head. This rocky peninsula, projecting sharply from the north-eastern chord of the circle, is outlined by a dangerous reef, and drops suddenly into 130 fathoms. Supported on the north by great columns of basalt, it is the terminus of a secondary chain, trending north-east--south-west, and meeting the Cumbre, or highest ground, whose strike is north-west--south-east. Like the knuckle-bone of the Tenerife ham it is a contorted mass of red and black lavas and scoriae, with sharp slides and stone-floods still distinctly traceable. Of its five eruptive cones the highest, which supports the Atalaya Vieja, or old look-out, now the signal-station, rises to 1,200 feet. A fine lighthouse, with detached quarters for the men, crowns another crater-top to the north. The grim block wants water at this season, when the thinnest coat of green clothes its black-red forms. La Isleta appears to have been a burial-ground of the indigenes, who, instead of stowing away their mummies in caves, built detached sepulchres and raised tumuli of scoriae over their embalmed dead. As at Peruvian Arica, many remains have been exposed by modern earthquakes and landslips.
Rounding the Islet, and accompanied by curious canoes like paper-boats, and by fishing-craft which bounded over the waves like dolphins, we spun by the Puerto de la Luz, a line of flat-topped whitewashed houses, the only remarkable feature being the large and unused Lazaretto. A few barques still lie off the landing-place, where I have been compelled more than once to take refuge. In my day it was proposed to cut a ship-canal through the low neck of barren sand, which bears nothing but a 'chapparal' of tamarisk. During the last twenty years, however, the isthmus has been connected with the mainland by a fine causeway, paved with concrete, and by an excellent highroad. The sand of the neck, thrown by the winds high up the cliffs which back the city, evidently dates from the days when La Isleta was an island. It contrasts sharply with the grey basaltic shingle that faces the capital and forms the ship-building yard.
We coasted along the yellow lowland, with its tormented background of tall cones, bluffs, and falaises; and we anchored, at 4 P.M., in the roadstead of Las Palmas, north of the spot where our s.s. Senegal whilom broke her back. The capital, fronting east, like Santa Cruz, lies at the foot of a high sea-wall, whose straight and sloping lines betray their submarine origin: in places it is caverned for quarries and for the homes of the troglodyte artisans; and up its flanks straggle whitewashed boxes towards the local necropolis. The dryness of the atmosphere destroys aerial perspective; and the view looks flat as a scene-painting. The terraced roofs suggest to Britishers that the top-floor has been blown off. Las Palmas is divided into two halves, northern and southern, by a grim black wady, like the Madeiran ribeiras, [Footnote: According to the usual law of the neo-Latin languages, 'ribeiro' (masc.) is a small cleft, 'ribeira' (fem.) is a large ravine.] the 'Giniguada,' or Barranco de la Ciudad, the normal grisly gashes in the background curtain. The eye-striking buildings are the whitewashed Castillo del Rey, a flat fort of antique structure crowning the western heights and connected by a broken wall with the Casa Mata, or platform half-way down: it is backed by a larger and stronger work, the Castillo de Sant' Ana. The next notability is the new theatre, large enough for any European capital. Lastly, an immense and gloomy pile, the Cathedral rises conspicuously from the white sheet of city, all cubes and windows. Clad in a suit of sombrest brown patched with plaster, with its domelet and its two towers of basalt very far apart. This fane is unhappily fronted westward, the high altar facing Jerusalem. And thus it turns its back upon the world of voyagers.
In former days, when winds and waves were high, we landed on the sands near the dark grey Castillo de la Luz, in the Port of Light. Thence we had to walk, ride, or drive--when a carriage was to be hired--over the four kilomètres which separated us from the city. We passed the Castles of San Fernando and La Catalina to the villas and the gardens planted with thin trees that outlie the north; and we entered the capital by a neat bridge thrown over the Barranco de la Mata, where a wall from the upper castle once kept out the doughty aborigines. Thence we fell into the northern quarter, La Triana, and found shabby rooms and shocking fare either at the British Hotel (Mrs. Bishop) or the Hôtel Monson--both no more. Now we land conveniently, thanks to Dons Santiago Verdugo and Juan Leon y Castilhos, at a spur of the new pier with the red light, to the north of the city, and find ourselves at once in the streets. For many years this comfortable mole excited the strongest opposition: it was wasting money, and the stones, carelessly thrown in, would at once be carried off by the sea and increase the drenching breakers which outlie the beach. Time has, as usual, settled the dispute. It is now being prolonged eastwards; but again they say that the work is swept away as soon as done; that the water is too deep, and even that sinking a ship loaded with stones would not resist the strong arm of Eurus, who buries everything in surf. The mole is provided with the normal Sanidad, or health office, with solid magazines, and with a civilised tramway used to transport the huge cubes of concrete. At the tongue-root is a neat little garden, wanting only shade: two dragon-trees here attract the eye. Thence we pass at once into the main line, La Triana, which bisects the commercial town. This reminiscence of the Seville suburb begins rather like a road than a street, but it ends with the inevitable cobble-stones. The trottoirs, we remark, are of flags disposed lengthways; in the rival Island they lie crosswise. The thoroughfares are scrupulously named, after Spanish fashion; in Fernando Po they labelled even the bush-roads. The substantial houses with green balconies are white, bound in brown edgings of trachyte, basalt, and lava: here and there a single story of rude construction stands like a dwarf by the side of its giant neighbour.
The huge and still unfinished cathedral is well worth a visit. It is called after Santa Ana, a personage in this island. When Grand Canary had been attacked successively and to scant purpose by De Béthencourt (1402), by Diego de Herrera (1464), and by Diego de Silva, the Catholic Queen and King sent, on January 24, 1474, Don Juan Rejon to finish the work. This Conquistador, a morose and violent man, was marching upon the west of the island, where his reception would have been of the warmest, when he was met at the site of the present Ermita de San Antonio by an old fisherman, who advised him of his danger. He took warning, fortified his camp, which occupied the site of the present city, beat off the enemy, and defeated, at the battle of Giniguada, a league of chiefs headed by the valiant and obstinate Doramas. The fisherman having suddenly disappeared, incontinently became a miraculous apparition of the Virgin's mother. Rejon founded the cathedral in her honour; but he was not destined to rest in it. He was recalled to Spain. He attacked Grand Canary three times, and as often failed; at last he left it, and after all his campaigns he was killed and buried at Gomera. Nor, despite Saint Anne, did the stout islanders yield to Pedro de Vera (1480-83) till they had fought an eighty years' fight for independence.
The cathedral, which Mr. P. Barker Webb compares with the Church of St. Sulpice, is built of poor schiste and bad sandstone-rubble, revetted with good lava and basalt. The latter material here takes in age a fine mellow creamy coat, as in the 'giant cities' of the Hauran, the absurd title of Mr. Porter. The order is Ionic below, Corinthian above, and the pile sadly wants a dome instead of a pepper-caster domelet. One of the towers was finished only forty-five years ago, and a Scotch merchant added, much to his disgust, a weather-cock. In the interior green, blue, and yellow glass tempers the austerity of the whitewashed walls and the gloom of the grey basaltic columns, bindings, and ceiling-ribbings. Concerning the ceiling, which prettily imitates an archwork of trees, they tell the following tale. The Bishop and Chapter, having resolved in 1500 to repair the work of Don Diego Montaude, entrusted the work to Don Diego Nicholas Eduardo, of Laguna, an Hispano-Hibernian--according to the English. This young architect built with so light a hand that the masons struck work till he encouraged them by sitting beneath his own creation. The same, they say, was done at Belem, Lisbon. The interior is Gothic, unlike all others in the islands; and the piers, lofty and elegant, imitate palm-fronds, a delicate flattery to 'Las Palmas' and a good specimen of local invention. There are a nave and two aisles: four noble transversal columns sustaining the choir-vault adorn the walls. The pulpit and high altar are admirable as the choir; the only eyesores are the diminutive organ and the eleven side-chapels with their caricatures of high art. The large and heavily-railed choir in mid-nave, so common in the mother country, breaks the unity of the place and dwarfs its grand proportions. After the manner of Spanish churches, which love to concentrate dazzling colour at the upper end, the high altar is hung with crimson velvet curtains; and its massive silver lamps (one Italian, presented by Cardinal Ximenes), salvers, altar-facings, and other fixings are said to have cost over 24,000 francs. The lectern is supposed to have been preserved from the older cathedral.
There are other curiosities in this building. The sacristy, supported by side-walls on the arch principle, and ceilinged with stone instead of wood, is shown as a minor miracle. The vestry contains gigantic wardrobes, full of ladies' delights--marvellous vestments, weighted with massive braidings of gold and silver, most delicate handwork in every imaginable colour and form. There are magnificent donations of crucifixes and candlesticks, cups, goblets, and other vessels required by the church services--all the result of private piety. In the Chapel of St. Catherine, built at his own expense, lies buried Cairasco, the bard whom Cervantes recognised as his master in style. His epitaph, dating A.D. 1610, reads--
Lyricen et vates, toto celebratus in orbe, Hic jacet inclusus, nomine ad astra volans.
A statue to him was erected opposite the old 'Cairasco Theatre' in 1876. Under the grand altar, with other dignitaries of the cathedral, are the remains of the learned and amiable historian of the isles, Canon José de Viera y Clavigo, born at Lanzarote, poet, 'elegant translator' of Buffon, lexicographer, and honest man.
Directly facing the cathedral-façade is the square, headed by the Ayuntamiento, an Ionic building which would make a first-rate hotel. Satirical Britishers declare that it was copied from one of Day and Martin's labels. The old townhall was burnt in 1842, and of its valuable documents nothing was saved. On the right of the plaza is an humble building, the episcopal palace, founded in 1578 by Bishop Cristobal de la Vega. It was rebuilt by his successor, Cristobal de la Camara, who forbade the pretty housekeeper, prohibited his priests from entering nunneries, and prescribed public confessionals--a measure still much to be desired. But he must have been a man of extreme views, for he actually proscribed gossip. This was some thirty years after Admiral van der Does and his Dutchmen fired upon the city and were beaten off with a loss of 2,000 men.
South of the cathedral, and in Colegio Street (so called from the Augustine college, [Footnote: There is still a college of that name where meteorological observations are regularly made.] now converted into a tribunal), we find a small old house with heavily barred windows--the ex-Inquisition. This also has been desecrated into utility. The Holy Office began in 1504, and became a free tribunal in 1567. Its palace was here founded in 1659 by Don José Balderan, and restored in 1787 by Don Diego Nicholas Eduardo, whose fine fronting staircase has been much admired. The Holy Tribunal broke up in 1820, when, the Constitution proving too strong for St. Dominic, the college-students mounted the belfry; and, amid the stupefaction of the shuddering multitude, joyously tolled its death-knell. All the material was sold, even the large leather chairs with gilt nails used for ecclesiastical sitting. 'God defend us from its resurrection,' mutters the civil old huissier, as he leads us to the dungeons below through the mean court with its poor verandah propped on wooden posts. Part of it facing the magistrates' chapel was turned into a prison for petty malefactors; and the two upper salas were converted into a provisional Audiencia, or supreme court, large halls hung with the portraits of the old governors. The new Audiencia at the bottom of Colegio Street, built by M. Botta at an expense of 20,000 dollars, has a fine court with covered cloisters above and an open gallery below, supported by thin pillars of basalt.
Resuming our walk down La Triana southwards, we note the grand new theatre, not unlike that of Dresden: it wants only opening and a company. Then we cross the Giniguada wady by a bridge with a wooden floor, iron railings, and stone piers, and enter the Viñeta, or official, as opposed to the commercial, town. On the south side is the fish-market, new, pretty, and gingerbread. It adjoins the general market, a fine, solid old building like that of Santa Cruz, containing bakers' and butchers' stalls, and all things wanted by the housekeeper. A little beyond it the Triana ends in an archway leading to a square court, under whose shaded sides mules and asses are tethered. We turn to the right and gain Balcones Street, where stands the comfortable hotel of Don Ramon Lopez. Most soothing to the eye is the cool green-grown patio after the prospect of the hot and barren highlands which back the Palm-City.
Walking up the right flank of the Giniguada Ribeira, we cross the old stone bridge with three arches and marble statues of the four seasons. It places us in the Plazuela, the irregular space which leads to the Mayor de Triana, the square of the old theatre. The western side is occupied by a huge yellow building, the old Church and Convent of San Francisco, now turned into barracks. In parts it is battlemented; and its belfry, a wall of basalt pierced with a lancet-arch to hang bells, hints at earthquakes. An inscription upon the old theatre, the usual neat building of white and grey-brown basalt, informs us that it was built in 1852, ad honorem of two deputies. But Santa Cruz, the modern capital, has provided herself with a larger and a better house; ergo Las Palmas, the old capital, must fain do the same. The metropolis of Grand Canary, moreover, claims to count more noses than that of Tenerife. To the west of the older theatre, in the same block, is the casino, club, and ball-room, with two French billiard-tables and smoking-rooms. The old hotel attached to the theatre has now ceased to exist.
On the opposite side of the square lies the little Alameda promenade, the grounds once belonging to St. Francis. The raised walk, shaded by a pretty arch-way of palm-trees, is planted with myrtles, dahlias, and bignonias. It has all the requisites of its kind--band-stand, green-posted oil-lamps, and scrolled seats of brown basalt. Round this square rise the best houses, mostly new; as in the Peninsula, however, as well as in both archipelagos, all have shops below. We are beginning to imitate this excellent practice of utilising the unwholesome ground-floor in the big new hotels of London. Two large houses are, or were, painted to mimic brick, things as hideous as anything further north.
In this part of the Triana lived the colony of English merchants, once so numerous that they had their own club and gymnasium. All had taken the local colouring, and were more Spanish than the Spaniards. A celebrated case of barratry was going on in 1863, the date of my first visit, when Lloyds sent out a detective and my friend Capt. Heathcote, I.N., to conduct the legal proceedings. I innocently asked why the British vice-consul was not sufficient, and was assured that no resident could interfere, alias dared do his duty, under pain of social ostracism and a host of enmities. In those days a man who gained his lawsuit went about weaponed and escorted, as in modern Ireland, by a troop of armed servants. Landlord-potting also was by no means unknown; and the murder of the Marquess de las Palmas caused memorable sensation.
Indescribable was the want of hospitality which characterised the Hispano-Englishmen of Las Palmas. I have called twice upon a fellow-countryman without his dreaming of asking me upstairs. Such shyness may be understood in foreigners, who often entertain wild ideas concerning what an Englishman expects. But these people were wealthy; nor were they wholly expatriated. Finally, it was with the utmost difficulty that I obtained from one of them a pound of home-grown arrowroot for the sick child of a friend.
On the other hand, I have ever met with the greatest civility from the Spanish Canarians. I am especially indebted to Don J. B. Carlo, the packet-agent, who gave me copies of 'El Museo Canario, Revista de la Sociedad del mismo nombre' (Las Palmas)--the transactions published by the Museum of Las Palmas. Two mummies of Canarian origin have lately been added to the collection, and the library has become respectable. The steamers are now so hurried that I had no time to inspect it, nor to call upon Don Gregorio Chil y Naranjo, President of the Anthropological Society. This savant, whose name has become well known in Paris, is printing at Las Palmas his 'Estudios Historicos,' &c., the outcome of a life's labour. Don Agustin Millares is also publishing 'La Historia de las Islas Canarias,' in three volumes, each of 400 to 450 pages.
I made three short excursions in Grand Canary to Telde, to the Caldera, and to Doramas, which showed me the formation of the island. My notes taken at the time must now be quoted. En route for the former, we drove past the large city-hospital: here in old times was another strong wall, defending the southern part, and corresponding with the northern or Barranco line. The road running to the south-south-west was peculiarly good; the tunnel through the hill-spur suggested classical and romantic Posilippo. It was well parapeted near the sea, and it had heavy cuttings in the white tosca, a rock somewhat resembling the calcaire grossier of the Paris basin. This light pumice-like stone, occasionally forming a conglomerate or pudding, and slightly effervescing with acids, is fertile where soft, and where hard quite sterile. Hereabouts lay Gando, one of the earliest forts built by the Conquistadores. We then bent inland, or westward, crossed barren stony ground, red and black, and entered the pretty and fertile valley with its scatter of houses known as La Vega de Ginamar.
I obtained a guide, and struck up the proper right of a modern lava-bed which does not reach the sea. The path wound around rough hills, here and there scattered with fig-trees and vines, with lupines, euphorbias, and other wild growths. From the summit of the southern front we sighted the Cima de Ginamar, popularly called El Pozo (the Well). It is a volcanic blowing-hole of oval shape, about fifty feet in long diameter, and the elliptical mouth discharged to the north the lava-bed before seen. Apparently it is connected with the Bandana Peak, further west. Here the aborigines martyred sundry friars before the Conquistadores 'divided land and water' amongst them. The guide declared that the hole must reach the sea, which lies at least 1,200 feet below; that the sound of water is often to be heard in it, and that men, let down to recover the corpses of cattle, had been frightened away by strange sights and sounds. He threw in stones, explaining that they must be large, otherwise they lodge upon the ledges. I heard them dash, dash, dash from side to side, at various intervals of different depths, till the pom-om-m subsided into silence. The crevasses showed no sign of the rock-pigeon (Columba livia), a bird once abounding. Nothing could be weirder than the effect of the scene in clear moonlight: the contrast of snowy beams and sable ground perfectly suited the uncanny look and the weird legends of the site.
Beyond the Cima we made the gay little town of Telde, which lodges some 4,000 souls, entering it by a wide fiumara, over which a bridge was then building. The streets were mere lines of scattered houses, and the prominent buildings were the white dome of San Pedro and San Juan with its two steeples of the normal grey basalt. Near the latter lay the little Alameda, beggar-haunted as usual. On the north side of the Barranco rose a caverned rock inhabited by the poor. We shall see this troglodytic feature better developed elsewhere.
To visit the Caldera de Bandana, three miles from the city, we hired a carriage with the normal row of three lean rats, which managed, however, to canter or gallop the greater part of the way. The boy-driver, Agustin, was a fair specimen of his race, obstinate as a Berber or a mule. As it was Sunday he wanted to halt at every venta (pub), curioseando--that is, admiring the opposite sex. Some of the younger girls are undoubtedly pretty, yet they show unmistakable signs of Guanche blood. The toilette is not becoming: here the shawl takes the place of the mantilla, and the head-covering, as in Tenerife, is capped by the hideous billycock. To all my remonstrances Don Agustin curtly replied with the usual island formula, 'Am I a slave?' This class has a surly, grumbling way, utterly wanting the dignity of the lower-order Spaniard and the Moor; and it is to be managed only by threatening to withhold the propinas (tip). But the jarvey, like the bath-man, the barber, and generally the body-servant and the menial classes which wait upon man's person, are not always models of civility.
We again passed the hospital and ascended the new zigzag to the right of the Giniguada. The torrent-bed, now bright green with arum and pepper, grows vegetables, maize, and cactus. Its banks bear large plantations of the dates from which Las Palmas borrows her pretty Eastern names. In most places they are mere brabs, and, like the olive, they fail to fruit. The larger growths are barbarously docked, as in Catholic countries generally; and the fronds are reduced to mere brooms and rats'-tails. The people are not fond of palms; the shade and the roots, they say, injure their crops, and the tree is barely worth one dollar per annum.
At the top of the Cuesta de San Roque, which reminded me of its namesake near Gibraltar, I found a barren ridge growing only euphorbia. The Barranco Seco, on the top, showed in the sole a conspicuously big house which has no other view but the sides of a barren trough. This was the 'folly' of an eccentric nobleman, who preferred the absence to the company of his friends.
Half an hour's cold, bleak drive placed us at the Tafira village. Here the land yields four crops a year, two of maize and two of potatoes. Formerly worth $100 per acre, the annual value had been raised by cochineal to $500. All, however, depends upon water, which is enormously dear. The yelping curs have mostly bushy tails, like those which support the arms of the Canary Islands. The grey and green finches represent our 'domestic warbler' (Fringilla canaria), which reached England about 1500, when a ship with a few birds on board had been wrecked off Elba.
[Footnote: The canary bird builds, on tall bushes rather than trees, a nest of moss, roots, feathers and rubbish, where it lays from four to six pale-blue eggs. It moults in August and September; pairs in February, and sometimes hatches six times in a season. The natives declare that the wild birds rarely survive the second year of captivity; yet they do not seem to suffer from it, as they begin to sing at once when caged. Mr. Addison describes the note as 'between that of the skylark and the nightingale,' and was surprised to find that each flock has a different song--an observation confirmed by the people and noted by Humboldt (p. 87).]
The country folk were habited in shirts, drawers derived from the Moors, and tasseled caps of blue stuff, big enough for carpet-bags. The vine still covered every possible slope of black soil, and the aloes, crowned with flowers, seemed to lord it over the tamarisks, the hemlocks, and the nightshades.
Upon this monte, or wooded height, most of the gentry have country-houses, the climate being 12 degrees (Fahr.) cooler than by the sea. La Brigida commands a fine view of the Isleta, with its black sand and white foam, leek-green waters upon the reefs, and deep offing of steely blue.
Leaving the carriage at the forking road, I mounted, after a bad descent, a rough hill, and saw to the left the Pico de Bandana, a fine regular cone 1,850 feet high. A group of a few houses, El Pueblo de la Caldera, leads to the famous Cauldron, which Sir Charles Lyell visited by mistake for that of Palma. Travellers compare it with the lakes of Nemi and Albano: I found it tame after the cup of Fernando Po with its beautiful lining of hanging woods. It has only the merit of regularity. The unbroken upper rim measures about half a mile in diameter, and the lower funnel 3,000 feet in circumference. The sides of piedra pomez (pumice) are lined and ribbed with rows of scoriaceous rock as regular as amphitheatre-seats, full 1,000 feet deep, and slope easily into a flat sole, which some are said to have reached on horseback. A copious fountain, springing from the once fiery inside, is collected below for the use of the farm-house, El Fondo de la Caldera. The fields have the effect of a little Alpine tarn of bright green. Here wild pigeons are sometimes caught at night, and rabbits and partridges are or were not extinct. I ascended Bandana Peak to the north-north-east, the piton of this long extinct volcano, and enjoyed the prospect of the luxuriant vegetation, the turquoise sea, and the golden sands about Maspalomas, the southernmost extremity of Grand Canary.
Returning to the road-fork, I mounted a hill on the right hand and sighted the Atalaya, another local lion. Here a perpendicular face of calcareous rock fronts a deep valley, backed by a rounded hill, with the blue chine of El Cumbre in the distance: this is the highest of the ridge, measuring 8,500 feet. The wall is pierced, like the torrent-side of Mar Saba (Jerusalem), with caves that shelter a troglodyte population numbering some 2,000 souls. True to their Berber origin, they seek refuge in the best of savage lodgings from heat, cold, and wind. The site rises some 2,000 feet above sea-level, and the strong wester twists the trees. Grand Canary preserves more of these settlements than Tenerife; they are found in many parts of the island, and even close to the capital. Madeira, on the other hand, affects them but little. We must not forget that they still exist at St. Come, within two hours' rail of Paris, where my learned and lamented friend Dr. Broca had a country-house.
Descending a rough, steep slope, I entered the upper tier of the settlement, where the boxes were built up with whitewashed fronts. The caves are mostly divided by matting into 'buts' and 'bens.' Heaps of pots, antiquated in shape and somewhat like the Etruscan, showed the trade of the place, and hillocks of potatoes the staff of life. The side-walls were hollowed for shelves, and a few prints of the Virgin and other sacred subjects formed the decoration. Settles and rude tables completed the list of movables; and many had the huge bed affected by the Canarian cottager, which must be ascended with a run and a jump. The predatory birds, gypsies and others, flocked down from their nests, clamouring for cuartitos and taking no refusal.
It occupies a week to ride round the island, whose circumference measures about 120 miles. I contented myself with a last excursion to Doramas, which then supplied meat, cheese, and grain to Tenerife. My guide was old Antonio Martinez, who assured me that he was the 'most classical man' in the island; and with two decent hill-ponies we struck to the north-west. There is little to describe in the tour. The Cuesta Blanca showed us the regular cones of Arúcas. Beyond Tenoya town I inspected a crateriform ravine, and Monte Cardones boasted a honeycomb of caves like the Atalaya. The fine rich vega of Arúcas, a long white settlement before whose doors rose drying heaps of maize and black cochineal, was a pleasant, smiling scene. All the country settlements are built pretty much upon the same plan: each has its Campo Santo with white walls and high grey gate, through which the coffin is escorted by Gaucho-like riders, who dismount to enter. Doramas proved to be a fine monte, with tree-stumps, especially chestnuts, somewhat surprising in a region of ferns and furze. Near the little village of Friga I tasted an agua agria, a natural sodawater, which the people hold to be of sovereign value for beast as well as man. It increases digestion and makes happy mothers, like the fountain of Villaflor on the Tenerifan 'Pike '-slope. I found it resembling an eau gazeuse left in the open all night. We then pushed on to Teror, famous for turkeys, traversed the high and forested northern plateau, visited Galdar and Guia of the cheeses, and rode back by Bañaderos Bay and the Cuesta da Silva, renowned in olden island story.
These three days gave me a fair general view of Grand Canary. The Cumbre, or central plateau, whose apex is Los Pexos (6,400 feet), well wooded with pines and Alpines, collects moisture in abundance. From this plateau barrancos, or ravine-valleys, said to number 103, radiate quaquaversally. Their bottoms, becoming more and more level as they near the sea, are enriched by gushing founts, and are unrivalled for fertility, while the high and stony intervening ridges are barren as Arabia Deserta. Even sun and rain cannot fertilise the dividing walls of the rich and riant vegas. Here, as at Madeira, and showing even a better likeness, the tierra caliente is Egypt, the mediania (middle-heights) are Italy, and the upper mesetas, the cloud-compelling table-lands, are the bleak north of Europe plus a quasi-tropical sun.
CHAPTER IX THE COCHINEAL--THE 'GALLO'--CANARY 'SACK'--ADIEU TO THE CANARIES.Edit
I must not leave the Jezirát el-Bard (of Gold), or Jezirát el-Khálidát (Happy Islands), without some notice of their peculiar institutions, the cochineal, the gallo, and Canary 'sack.'
The nopal or tunal plant (Opuntia Tuna or Cactus cochinellifera) is indigenous on these islands as well as on the mainland of Africa. But the native growth is woody and lean-leaved; and its cooling fruit, which we clumsily term a 'prickly pear' or 'fig,' is everywhere a favourite in hot climates. There are now sundry claimants to the honour of having here fathered the modern industry. Some say that in 1823 a retired intendant introduced from Mexico the true terciopelo, or velvet-leaf, together with the Mexican cochineal, the coccus cacti hemipter, [Footnote: The male insect is winged for flight. The female never stirs from the spot where she begins to feed: she lays her eggs, which are innumerable and microscopic, and she leaves them in the membrane or hardened envelope which she has secreted.] so called from the old Greek KÓKKOS, a berry, or the neo-Greek KOKKIVOS, red, scarlet. It is certain that Don Santiago de la Cruz brought both plant and 'bug' from Guatemala or Honduras in 1835; and that an Englishman, who has advanced a right even in writing, labours under a not uncommon hallucination.
But the early half of the present century was the palmy day of the vine. The people resisted the cactus-innovation as the English labourer did the introduction of machinery, and tore up the plants. Enough, however, remained in the south of Tenerife for the hour of need. Travellers in search of the picturesque still lament that the ugly stranger has ousted the trellised vine and the wild, free myrtles. But public opinion changed when fortunes were made by selling the insect. Greedy as the agriculturist in general, the people would refuse the value of a full crop of potatoes or maize if they suspected that the offerer intended to grow cochineal. No dye was prepared on the islands, and the peasants looked upon it as a manner of mystery.
The best tuneras (cochineal-plantations) lay in Grand Canary, where they could be most watered. Wherever maize thrives, producing a good dark leaf and grain in plenty, there cochineal also succeeds. The soil is technically called mina de tosca, a whitish, pumice-like stone, often forming a gravel conglomerate under a rocky stratum: hardening by exposure, it is good for building. Immense labour is required to prepare such ground for the cactus. The earth must be taken from below the surface-rock, as at Malta; spread in terraced beds, and cleared of loose stones, which are built up in walls or in molleras, cubes or pyramids. Such ground sold for $150 per acre; $600 were paid for mètre-deep soil unencumbered by stone. Where the chalk predominates, it must be mixed with the volcanic sand locally called zahorra. In all cases the nopals are set at distances of half a yard, in trenches at least three feet deep. The 'streets,' or intervals, must measure nearly two yards, so that water may flow freely and sunshine may not be arrested. Good ground, if irrigated in winter and kept clear of weeds by the haçada (hoe), produces a cactus capable of being 'seeded' after the second year; if poor, a third is required. The plant lasts, with manure to defend it from exhaustion, a full decade. [Footnote: The compost was formerly natural, dry or liquid as in Switzerland; but for some years the costly guano and chemicals have been introduced. Formerly also potatoes were set between the stems; and well-watered lands gave an annual grain-crop as well as a green crop.]
I now translate the memoir sent in MS. to me by my kind friend Dundas. It is the work of Don Abel de Aguilar, Consul Impérial de Russie, a considerable producer of the 'bug.'
The semillado, or cochineal-sowing, is divided into three cosechas (crops), according to the several localities in the islands.
The abuelas (grandmothers) are those planted in October-November. Their seed gives a new growth set in February-March, and called madres (mothers). Thirdly, those planted in June-July, gathered in September-October, and serving to begin with the abuelas, are called la cosecha (the crop). The first and second may be planted on the seaboard; the last is confined to the midlands and uplands, on account of the heat and the hot winds, especially the souther and the south-south-easter, which asphyxiate the insect.
And now of the abuelas, as cultivated in the maritime regions of Santa Cruz, Tenerife.
Every cochineal-plantation must have a house with windows facing the south, and freely admitting the light--an indispensable condition. The cuarto del semillado (breeding-room) should be heated by stoves to a regular temperature of 30°-32° (R.). At this season the proportion of seed is calculated at 30 boxes of 40 lbs. each, or a total of 1,200 lbs. per fanega, the latter being equivalent to a half-hectare. The cochineal is placed in large wooden trays lined with cloth, and containing about 15 lbs. of the recently gathered seed. When filled without crowding, the trays are covered with squares of cotton-cloth (raw muslin), measuring 12-16 inches. Usually the fanega requires 20-30 quintals (128 lbs., or a cwt.), each costing $15 to $17. The newly born insects (hijuelos) adhere to the cochineal-rags, and these are carried to the tunera, in covered baskets.
The operation is repeated with fresh rags till the parturition is completed. The last born, after 12-15 days, are the weakest. They are known by their dark colour, the earlier seed being grey-white, like cigar-ashes. The cochineal which has produced all its insects is known in the markets as 'zacatillas.' It commanded higher prices, because the watery parts had disappeared and only the colouring matter remained. Now its value is that of the white or cosecha.
The cochineal-rags are then carried by women and girls to the tunera, and are attached to the cactus-leaves by passing the cloths round them and by pinning them on with the thorns. This operation, requires great care, judgment, and experience. The good results of the crop depend upon the judicious distribution of the 'bugs;' and error is easy when making allowance for their loss by wind, rain, or change of temperature. The insects walk over the whole leaf, and choose their places sheltered as much as possible, although still covered by the rags. After 8-10 days they insert the proboscis into the cactus, and never stir till gathered. At the end of three and a half to four months they become 'grains of cochineal,' not unlike wheat, but smaller, rounder, and thicker. The sign of maturity is the appearance of new insects upon the leaf. The rags are taken off, as they were put on, by women and girls, and the cochineal is swept into baskets with brushes of palm-frond. As the abuelas grow in winter there is great loss of life. For each pound sown the cultivator gets only two to two and a half, innumerable insects being lost either in the house or out of doors.
The crop thus gathered produces the madres (mothers): the latter are sown in February-March, and are gathered in May-June. The only difference of treatment is that the rags are removed when the weather is safe and the free draught benefits the insects. The produce is greater--three and a half to four pounds for one.
The cosecha of the madres produces most abundantly, on account of the settled weather. The cochineal breeds better in the house, where there is more light and a higher temperature. The result is that 8 to 10 lbs. become 100. It is cheaper too: as a lesser proportion of rag is wanted for the field, and it is kept on only till the insect adheres. Thus a small quantity goes a long way. At this season there is no need of the cuarto, and bags of pierced paper or of rengue (loose gauze), measuring 10 inches long by 2 broad, are preferred. A spoonful of grain, about 4 ounces, is put into each bag and is hung to the leaves: the young ones crawl through the holes or meshes till the plant is sufficiently populated. In hot weather they may be changed eight times a day with great economy of labour. This is the most favourable form; the insects go straight to the leaves, and it is easy to estimate the proportions.
So far Don Abel. He concludes with saying that cochineal, which in other days made the fortune of his native islands, will soon be completely abandoned. Let us hope not.
The cosecha-insects, shell-like in form, grey-coloured, of light weight, but all colouring matter, are either sold for breeding abuelas or are placed upon trays and killed in stoves by a heat of 150°-160° (Fahr.). The drying process is managed by reducing the temperature to 140°. The time varies from twenty-four to forty-eight hours: when hurried it injures the crop. Ninety full-grown insects weigh some forty-eight grains, and there is a great reduction by drying; some 27,000 yield one pound of the prepared cochineal. The shiny black cochineal, which looks like small beetles, is produced by sun-drying, and by shaking the insect in a linen bag or in a small 'merry-go-round,' so as to remove the white powder. [Footnote: Mr. H. Vizetelly (p. 210) says that black metallic sand is used to give it brilliancy.] The form, however, must be preserved. It sells 6d. per lb. higher than the cochinilla de plata, or silver cochineal. Lastly, the dried crop is packed in bags, covered with mats, and is then ready for exportation.
The traffic began about 1835 with an export of only 1,275 lbs.; and between 1850 and 1860 the lb. was worth at least ten francs. Admiral Robinson [Footnote: Sea-drift, a volume published by subscription. Pitman, London, 1852.] in 1852 makes the export one million of lbs. at one dollar each, or a total of 250,000l. During the rage of the oïdium the cultivation was profitable and raised the Canaries high in the scale of material prosperity. In 1862 the islands exported 10,000 quintals, or hundred-weights, the total value being still one million of dollars. In 1877-78 the produce was contained in 20,000 to 25,000 bags, each averaging 175 lbs., at a value of half a crown per lb.: it was then stated that, owing to the increased expense of irrigation and of guano or chemical manures, nothing under two shillings would repay the cultivator. In 1878-79 the total export amounted to 5,045,007 lbs. In 1879-80 this figure had fallen off to 4,036,871 lbs., a decrease of 5,482 bags, or 1,008,136 lbs.; moreover the prices, which had been forced up by speculation, declined from 2s. 6d.-3s. 4d. to 1s. 8d. and 1s. 10d. [Footnote: These figures are taken from the able Consular Report of Mr. Consul Dundas, printed in Part viii., 1881.] When I last visited Las Palmas (April 1880), cochineal, under the influence of magenta and mineral dyes, was selling at 1s. 4d. instead of one to two dollars.
It is to be feared that the palmy days of cochineal are over, and that its chief office, besides staining liqueurs and tooth-powders, will be to keep down the price of the chemicals. With regret I see this handsome and harmless colour being gradually superseded by the economical anilines, whose poisonous properties have not yet been fully recognised by the public. The change is a pregnant commentary upon the good and homely old English saying, 'Cheap and nasty.'
The fall of cochineal throughout the Canaries brought many successors into the field, but none can boast of great success. Silk, woven and spun, was tried; unfortunately, the worms were fed on tartago (a ricinus), instead of the plentiful red and white mulberries. The harvest was abundant, but not admired by manufacturers. In fact, the moderns have failed where their predecessors treated the stuff so well that Levantines imported silks to resell them in Italy. Formerly Tenerife contained a manufactory whose lasting and brilliant produce was highly appreciated in Spain as in Havana. At Palma crimson waist-sashes used to sell for an ounce of gold.
Tobacco-growing was patronised by Government in 1878, probably with the view of mixing it in their monopoly-manufactories with the growths of Cuba and Manilla. But on this favour being withdrawn the next year's harvest fell to one-fourth (354,640 lbs. to 36,978). The best sites were in Hierro (Ferro) and Adejo, in the south of Tenerife. The chief obstacles to success are imperfect cultivation, the expense of skilled labour, and deficiency of water to irrigate the deep black soil. Both Virginia and Havana leaves were grown, and good brands sold from eight to sixteen dollars per 100 lbs. The customers in order of quantity are Germany, England, France, South America, and the West Coast of Africa, where the cigars are now common. One brand (Republicanos) is so good that I should not wish to smoke better. At home they sell for twelve dollars per 1,000; a price which rises, I am told, in England to one shilling each. They are to be procured through Messieurs Davidson, of Santa Cruz.
The Canarians now talk of sugar-growing; but the cane will inevitably fare worse for want of water than either silk or tobacco.
Next to cochineal in the Canary Islands, especially in Tenerife, ranks the gallo, or fighting-cock. Cockfighting' amongst ourselves is redolent of foul tobacco, bad beer, and ruffianism in low places. This is not the case in Spain and her colonies, where the classical sport of Greece and Rome still holds its ground. I have pleasant reminiscences of the good Padre in the Argentine Republic who after mass repaired regularly to the pit, wearing his huge canoe-like hat and carrying under his arm a well-bred bird instead of a breviary. Here too I was told that the famous Derby breed of the twelfth Earl had extended in past times throughout the length and breadth of the land; and the next visit to Knowsley convinced me that the legend was based on fact. As regards cruelty, all popular sports, fox-hunting and pigeon-shooting, are cruel. Grallus, however, has gained since the days of Cock-Mondays and Cock-Fridays, when he was staked down to be killed by 'cock-sticks' or was whipped to his death by blindfolded carters. He leads the life of a friar; he is tended carefully as any babe; he is permitted to indulge his pugnacity, which it would be harsh to restrain, and at worst he dies fighting like a gentleman. A Tenerifan would shudder at the horror of our fashionable sport, where ruffians gouge or blind the pigeon with a pin, squeeze it to torture, wrench out its tail, and thrust the upper through the lower mandible.
The bird in Tenerife surpasses those of the other Canary Islands, and more than once has carried off the prizes at Seville. A moderately well-bred specimen may be bought for two dollars, but first-rate cocks belonging to private fanciers have no price.
Many proprietors, as at Hyderabad, in the Dakhan, will not part with even the eggs. The shape of the Canarian bird is rather that of a pheasant than a 'rooster.' The coat varies; it is black and red with yellow shanks, black and yellow, white and gold, and a grey, hen-like colour, our 'duck-wing,' locally called gallinho. Here, as in many other places, the 'white feather' is no sign of bad blood. The toilet is peculiar. Comb and wattles are 'dubbed' (clean shaven), and the circumvental region is depilated or clipped with scissors, leaving only the long tail-feathers springing from a naked surface. The skin is daily rubbed, after negro fashion, with lemon-juice, inducing a fiery red hue: this is done for cleanliness, and is supposed also to harden the cuticle. Altogether the appearance is coquet, sportsmanlike, and decidedly appropriate.
The game-chicks are sent to the country, like town-born babes in France or the sons of Arabian cities to the Bedawin's black tents. The cockerel begins fighting in his second, and is not a 'stale bird' till his fifth or sixth, year. In early spring aspirants to the honours of the arena are brought to the towns for education and for training, which lasts some six weeks. I was invited to visit a walk belonging to a wealthy proprietor at Orotava, who obligingly answered all my questions. Some fifty birds occupied the largest room of a deserted barrack, which proclaimed its later use at the distance of half a mile. The gladiators were disposed in four long, parallel rows of cages, open cane-work, measuring three feet square. Each had a short wooden trestle placed outside during the day and serving by night as a perch. They were fed and watered at 2 P.M. The fattening maize was first given, and then wheat, with an occasional cram of bread-crumb and water by way of physic. The masálá and multifarious spices of the Hindostani trainer are here ignored.
The birds are not allowed, as in India, to become so fierce that they attack men: this is supposed to render them too hot and headstrong in combat. Every third day there is a Pecha, or spurring-match, which proves the likeliest lot. The pit for exercise is a matted circle about 6 feet in diameter. A well-hodded bird is placed in it, and the assistant holds up a second, waving it to and fro and provoking No. 1 to take his exercise by springing to the attack. The Indian style of galloping the cock by showing a hen at either end of the walk is looked upon with disfavour, because the sight of the sex is supposed to cause disease during high condition. The elaborate Eastern shampooing for hours has apparently never been heard of. After ten minutes' hard running and springing the bird is sponged with Jamaica rum and water, to prevent chafing; the lotion is applied to the head and hind quarters, to the tender and dangerous parts under the wings, and especially to the leg-joints. The lower mandible is then held firmly between the left thumb and forefinger, and a few drops are poured into the beak. Every alternate day the cage is placed on loose ground in sun and wind; and once a week there is a longer sparring-bout with thick leather hods, or spur-pads.
Cock-fighting takes place once a year, when the birds are in fittest feather; it begins on Easter Sunday and ends with the following Wednesday.
The bird that warned Peter of his fall
has then, if victorious, a pleasant, easy twelve months of life before him. He has won many a gold ounce for his owner: I have heard of a man pouching 400l. in a contest between Orotava and La Laguna, which has a well-merited celebrity for these exhibitions. The Canarians ignore all such refinements as rounds or Welsh mains; the birds are fairly matched in pairs. Navajas, or spurs, either of silver or steel, are unused, if not unknown. The natural weapon is sharpened to a needle-like point, and then blood and condition win. The cock-pit, somewhat larger than the training-pit, is in the Casa de la Galera; there is a ring for betters, and the spectators are ranged on upper seats.
Lastly of the wine Canary, now unknown to the English market, where it had a local habitation and a name as early as madeira and sherry, all claiming 'Shakespearean recognition.' The Elizabethans constantly allude to cups of cool Canary, and Mr. Vizetelly quotes Howell's 'Familiar Letters,' wherein he applies to this far-famed sack the dictum 'Good wine sendeth a man to heaven.' But I cannot agree with the learned oenologist, or with the 'tradition of Tenerife,' when told that 'the original canary was a sweet and not a dry wine, as those who derive "sack" from the French word "sec" would have us believe.' 'Sherris sack' (jerez seco) was a harsh, dry wine, which was sugared as we sweeten tea. Hence Poins addresses Falstaff as 'Sir John Sack and Sugar;' and the latter remarks, 'If sack and sugar be a fault, God help the wicked!' And the island probably had two growths--the saccharine Malvasia, [Footnote: As we find in Leake (p. 197 Researches in Greece) and Henderson (History of Wines) 'Malvasia' is an Italian corruption of 'Monemvasia' ([Greek: monae embasia]--a single entrance), the neo-Greek name for the Minoa promontory or island connected by a bridge with the Laconian Coast. Hence the French Malvoisie and our Malmsey. Prof. Azevedo (loc. cit.) opines that the date of the wine's introduction disproves the legend of that 'maudlin Clarence in his Malmsey butt.'] whose black grape was almost a raisin, and a harsh produce like that of the modern Gual, with great volume and alcoholic strength, but requiring time to make it palatable.
The Canaries mostly grew white wines; that is, the liquors were fermented without skins and stalks. Thus they did not contain all the constituents of the fruit, and they were inferior in remedial and restorative virtues to red wines. Indeed, a modern authority tells us that none but the latter deserve the name, and that white wines are rather grape-ciders than real wines.
The best Tenerife brands were produced on the northern slopes from Sauzal and La Victoria to Garachico and Ycod de los Vinos. The latter, famed for its malmsey, has lost its vines and kept its name. The cultivation extended some 1,500 feet above the sea, and the plant was treated after the fashion of Madeira and Carniola (S. Austria). The latadas, or trellises, varied in height, some being so low that the peasant had to creep under them. All, however, had the same defect: the fruit got the shade and the leaves the sun, unless trimmed away by the cultivator, who was unwilling to remove these lungs in too great quantities. The French style, the pruned plant supported by a stake, was used only for the old and worn-out, and none dreamt of the galvanised wires along which Mr. Leacock, of Funchal, trains his vines. In Grand Canary I have seen the grape-plant thrown over swathes of black stone, like those which, bare of fruit, stretch for miles across the fertile wastes of the Syrian Haurán. By heat and evaporation the grapes become raisins; and, as in Dalmatia, one pipe required as much fruit as sufficed for three or four of ordinary.
The favourite of the Canaries is, or was, the vidonia, a juicy berry, mostly white, seldom black: the same is the case with the muscadels. The Malvasia is rarely cultivated, as it suffered inordinately from the vine-disease. The valuable Verdelho, preferred at Madeira, is, or was, a favourite; and there are, or were, half a dozen others. The vendange usually began in the lowlands about the end of August, and in the uplands a fortnight or three weeks later. The grape was carried in large baskets by men, women, and children, to the lagar, or wooden press, and was there trodden down, as in Madeira, Austria, and Italy. The Canarians, like other neo-Latins an unmechanical race, care little for economising labour. The vinification resembled that of the Isle of Wood, with one important exception--the stove. This artificial heating to hasten maturity seems to have been soon abandoned.
Mr. Vizetelly is of opinion that the pure juice was apt to grow harsh, or become ropy, with age. They remedied the former defect by adding a little gloria, a thin, sweet wine kept in store from the preceding vendange; this was done in April or in May, when the vintage was received at headquarters. Ropiness was cured by repeated rackings and by brandying, eight gallons per pipe being the normal ratio. That distinguished connoisseur found in an old malmsey of 1859 all the aroma and lusciousness of a good liqueur; the 'London particular' of 1865 tasted remarkably soft, with a superior nose; an 1871-72, made for the Russian market, had an oily richness with a considerable aroma; an 1872 was mellow and aromatic, and an 1875 had a good vinous flavour.
'Canary' possessed its own especial charác-ter, as Jonathan says. If it developed none of the highest qualities of its successful rivals, it became, after eight to twelve years' keeping, a tolerable wine, which many in England have drunk, paying for good madeira. The shorter period sufficed to mature it, and it was usually shipped when three to four years old. It kept to advantage in wood for a quarter of a century, and in bottle it improved faster. My belief is that the properest use of Tenerife was to 'lengthen out' the finer growths. I found Canary bearing the same relation to madeira as marsala bears to sherry: the best specimens almost equalled the second- or third-rate madeiras. Moreover, these wines are even more heady and spirituous than those of the northern island; and there will be greater difficulty in converting them to the category vino de pasto, a light dinner-wine.
Before 1810 Tenerife exported her wines not from Santa Cruz, but from Orotava, the centre of commerce. Here, since the days of Charles II., there was an English Factory with thirty to forty British subjects, Protestants, under the protection of the Captain-General; and their cemetery lay at the west end of El Puerto, whose palmy days were in 1812-15. The trade was then transferred to the modern capital, where there are, and have been for years, only two English wine-shipping firms, Messieurs Hamilton and Messieurs Davidson. The seniors of both families have all passed away; but their sons and grandsons still inhabit the picturesque old houses on the 'Marina.' In 1812-15 the annual export of wine was 8,000 to 11,000 pipes. The Peace of 1815 was a severe blow to the trade. Between 1830 and 1840, however, the vintage of the seven chief islands averaged upwards of 46,000; of these Tenerife supplied between 4,000 and 5,000, equivalent to the total produce since the days of the oïdium. In 1852 Admiral Robinson reduced the number of pipes to 20,000, worth 200,000l. In 1860-65 I saw the grape in a piteous plight: the huge bunches were composed of dwarfed and wilted berries, furred and cobwebbed with the foul mycelium. The produce fell to 100-150 pipes, and at present only some 200 to 300 are exported. The Peninsula and the West African coast take the bulk; England and Germany ranking next, and lastly Spain, which used the import largely in making-up wines. The islanders now mostly drink the harsh, coarse Catalonians; they still, however, make for home consumption a cheap white wine, which improves with age. It is regretable that fears of the oïdium and the phylloxera prevent the revival of the industry, for which the Islands are admirably fitted. Potatoes and other produce have also suffered; but that is no obstacle to their being replanted.
I left Santa Cruz and Las Palmas, after two short visits, with the conviction that both are on the highway of progress, and much edified by their contrast with Funchal. The difference is that of a free port and a closed port. In the former there is commercial, industrial, and literary activity: Las Palmas can support two museums. In the latter there is neither this, that, nor the other. Madeira also suffers from repressed emigration. The Canaries wisely allow their sons to make gold ounces abroad for spending at home.
Spain also, a few years ago so backward in the race, is fast regaining her place amongst the nations. She is now reaping the benefit of her truly liberal (not Liberal) policy. Such were the abolition of the morgado (primogeniture) in 1834, the closing of the 1,800 convents in 1836-37, and the disamortizacion, or suppression of Church property and granting liberty of belief, in 1855. Finally, the vigour infused by a short--which will lead to a longer--trial of democracy and of republican institutions have given her a new life. She is no longer the Gallio of the Western world.
CHAPTER X. THE RUINED RIVER-PORT AND THE TATTERED FLAG.Edit
On the night of January 10 we steamed out of Las Palmas to cover the long line of 940 miles between Grand Canary and Bathurst. The A. S. S. generously abandons the monopoly of the Gambia to its rival, the B. and A., receiving in exchange the poor profits of the Isles de Los. Consequently the old Company's ships, when homeward-bound, run directly from Sierra Leone to Grand Canary, a week's work of 1,430 knots.
Hardly had we lost sight of the brown and barren island and Las Palmas in her magpie suit, than we ran out of the Brisa Parda, or grey north-east Trade, into calm and cool Harmatan [Footnote: The word is of disputed origin. Ahalabata, or ahalalata, on the Gold Coast is a foreign term denoting the dry norther or north-easter that blows from January to March or April (Zimmerman). Christalier makes haramata, 'Spanish harmatan, an Arabic word.'] weather. We begrudged the voyage this lovely season, which should have been kept for the journey. After the damp warmth of Madeira the still and windless air felt dry, but not too dry; cold, but not too cold; decidedly fresh in early morning, and never warm except at 3 P.M. The sun was pale and shorn, as in England, seldom showing a fiery face before 10 A.M. or after 5 P.M. The sea at night appeared slightly milky, like the white waters so often seen off the western coast of India. Every traveller describes the Harmatan, and most travellers transcribe the errors touching the infusoria and their coats which Ehrenberg found at sea in the impalpable powder near the Cape Verde islands. The dry cold blast is purely local, not cosmical. There is a fine reddish-yellow sand in the lower air-strata; we see it, we feel it, and we know that it comes from the desert-tracts of northern Africa. The air rises en masse from the Great Sahara; the vacuum is speedily filled by the heavier and cooler indraught from the north or south, and the higher strata form the upper current flowing from the Equator to the Poles. But 'siliceous dust' will not wholly account for the veiling of the sun and the opaqueness of the higher atmosphere. This arises simply from the want of humidity; the air is denser, and there is no vapour to refract and reflect the light-rays. Hence the haze which even in England appears to overhang the landscape when there is unusually droughty weather; and hence, conversely, as all know, the view is clearest before and after heavy showers, when the atmosphere is saturated or supersaturated.
On my return in early April we caught the northeast Trades shortly after turning Cape Palmas, and kept them till close upon Grand Canary. They were a complete contrast with the Harmatan, the firmament looking exceptionally high, and the sun shining hot, while a crisp, steady gale made the 'herds of Proteus' gambol and disport themselves over the long ridges thrown up by the cool plain of bright cerulean. The horizon, when clear, had a pinkish hue, and near coast and islands puffy folds of dazzling white, nearly 5,000 feet high, were based upon dark-grey streaks of cloudland simulating continents and archipelagoes. Within the tropics the heavens appear lower, and we never sight blue or purple water save after a tornado. The normal colour is a dirty, brassy yellow-brown, here and there transparent, but ever unsightly in the extreme. It must depend upon some unexplained atmospheric conditions; and the water-aspect is often at its ugliest when the skies are clearest. I have often seen the same tints when approaching Liverpool.
Through the Harmatan-haze we failed to sight Cape Juby, opposite Fuerteventura; and at Santa Cruz I missed Mr. Mackenzie, the energetic flooder of the Sahará. He has, they say, given up this impossibility and opened a comptoir: its presence is very unpleasant to the French monopolists, who seem to 'monopole' more every year. South of Juby comes historic Cape Bojador, the 'Gorbellied,' and Cabo Blanco, which is to northern what Cabo Negro is to southern Africa. The sole remarkable events in its life are, firstly, its being named by Ptolemy Granaria Extrema, whence the Canarii peoples south-west of the Moroccan Atlas and our corrupted 'Canaries;' and, secondly, its rediscovery by one Gonçalez Baldeza in 1440.
On the afternoon of Saturday (January 14) we sighted in the offing the two paps of Ovedec, or Cabo Verde, the Hesperou Keras, the Hesperium or Arsenarium Promontorium of Pliny, the trouvaille of Diniz Fernandez in 1446. The name is sub judice. Some would derive it from the grassy green slope clad with baobabs (Adansonia digitata), megatherium-like monsters, topping the precipitous sea-wall which falls upon patches of yellow sand. Others would borrow it from the Sargasso (baccifera), Golfão, or Gulf-weed, which here becomes a notable feature. Cape Verde, the Prasum Promontorium of West Africa, is the 'Trafalgar,' the westernmost projection, of the Dark Continent 'fiery yet gloomy;' measuring 17° 3' from the meridian of Greenwich. The coast is exceedingly dangerous; consequently shipwrecks are rare. The owners, as their national wont is, have done their best to make it safe. Two lighthouses to the north of the true Cape mark and define a long shoal with a heavy break, the Almadies rocks, a ledge mostly sunk, but here and there rising above the foam in wicked-looking diabolitos (devilings), or black fangs, of which the largest is die-shaped. A third pharos, also brilliantly whitewashed, crowns the Cape, and by its side is a lower sea-facing building, the sanatorium; finally, there is a light at the mole-end of Dakar.
Steaming past the Madeleine rocks, here and there capped with green and whitened by sea-fowl, we sight, through an opening in the curtain of coast, the red citadel and the subject town of Goree, the Gibraltar of western Africa, and the harbour of St. Louis, capital of Senegambia. The island is now the only port, the headquarters having suffered from the sand-bar at the mouth of the Senegal. Here our quondam rivals have made the splendid harbour of Dakar, whose jetties accommodate 180,000 tons of shipping at the same time. This powerful and warlike colony, distant only twelve hours' steaming from Bathurst, has her fleet of steamers for river navigation; her Tirailleurs du Sénégal, and her large force of fighting native troops. Fortified stations defend the course of the river, even above the falls, from the hostile and treacherous Moors. The subject and protected territories exceed Algeria in extent, and the position will link the French possessions in the Mediterranean with the rich mineral lands proposed for conquest in the south.
We English hug to ourselves the idea that the French are bad colonists: if so, France, like China and India, is improving at a pace which promises trouble. Algeria, Senegambia, and Siam should considerably modify the old judgment. Our neighbours have, and honestly own to, two grand faults--an excessive bureaucracy and a military, or rather a martinet, discipline, which interferes with civil life and which governs too much. On the other side England rules too little. She is at present between the two proverbial stools. She has lost the norm of honour, Aristocracy; and she has lost it for ever. But she has not yet acquired the full strength of democracy. This is part secret of that disorganisation which is causing such wonder upon the continent of Europe. Moreover, Colonial England has caught the disease of non-interference and the infection of economy, the spawn of Liberalism; while her savings, made by starving her establishments, are of the category popularly described as penny-wise and pound-foolish. France has adopted the contrary policy. She spends her money freely in making ports and roads and in opening communication through adjacent countries. She lately sent a cruiser to Madeira, proposing to connect Dakar by telegraph with the Cape Verde islands. She is assiduous in forming friendly, or rather peaceable, relations with the people. She begins on the right principle by officering her colonies with her best men, naval and military. In England anyone is good enough for West Africa. She impresses the natives, before beginning to treat, by an overwhelming display of force; and, if necessary, by hard knocks. She educates the children of the chiefs, and compels all her lieges, under a penalty, to learn, and if possible to speak, French. So far from practising non-interference, she allows no one to fight but herself. This imperious, warlike, imperial attitude is what Africa wants. It reverses our Quaker-like 'fad' for peace. We allow native wars to rage ad libitum even at Porto Loko, almost within cannon-shot of Sierra Leone. On the Gambia River the natives have sneeringly declared that they will submit to the French, who are men, but not to us, who are
. Later still, the chiefs of Futa-Jalon went, not to London, but
In 1854 France commenced a new and systematic course of colonial policy. She first beat the Pulos (Fulahs), once so bold, and then she organised and gave flags to them. She checked, with a strong hand, the attacks of the Moors upon the gum-gatherers of the Sahará. And now, after drawing away from us the Gambia trade, she has begun a railway intended to connect the Senegal with the Niger and completely to outflank us. This line will annex the native regions behind our settlements, and make Bathurst and Sierra Leone insignificant dependencies upon the continent of Gallic rule. The total distance is at least 820 miles, and the whole will be guarded by a line of forts. It begins with a section of 260 kilometres, which will transport valuable goods now injured by ass and camel-carriage. The natives, wearied with incessant petty wars, are ready to welcome the new comers. The western Súdán, or Niger-basin, has a population estimated at forty millions, ready, if a market be opened, to flock to it with agricultural and industrial products, including iron, copper, and gold. Meanwhile the Joliba (Black Water), with the Benuwe and other tributaries, offers a ready-made waterway for thousands of miles. Sierra Leone lies only 400 miles, less than half, from the Niger; but what would the Colonial Office say if a similar military line were proposed? Nor can we console ourselves by the feeble excuse that Senegal has a climate superior to that of our 'pest-houses.' On the contrary, she suffers severely from yellow fever, which has never yet visited the British Gold Coast. Her mortality is excessive, but she simply replaces her slain. She has none of that mawkish, hysterical humanitarianism which of late years has become a salient feature in our campaigning. During the Ashanti affair the main object seems to have been, not the destruction of the enemy, but to save as many privates as possible from ague and fever, sunstroke and dysentery.
Ninety miles beyond Cape Verde placed us in the Gambia waters, off the lands of the Guinea region. I will not again attempt a history of the disputed word which Barbot derives from Ginahoa, the first negro region visited by the Portuguese; others from Ghana, the modern Kano; from the Jenneh or Jinne of Mungo Park; from Jenna, a coast-town once of note, governed by an officer under the 'King' of Gambia-land, and, in fine, from the Italian Genoa.
The s.s. Senegal spent the night of the 14th on the soft and slippery mud, awaiting the dawn. What can the Hydrographic Department of the Admiralty be doing? What is the use of the three cruisers that still represent the old 'Coffin Squadron'? This coast has not had a survey since 1830, yet it changes more or less every year, and half a century makes every map and plan obsolete. But perhaps it would be wrong to risk seamen's lives by exposure in open boats to 'insolation,' showers, and surf.
From sunrise the sea had changed its Harmatan-grey for a dull, muddy, dirty green; and the leadsman, who is now too civilised to 'sing out' in the good old style, calmly announced that the channel was shallowing. 'Gambia,' or 'Gambi,' the Gamboa and Gambic of Barbot (Chapter VII.), is said to mean clear water, here a perfect misnomer; it is miry as the Mersey. The 'molten gold of the Gambia River' is only the fine phrase of some poetic traveller. Low land loomed on both sides, with rooty and tufted mangroves, apparently based upon the waves, showing that we approached an estuary, which soon narrowed from thirty miles to seven and to two. Three buoys, the outermost red, then the 'fairway' with chequers and cage, and lastly white without cage, all at a considerable distance off the land, marked the river-bar, and presently a black pilot came on board from his cutter. We made some easting running along shore, and gave a wide berth to the Horseshoe Bank and St. Mary's shoal portwards, to African Knoll and Middle Ground starboardwards, and to a crowd of other pleasant patches, where the water was dancing a breakdown in the liveliest way.
As we drew in shore the now burning sun shone with a sickly African heat through the scirocco-clouds and the thick yellow swamp-reek. 'It will be worse when we land,' said the normal Job's comforter. Six knots to starboard, (west), on high and healthy Cape St. Mary, rose a whitewashed building from a dwarf red cliff. To port on the river's proper right bank (east) lay Fort Bullen, an outpost upon a land-tongue, dead-green as paint, embosomed in tall bentangs, or bombax-trees (Pullom Ceiba). This 'silk-cotton-tree' differs greatly in shape from its congener in Eastern Africa. The bole bears sharp, broad-based thorns; the wings or flying buttresses are larger; several trunks rarely anastomose; the branches seldom stand out horizontally, nor are the leaves disposed in distinct festoons. It is, however, a noble growth, useful for shade and supplying a soft wood for canoes and stuffing for pillows. Fort Bullen, about one hour's row from Bathurst, formerly lodged a garrison of seventeen men under the 'Commandant and Governor of the Queen's Possessions in the Barra Country.' Now the unwholesome site has been abandoned.
The island and station of St. Mary, Bathurst, of old a graveyard, now start up to starboard. The site was chosen apparently for its superior development of mud and mangrove, miasma and malaria. It is an island within an island. St. Mary the Greater is the northernmost of that mass of riverine holms and continental islands which, formed by the Cachéo and other great drains, extends south to the Rio Grande. Measuring some twenty miles from north to south, by six from east to west, it is embraced by the two arms of the Gambia delta, and is marked in old maps as the Combo, Forni, and Felúp country. St. Mary the Less, upon which stands the settlement facing east, is bounded eastward by the main mouth and westward by Oyster Creek, a lagoon-like branch: it is a mere sand-patch of twenty-one square miles, clothed by potent heats and flooding rains with a vivid and violent vegetation. Water is found everywhere three feet below the surface, but it is bad and brackish. There is hardly any versant or shed; in places the land sinks below the water-level; and, despite the excellent brick sewers, the showers prefer to sop and sod the soil. And, lest the island should be bodily carried away by man, there is a penalty for removing even a pailful of sand from the beach.
Bathurst was unknown in the days of Mungo Park, when traders ran up stream to Jilifri, nearly opposite Fort James, and to Pisania, the end of river-navigation. St. Mary's Island, together with British Combo, Albreda, and the land called the 'Ceded,' or 'English Mile,' were bought from the Mandenga chief of the Combo province. First christened St. Leopold, and then Bathurst, after the minister of that name, the actual town owes its existence to an order issued by Sir Charles Macarthy. That ill-starred Governor of Sierra Leone (1814-24) is still remembered in Ashanti and on the Gold Coast: he is immortalised by a pestiferous island in the Upper Gambia well described by Winwood Reade. The settlement, designed for the use of liberated Africans, was built in 1816 by Lieutenant-Colonel Brereton and by Captain Alexander Grant. In 1821 it was made, like the Gold Coast, a dependency of Sierra Leone, whose jurisdiction, after the African Company was abolished in 1820,
[Footnote: The first African Company was established by Queen Elizabeth, and in 1688 was allowed to trade with Guinea. The Royal African Company, or Guinea Company of Royal Adventurers of England trading to Africa, was incorporated under Charles II. on January 20, 1663. A third was patented on September 27, 1672. The 'African Company' (1722-24) was not allowed to interfere with 'interlopers.' On May 7,1820, it was abolished, after bankruptcy, and its possessions passed over to the Crown.]
extended from N. lat. 20° to S. lat. 20°. I found it an independent government, one of four, in 1860 to 1865. In 1866 it again passed under the rule of Sierra Leone; in 1874 this ill-advised measure was withdrawn, and the Gambia was placed under an Administrator and a Legislative Council, the former subject to the Governor-in-Chief of Sierra Leone. A score of years ago it was garrisoned by some 300 men of the West African Corps. Now it is reduced to 100 armed policemen: the Gambia militia, composed of the Combo and Macarthy's Island forces, is never called out. The population of the twenty-one square miles is given by Whittaker for 1881 as 14,150, including 105 whites. The Wesleyans here, as everywhere, preponderating on the Coast, number 1,405 souls; the Catholics 500, and the Episcopalians 200.
Another half-hour placed before us Bathurst in full view. The first salient point is the graveyard, where the station began and where the stationed end. Wags declare that the first question is, 'Have you seen our burial-ground?' A few tomb-stones, mostly without inscriptions, are scattered so near the shore that corpses and coffins have been washed away by the waves. If New Orleans be a normal 'wet grave,' this everywhere save near the sea is dry with a witness, the depth and looseness of the sand making the excavation a crumbling hole. Four governors, a list greatly to be prolonged, 'lie here interred.' But matters of climate are becoming too serious for over-attention to such places or subjects.
The first aspect of this pest-house from afar is not unpleasant. A long line of scattered houses leads to the mass of the settlement, faced by its Marine Parade, and the tall trees give it a home-look; some have compared the site with 'parts of the park at Cheltenham.' At a nearer view the town of some 5,000 head suggests the idea of a small European watering-place. The execrable position has none of those undulations which make heaps of men's homes picturesque; everything is low, flat, and straight-lined as a yard of pump-water. The houses might be those of Byculla, Bombay; in fact, they date from the same epoch. They are excellent of their kind, large uncompact piles of masonry, glistening-white or dull-yellow, with blistered paint, and slates, tiles, or shingles, which last curl up in the sun like feathers. A nearer glance shows the house-walls stained and gangrened with rot and mildew, the river-floods often shaking hands with the rains in the ground-floors. The European ends in beehive native huts, rising from the swamp and sand; and these gradually fine off and end up-stream, becoming small by degrees and hideously less.
Bathurst has one compensating feature, the uncommon merit of an esplanade; the noble line of silk-cotton trees separating houses from river is apparently the only flourishing item. We remark that while some of these giants are clad in their old leaves others are bright green with new foliage, while others are bare and broomy as English woods in midwinter. They are backed by a truly portentous vegetation of red and white mangroves, palms, plantains, and baobabs, rank guinea-grass filling up every gap with stalks and blades ten feet tall.
Nor was the scene in the river-harbour at all more lively. The old Albert, of Nigerian fame, has returned to mother Earth; but we still note H.M.S. Dover, a venerable caricature, with funnel long and thin, which steams up stream when not impotent--her chronic condition. There are two large Frenchmen loading ground-nuts, but ne'er an Englishman. The foreshore is defaced by seven miserable wharves, shaky mangrove-piles, black with age and white with oystershells, driven into the sand and loosely planked over. There is an eighth, the gunpowder pier, on the north face of the island; and we know by its dilapidation that it is Government property. These stages are intended not for landing--oh, no!--but only for loading ships; stairs are wanting, and passengers must be carried ashore 'pick-a-back.' The labourers are mainly, if not wholly, 'Golah' women of British Combo, whose mates live upon the proceeds of their labours. To-day being Sunday, the juvenile piscators of Bathurst muster strong upon the piers, and no policeman bids them move on.
When the mail-bags were ready, we received a visit from the black health-officer, and we reflected severely on the exceeding 'cheek' of inspecting, as a rule, new comers from old England at this yellow Home of Pestilence. But in the healthy time of the year we rarely see the listless, emaciated whites with skins stained by unoxygenised carbon, of whom travellers tell. Despite the sun, all the Bathurstians save the Government officials--now few, too few--flocked on board. Mail-days are here, as in other places down-coast, high days and holidays. But times are changed, and the ruined river-port can no longer afford the old traditional hospitality.
Cameron and I landed under Brown's Wharf, the southernmost pier opposite the red roof and the congeries of buildings belonging to the late proprietor. We then walked up the High Street, or esplanade, which is open to the river except where the shore is cumbered with boats, hides, lumber, and beach-negroes. This is a kind of open-air market where men and women sit in the shade, spinning, weaving, and selling fruits and vegetables with one incessant flux of tongue. Here, too, amongst the heaps, and intimately mixed with the naked infantry, stray small goats, pretty and deer-shaped, and gaunt pigs, sharp-snouted and long-legged as the worst Irisher.
Several thoroughfares, upper and lower, run parallel with the river; all are connected, like a chess-board, by cross-lanes at right angles, and their grass-grown centres are lined by open drains of masonry, now bone-dry. The pavement is composed of stone and dust, which during the rains becomes mud; the trottoirs are in some places of brick, in others of asphalte, in others of cracked slabs. Mostly, however, we walk on sand and gravel, which fills our boots with something harder than unboiled peas. The multiplicity of useless walls, the tree-clumps, and the green sward faintly suggested memories of a semi-deserted single-company station in Western India; and the decayed, tumble-down look of all around was a deadly-lively illustration of the Hebrew Ichabod.
I passed, with a sense of profound sadness, the old Commissariat quarters, now degraded to a custom-house. The roomy, substantial edifice of stone and lime, with large, open verandahs, here called piazzas, lofty apartments, galleries, terraced roofs, and, in fact, everything an African house should have, still stood there; but all shut up, as if the antique domus were in mourning for the past. What Homeric feeds, what noctes coenoeque deorum, we have had there in joyous past times! But now that most hospitable of West-Coasters, Commissary Blanc, has been laid in the sandy cemetery; and where, oh! where are the rest of the jovial crew, Martin and Sherwood? I found only one relic of the bygone--and a well-favoured relic he is--Mr. W. N. Corrie, with whom to exchange condolences and to wail over the ruins.
Passing the post-office and the French, Spanish, Portuguese, and American consulates, poor copies of the dear old Commissariat, we halted outside at Mr. Goddard's, and obtained from Mr. R. E. Cole a copy of his lecture, 'The River Gambia,' read at York, September 1881. It gave me pleasure to find in it, 'The man that is wanted throughout the West Coast of Africa is not the negro, but the Chinaman; and should he ever turn his steps in its direction he will find an extensive and remunerating field for the exercise of his industry and intelligence.'
We then turned our attention from the town to the townspeople. They have not improved in demeanour during the last twenty years. Even then the 'liberateds' and 'recaptives,' chiefly Akus and Ibos, had begun the 'high jinks,' which we shall find at their highest in Sierra Leone. They had organised 'Companies,' the worst of trade-unions, elected headmen, indulged in strikes, and more than once had come into serious collision with the military. The Mandengas, whom Mungo Park calls Mandingoes and characterises as a 'wild, sociable, and obliging people,' soon waxed turbulent and unruly. This is to be expected; a race of warriors must be governed by the sword. They would prefer for themselves military law to all the blessings of a constitution or a plébiscite. But philanthropy wills otherwise, and in these days the English authorities do not keep up that state whose show secures the respect of barbarians. Where the Governor walks about escortless, like a private individual, he must expect to be 'treated as such.'
There is no difficulty in distinguishing at first sight Moslem from Kafir. Besides the gypsy-like Pulo, the 'brown race,' our older Fúlahs and Fellalahs, whose tongue is said to be a congener of the Nubian; and the wild, half-naked pagan Jolu, the principal tribes, are two, the Mandengas and the Wólofs. The former, whom Europeans divide into the Marabút, who does not drink, and the Soninki, who does, inhabit a triangle, its base being the line from the south of the Senegal to the Gambia River, and its apex the Niger; it has even extended to near Tin-Bukhtu (the Well of Bukhtu), our Timbuctoo. In old Mohammedan works their territory is called Wángara. This race of warmen and horsemen surprisingly resembles the Somal, who hold the same parallels of latitude in Eastern Africa, as to small heads, semi-Caucasian features, Asiatic above the nose-tip and African below; tall lithe figures, high shoulders, and long limbs, especially the forearm.
There is the usual Negro-land variety in the picturesque toilette; no two men are habited alike. A Phrygian bonnet, Glengarry or Liberty-cap of dark, indigo-dyed cotton, and sometimes a Kan-top or ear-calotte of India and Hausa-land, surmount their clean-shaven heads. For this they substitute, when travelling, 'country umbrellas,' thatches of plaited palm-leaves in umbrella-shape; further down coast we shall find the regular sun-hat of Madeira, with an addition of loose straw-ends which would commend itself to Ophelia. The decent body-garb is a kamís, a nightgown of long-cloth, and wide, short drawers; the whole is covered with a sleeveless abá, or burnous, and sometimes with a half-sleeved caftan--here termed 'tobe'--garnished with a huge breast-pocket. It is generally indigo-stained, with marblings or broad-narrow stripes of lighter tint than the groundwork. An essential article, hung round the neck or slung to the body, is the grigri, ta'awíz, or talisman, a Koranic verse or a magic diagram enclosed in a leathern roll or in a flat square. Of these prophylactics, which answer to European medals and similar fetish, a 'serious person' will wear dozens; and they are held to be such 'strong medicine' that even pagans will barter or pay for them. Blacksmiths, weavers, and spinners work out of doors. Contrary to the general Moslem rule, these Mandengas honour workers in iron and leather, and the king's blacksmith and cobbler are royal councillors.
Some of the motley crowd sit reading what the incurious stranger tells you is 'the Alcoran;' they are perusing extracts and prayers written in the square, semi-Cufic Maghrabi character, which would take a learned Meccan a week to decipher. Others, polluted by a license which calls itself liberty, squat gambling shamelessly with pegs stuck in the ground. Now and then fighting-looking fellows ride past us, with the Arabic ring-bit and the heavy Mandenga demi-pique. The nags are ponies some ten hands high, ragged and angular, but hardy and sure-footed. As most of the equines in this part of Africa, they are, when well fed, intensely vicious and quarrelsome. Like the Syrians, they have only three paces, the walk, the lazy loping canter, and the brisk hard gallop; the trot is a provisional passage from slow to fast. Yet with all their shortcomings I should prefer them to the stunted bastard barb, locally called an Arab and priced between 20l. and 40l. The latter generally dies early from chills and checked perspiration, which bring on 'loin-disease,' paralysis of the hind-quarters, or from a fatal swelling of the stomach, the result of bad forage. Most of the men carried knives, daggers, and crooked swords in curious leather scabbards. This practice should never be permitted in Africa. Natives entering a station should be compelled to leave their weapons with the policeman at the nearest guard-house.
The Wólofs, a name formerly written Joloff, also dwell in Senegambia, between the Senegal and the Gambia, and their habitat is divided into sundry petty kingdoms. As early as 1446 they were known to the Portuguese, and one Bemoy, of princely house, soon afterwards visited Lisbon, was baptised, and did homage to D. João II. More like the Abyssinians than their Mandenga neighbours, they are remarkable for good looks, pendent ringlets, and tasteful dress and decorations. 'Black but comely,' with long, oval faces, finely formed features, straight noses and glossy jetty skins, in character they are brave and dignified, and they are distinctly negroids, not negroes. This small maritime tribe, who make excellent sailors, is interesting and civilisable; many have been Christianised, especially by the Roman Catholic missioners. The only native tongue spoken by European residents at Bathurst is the Wólof. As M. Dard remarks in his 'Grammaire Wolof,' the [Footnote: He was Instituteur de l'École Wolof-Française du Sénégal, and published in 1826. It is still said that no one will speak Wolof like him, the result of the new régíme of compulsory French instruction. I printed 226 of his proverbs in Wit and Wisdom from West Africa (London, Tinsleys, 1865). It is curious to compare them with those of the pagan negroes further south.]
language is widely spread: Mungo Park often uses expressions which he deems Mandenga, but which belong to the 'Jews of West Africa,' as the Wólofs are sometimes called, their extensive commercial dealings between the coast and the western Sudan being the only point of likeness. For instance, in the tale of 'poor Nealee' the cry 'Kang-tegi!' ('Cut her throat!') is the Wólof 'Kung-akateke!' ('Let her head be cut off!'), and 'Nealee affeeleeata!' ('Nealee is lost!') appears equally corrupted by author or printer from 'Nealu afeyleata!' ('Nealee breathes no more!')
Pursuing our peregrinations, we reach No. 1 Fort, at the northern angle of the town, north-eastern corner of the islet St. Mary the Less. This old round battery is surmounted by three 32-pounders, en barbette, with iron carriages and traversing platforms, but without racers: a single 7-inch shell would smash the whole affair. Thence we bent westward and passed the once neat 'Albert Market' with its metal roof, built in 1854-56 by Governor Luke O'Connor and Isaac Bage. We did not enter; the place swarms with both sexes in blue: African indigo yields a charming purple, but one soon learns to prefer white clothing. Nor need I describe the stuff exposed for sale: there will be a greater variety at Sierra Leone.
Passing the market we come upon the engineer's yard, which a hand-bill sternly forbids us to enter. It contains a chapel, where the Rev. Mr. Nicol officiates: this loose box is more hideous than anything I have yet seen, a perfect study of architectural deformity. The cracked bell and the nasal chant, at times rising to a howl as of anguish, were completely in character. As the service ended issued a stream of worshippers, mostly women, attired in costumes which will be noticed further on; most of them led negrolings suggesting the dancing dog. Meanwhile the police, armed only with side-arms, sword-bayonets, and looking more like Sierra Leone convicts reformed and uniformed, followed a band composed of drums, cymbals, and a haughty black sergeant, a mulatto noncommissioned, bringing up the rear. They went round and round the barrack square, a vast space occupied chiefly by grass and drains; in the back-ground is the large jaundiced building upon whose clock-tower floated, or rather depended, the flag of St. George. The white building by its side is the Colonial Hospital: it has also seen 'better days.'
We resolved to call upon Mr. Administrator V. S. Goulsbury, M.D. and C.M.G. He had lately been subjected to an attack, of course anonymous, in the 'African Times;' an attack the more ungentlemanly and cowardly because it reflected upon his private not public life; and consequently he could neither notice it nor answer it, nor bring an action for libel. This scandalous print, which has revived the old 'Satirist' in its most infamous phase, habitually inserts any tissue of falsehoods suggested to proceed from a 'native,' an 'African,' a 'negro,' and carefully writes down to the lowest level of its readers. It attracts attention by the cant of charity, and shows its devotion to 'the Bible, and nothing but the Bible,' by proving that the earth, having 'four corners,' is flat, and that the sun, which once 'stood still,' must move round its parasite. The manner of this pestilence is right worthy of its matter, and the style would be scouted in a decent housekeeper's room. All well-meaning men, of either colony, declare that it has done more harm in West Africa than the grossest abuse yet written. Its tactic is to set black against white, to pander for the public love of scandal, and systematically to abuse all the employés of Government. And the sole object of this vile politic, loudly proclaimed to be philanthropic and negrophile, has been low lucre--in fact, an attempt to butter its bread with 'black brother.'
We inspected the second or western fort, a similar battery of six 32-pounders, with two 10-inch mortars, fit only to pound 'fúfú,' or banana-paste; add a single brass field-piece, useful as a morning and evening gun for this highly military station. Then we came to Government House, apparently deserted, flying a frayed and tattered white and blue flag, which might have been used on board H.M.S. Dover, but which ought to have been supplanted on shore by a Union Jack. After waiting a quarter of an hour, we managed, with the assistance of a sentinel, whose feet were in slippers and whose artillery carbine was top-heavy with a fixed sword-bayonet, to arouse a negro servant, by whom we sent in our cards to H.E. the Administrator. An old traveller on the Gold Coast, and lately returned from a long expedition into the interior, [Footnote: Gambia: Expedition to the Upper Gambia. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1882.] he had much to tell us. His knowledge of Ashanti-land, however, induced him to place the Kong Mountains in that meridian too far north; he held the distance from the seaboard to be at least 500 miles. But he quite agreed with us about the necessity of importing Chinese coolies. Here no free man works. The people say, 'When a slave gets his liberty he will drink rainwater'--rather than draw it from a well. The chief cargo of the S.S. Senegal was Chinese rice, when almost every acre of the lower Gambia would produce a cereal superior in flavour and bolder in grain. Hands, however, are wanting; and all the women are employed in loading and unloading ships.
The Residency is a fine large building in an advanced stage of decomposition; the glorious vegetation around it--cotton-trees, caoutchouc-figs, and magnificent oleanders--making the pile look grimmer and grislier. And here we realised, to the fullest extent, how thoroughly ruined is the hapless settlement. The annual income is about 24,500l., the expenditure is 20,000l. in round numbers, and the economies are said to reach 25,000l. This sum is forwarded to the colonial chest, instead of being expended in local improvements; and, practically, when some petty war-storm breaks it is wasted like water. The local officials are not to be blamed for this miserable system, this niggardly colonial policy of the modern economical school, which contrasts so poorly with the lavish republican expenditure in French Senegambia. They have, to their honour be it said, often protested against the taxes raised from struggling merchants and a starveling population, poor as Hindûs, being expended upon an 'imperial policy.' But economy is the order of the day at home, and an Administrator inclined to parsimony gladly seizes the opportunity of pleasing his 'office.' The result is truly melancholy. I complained in 1862 that the 'civil establishment' at Bathurst cost 7,075l. I now complain that it has been reduced to 2,600l. [Footnote: Administrator = 1,300l;.; Chief Magistrate = 600l.; Collector and Treasurer = 700l. Thus there is no Colonial Secretary, and, curious to say, no Colonial Chaplain. I formerly recommended the establishment to be reduced by at least one-half, and that half to be far better paid (Wanderings in West Africa, i. 182).] The whole establishment is starved; decay appears in every office, public and private; and ruin is writ large upon the whole station. An Englishman who loves his country must blush when he walks through Bathurst. Even John Bull would be justified in wishing that he had been born a Frenchman in West Africa.
We returned to the s.s. Senegal anything but edified; and there another displeasure awaited us. Our gallant captain must have known that he could not load and depart that day. Yet, diplomatically mysterious, he would not say so. Consequently we missed a visit to Cape St. Mary, the breezy cliff of which I retain the most agreeable memory. The scenery had appeared to me positively beautiful after the foul swamps of St. Mary's Island;--stubbles of Guinea-corn, loved by quails; a velvety expanse of green grass sloping inland, with here and there a goodly palmyra grander than the columns of Ba'albek; palms necklaced with wine-calabashes, and a grove of baobab and other forest trees cabled with the most picturesque llianas, where birds of gorgeous plume sit and sing. We could easily have hired hammocks or horses, or, these failing, have walked the distance, six or seven miles. True, Oyster Creek, the shallow western outlet of the Gambia, has still a ferry: a bridge was lately built, but it fell before it was finished. It would, however, have been pleasurable to pass a night away from the fever-haunts of Bathurst.
During one of my many visits to Bathurst I resolved to inspect old Fort James: one thirsts for a bit of antiquity in these African lands, so bare of all but modern ruins. Like Bance Island, further south, it is the parent of the modern settlement; and so far it has the 'charm of origin.' My companion was Captain Philippi, then well known at Lagos: the last time we met was unexpectedly at Solingen. A boat with four Krumen was easily found; but our friends warned us that the ascensus would be easy and the descensus the reverse; the latter has sometimes taken a day and a night.
The Gambia River here opens its mouth directly to the north; and, after a great elbow, assumes its normal east-west course. We ran before a nine-knot breeze, and shortly before noon, after two hours' southing, we were off the half-way house, reef-girt Dog Island, and Dog Point, in the Barra country. The dull green stream sparkled in the sun, and the fringe of mangroves appeared deciduous: some trees were bare, as if dead; others were clothed with bright foliage. Presently we passed British Albreda, where our territory now ends. This small place has made a fuss in its day. It was founded by the French in 1700 as a dependency of Goree, and it carried on a slave-trade highly detrimental to English interests. In 1783 the owners had abandoned all right to its occupation, and in 1858 they ceded it to their English rivals. The landing is bad, especially when the miry ebb-tide is out. The old village of the French company was reduced when we visited it to a few huts and two whitewashed and red-roofed houses, occupied by a Frenchwoman in native dress and by an English subject, Mr. Hughes. The latter did the honours of the place and showed us the only 'punkah' at that time known to the West African coast.
From Dog Island we bent to the east and passed the Jilifri or Grilofre village, in the Badibu country, a place well known during the days of Park. Then bending south-east, after a total of four hours, covering seventeen to eighteen knots, we landed upon James Island, the site of Fort James. The scrap of ground has a history. First the Portuguese here built a factory: Captain Jobson found this fact to his cost when (1621) he sailed up in search of gold to Satico, then the last point of navigation. A few words in the native dialects--'alcalde,' for instance--preserve the memory of the earliest owners. It passed alternately into the hands of the Dutch, French, and English, who exchanged some shrewd blows upon the matter of possession. In 1695 it was destroyed by M. de Gennes, and was rebuilt by the Royal African Company, which had monopolised the traffic. It fell again in 1702 to Capitaine de la Roque, and cost the conqueror his life. In 1709 it was attacked for the third time by M. Parent, commanding four privateering frigates. About 1730 we have from Mr. Superintendent Francis Moore a notice of it amongst the Company's establishments on the Gambia River. The island is described as being situated in mid-stream, here three to four miles broad, thirty miles from the mouth: the extent was 200 yards long by fifty broad. The factory had a governor and a deputy-governor, two officers, eight factors, thirteen writers, two inferior attendants, and thirty-two negro servants. The force consisted of a company of soldiers, besides armed sloops and shallops. Compare the same with our starved establishment at the Ruined River-port! In other parts of the Gambia valley eight subordinate comptoirs, including Jilifri or Gilofre, traded for hides and bees'-wax, ivory, slaves, and gold. When Mungo Park travelled (1795-97) the opening of the European trade had reduced its exports to a gross value of 20,000l., in three ships voyaging annually. After the African Company was abolished (1820) it passed over to the Crown, and the station was transferred to its graveyard, Sainte-Marie de Bathurst. Barbot [Footnote: Lib. i. chap. vii., A Description of the Coasts of North and South Guinea, &c., in 1700. Printed in Churchill's Collection. Also his Supplement, ibid. pp. 426-26.] tells us that Fort James was founded (1664), under the names of the Duke of York and the Royal African Company, by Commodore Holmes when expeditioning against the Hollanders in North and South Guinea. It was the head-centre of trade and its principal defence. But, he says, the occupants were obliged to fetch fresh water from either bank. Had the cistern and the powder-magazine been bomb-proof, and drink as well as meat stored quant. suff., the fort would have been 'in a manner impregnable, if well defended by a suitable garrison.' The latter in his day consisted of sixty to seventy whites, besides 'Gromettoes,' free black sepoys.
This quasi-venerable site is a little holm a hundred yards in diameter, somewhat larger than the many which line the river's western bank. We found its stony shingle glazed with a light-green sediment, which forbade bathing and which suggested fever. The material is conglomerate, fine and coarse, in an iron-reddened matrix; hence old writers call it a 'sort of gravelly rock, a little above water.' Salsolaceæ tapestry the shore, and fig-trees and young calabashes spring from the stone: the ground is strewn with white shells, tiles, bricks and iridescent bottles--the invariable concomitants and memorials of civilisation. The masonry, lime and ashlar, is excellent, but time and the portentous growth of the tropics have cracked and fissured the walls. Masses of masonry are fallen, and others are assuming the needle-shape. The great quadrangle had lozenge-shaped bastions at each end, then lined with good brick-work: the outliers, which run round the river-holm, were three horseshoe redoubts 'with batteries along the palisades from one to another.' Four old iron guns remained out of a total of sixty to seventy pieces. The features were those of the ancient slave-barracoon --dwelling-houses, tanks and cisterns, magazines, stores, and powder-room, all broken by the treasure-hunter.
The return to Bathurst was a bitter draught. We had wind and water against us, and the thick mist prevented our taking bearings. Hungry, thirsty, weary, cross, and cramped, we reached the steamer at 5 A.M., and slept spitefully as long as we could.
The last displeasure of my latest visit to Bathurst was the crowd of native passengers, daddy, mammy, and piccaninny, embarking for Sierra Leone, and the host of friends that came to bid them good-bye. They did not fail to abscond with M. Colonna's pet terrier and with the steward's potatoes: no surveillance can keep this long-fingered lot from picking and stealing. It is a political as well as a social mistake to take negro first-class passengers. A ruling race cannot be too particular in such matters, and the white man's position on the Coast would be improved were the black man kept in his proper place. A kind of first-class second-class might be invented for them. Nothing less pleasant than their society. The stewards have neglected to serve soup to some negro, who at every meal has edged himself higher up the table, and whose conversation consists of whispering into the ear of a black neighbour, with an occasional guffaw like that of the 'laughing jackass.'
'I say, daddee, I want my soop. All de passenger he drink 'im soop; me no drink my soop. What he mean dis palaver?'
The sentence ends in a scream; the steward smiles, and the first-class resumes--
'Ah, you larf. And what for you larf? I no larf, I no drinkee soop!'
Here the dialogue ends, and men confess by their looks that travelling sometimes does throw us into the strangest society.
Even in Sierra Leone, where the negro claims to be civilised, a dusky belle, after dropping her napkin at a Government House dinner, has been heard to say to her neighbour, 'Please, Mr. Officer-man, pick up my towel.' The other day a dark dame who missed her parasol thus addressed H.E.: 'Grovernah! me come ere wid my umbrellah. Where he be, my umbrellah Give me my umbrelláh: no go widout my umbrelláh.'
For our black and brown passengers, fore and aft, there is a graduated and descending scale of terminology: 1. European, that is, brought up in England; 2. Civilised man; 3. African; 4. Man of colour, the 'cullered pussun' of the United States; 5. Negro; 6. Darkey; and 7. Nigger, which here means slave. All are altogether out of their assiettes. At home they will eat perforce cankey, fufu, kiki, and bad fish, washing them down with mimbo, bamboo-wine, and pitto, hopless beer, the pombe of the East Coast. Here they abuse the best of roast meat, openly sigh for 'palaver-sauce' and 'palm-oil chop,' and find fault with the claret and champagne. Chez eux they wear breech-cloths and nature's stockings--eoco tutto. Here both men and women must dress like Europeans, and a portentous spectacle it is. The horror reaches its height at Sierra Leone, where the pulpit as well as the press should deprecate human beings making such caricatures of themselves,
In West Africa we see three styles of dress. The first, or semi-nude, is that of the Kru-races, a scanty pagne, or waist-wrapper, the dark skin appearing perfectly decent. The second is the ample flowing robe, at once becoming and picturesque, with the shalwar, or wide drawers, of the Moslems from Morocco to the Equator. The third is the hideous Frank attire affected by Sierra Leone converts and 'white blackmen,' as their fellow-darkies call them.
Many of the costumes that made the decks of the s.s. Senegal hideous are de fantaisie, as if the wearers had stripped pegs in East London with the view of appearing at a fancy-ball. The general effect was that of 'perambulating rainbows en petit surmounted by sable thunder-clouds.' One youth, whose complexion unmistakably wore the shadowed livery of the burnished sun, crowned his wool with a scarlet smoking-cap, round which he had wound a white gauze veil. The light of day was not intense, but his skin was doubtless of most delicate texture. Another paraded the deck in a flowing cotton-velvet dressing-gown with huge sleeves, and in bottines of sky-blue cloth. Even an Aku Moslem, who read his Koran, printed in Leipzig, and who should have known better, had mimicked Europeans in this most unbecoming fashion.
Men of substance sported superfine Saxony with the broadest of silk-velvet collars; but the fit suggested second-hand finery. Other elongated cocoa-nuts bore jauntily a black felt of 'pork-pie' order, leek-green billycocks, and anything gaudy, but not neat, in the 'tile'-line. Their bright azure ribbons and rainbow neckties and scarves vied in splendour with the loudest of thunder-and-lightning waistcoats from the land of Moses and Sons. Pants were worn tight, to show the grand thickness of knee, the delicate leanness of calf, the manly purchase of heel, and the waving line of beauty which here distinguishes shin-bones. There were monstrous studs upon a glorious expanse of 'biled' shirt; a small investment of cheap, tawdry rings set off the chimpanzee-like fingers; and, often enough, gloves invested the hands, whose horny, reticulated skin reminded me of the black fowl, or the scaly feet of African cranes pacing at ease over the burning sands. Each dandy had his badine upon whose nice conduct he prided himself; the toothpick was as omnipresent as the crutch, nor was the 'quizzing-glass' quite absent. Lower extremities, of the same category as the hands, but slightly superior in point of proportional size, were crammed into patent-leather boots, the latter looking as if they had been stuffed with some inanimate substance--say the halves of a calf's head. Why cannot these men adopt some modification of the Chinese costume, felt hat and white shoes, drawers, and upper raiment half-shirt, half-doublet? It has more common sense than any other in the world.
It is hardly fair to deride a man's ugliness, but the ugly is fair game when self-obtruded into notice by personal vanity and conceit. Moreover, this form of negro folly is not to be destroyed by gentle raillery; it wants hard words, even as certain tumours require the knife. Such aping of Europeans extends from the physical to the moral man, and in general only the bad habits, gambling, drinking, and debauching, are aped.
The worst and not the least hideous were the mulattos, of whom the negroes say they are silver and copper, not gold. It is strange, passing strange, that English blood, both in Africa and in India, mixes so badly for body and mind (brain) with the native. It is not so with the neo-Latin nations of Southern Europe and the Portuguese of the Brazil. For instance, compare the pretty little coloured girls of Pondicherry and Mahé with their sister half-castes the Chichis of Bengal and Bombay.
As for the section conventionally called 'fair,' and unpolitely termed by Cato the 'chattering, finery-loving, ungovernable sex,' I despair to depict it. When returning north in the A.S.S. Winnebah, we carried on board a dark novice of the Lyons sisterhood. She looked perfectly ladylike in her long black dress and the white wimple which bound her hair under the sable mantilla. But the feminines on board the Senegal bound for Sierra Leone outrage all our sense of fitness by their frightful semi-European gowns of striped cottons and chintzes; by their harlequin shawls and scarves thrown over jackets which show more than neck and bare arms to the light of day, and by the head-gear which looks like devils seen in dreams after a heavy supper of underdone pork. Africa lurks in the basis: the harsh and wiry hair is gathered into lumps, which to the new comer suggest only bears' ears, and into chignons resembling curled up hedge-hogs. Around it is twisted a kerchief of arsenic-green, of sanguineous-crimson, or of sulphur-yellow; and this would be unobjectionable if it covered the whole head, like the turban of the Mina negress in Brazilian Bahia. But it must be capped with a hat or bonnet of straw, velvet, satin, or other stuff, shabby in the extreme, and profusely adorned with old and tattered ribbons and feathers, with beads and bugles, with flowers and fruits. The tout ensemble would scare any crow, however bold.
I am aware that the sex generally is somewhat persistent in its ideas of personal decoration, and that there is truth in the African proverb, 'If your head is not torn off you will wear a head-dress,' corresponding with our common saying, 'Better out of the world than out of the fashion.' But this nuisance, I repeat, should be abated with a strong hand by the preacher as well as by the pressman. The women and the children are well enough as Nature made them: they make themselves mere caricatures, figures o' fun, guys, frights. If this fact were brought home to them by those whose opinions they value, they might learn a little common sense and good taste. And yet--wait a moment--may they not sometimes say the same of us? But our monstrosities are original, theirs are borrowed.
The 'mammies' at once grouped themselves upon the main-hatch, as near the quarter-deck and officers' cabins as possible. I can hardly understand how Englishmen take a pleasure in 'chaffing' these grotesque beings, who usually reply with some gross, outrageous insolence. At the best they utter impertinences which, issuing from a big and barbarous mouth in a peculiar patois, pass for pleasantry amongst those who are not over-nice about the quality of that article. The tone of voice is peculiar; it is pitched in the usual savage key, modified by the twang of the chapel and by the cantilene of the Yankee--originally Puritan Lancashire. Hence a 'new chum' may hear the women talking for several days before he finds out that they are talking English. And they speak two different dialects. The first, used with strangers, is 'blackman's English,'intelligible enough despite the liberties it takes with pronunciation, grammar, and syntax. The second is a kind of 'pidgin English,' spoken amongst themselves, like Bolognese or Venetians when they have some reason for not talking Italian. One of the Gospels was printed in it; I need hardly say with what effect. The first verse runs, 'Lo vo famili va Jesus Christus, pikien. (piccaninny) va David, dissi da pikien va Abraham.' [Footnote: Da Njoe Testament, &c. Translated into the negro-English language by the missionaries of the Unitas Fratrum, &c. Printed by the British and Foreign Bible Society. London: W. McDowall, Pemberton Row, 1829.]
This 'pidgin English' runs down West Africa, except the Gold Coast and about Accra, where the natives have learnt something better. The principal affirmation is 'Enh,' pronounced nanny-goat fashion, and they always answer 'Yes' to a negative question: e.g. Q. 'Didn't you go then?' A. 'Yes' (sub-audi, I did not), thus meaning 'No.' 'Na,' apparently an interrogative in origin, is used pleonastically on all occasions: 'You na go na steamer?' 'Enty' means indeed; 'too much,' very; 'one time,' once; and the sign of the vocative, as in the Southern States of the Union, follows the, word:' Daddy, oh!' 'Mammy, oh!' 'Puss,' or 'tittle,' is a girl, perhaps a pretty girl; 'babboh,' a boy. 'Hear' is to obey or understand; 'look,' to see; 'catch,' to have; 'lib,' to live, to be, to be found, or to enjoy good health: it is applied equally to inanimates. 'Done lib' means die; 'sabby' (Portuguese) is to know; 'chop,' to eat; 'cut the cry,' to end a wake; 'jam head,' or 'go for jam head,' to take counsel; 'palaver (Port.) set,' to end a dispute; to 'cut yamgah' is to withhold payment, and to 'make nyanga' is to junket. 'Yam' is food; 'tummach' (Port.) is the metaphorical heart; 'cockerapeak' is early dawn, when the cock speaks; all writing, as well as printing, is a 'book;' a quarrel is a 'bob;' and all presents are a 'dash,' 'dassy' in Barbot, and 'dashs' in Ogilby. All bulls are cows, and when you would specify sex you say 'man-cow' or 'woman-cow.' [Footnote: For amusing specimens of amatory epistles the reader will consult Mrs. Melville and the Ten Years' Wanderings among the Ethiopians (p. 19), by my old colleague, Mr. Consul Hutchinson.]
These peculiarities, especially the grammatical, are not mere corruptions: they literally translate the African dialects now utterly forgotten by the people. And they are more interesting than would at first appear. Pure English, as a language, is too difficult in all points to spread far and wide. 'Pidgin English' is not. Already the Chinese have produced a regular lingua franca, and the Japanese have reduced it to a system of grammar. If we want only a medium of conversation, a tongue can be reduced to its simplest expression and withal remain intelligible. Thus 'me' may serve for I, me, my. Verbs want no modal change to be understood. 'Done go' and 'done eat' perfectly express went and ate. Something of the kind is still wanted, and must be supplied if we would see our language become that of the commercial world in the East as it is fast becoming in the West.
We left Bathurst more than ever convinced that the sooner we got rid of the wretched station, miscalled a colony, the better. It still supplies hides from the tipper country, ivory, bees'-wax, and a little gold. The precious metal is found, they say, in the red clay hills near Macarthy's Island; but the quality is not pure, nor is the quantity sufficient to pay labour. The Mandengas, locally called 'gold strangers,' manage the traffic with the interior, probably the still mysterious range called the 'Kong Mountains.' They are armed with knives, sabres, and muskets; and for viaticum they carry rude rings of pure gold, which, I am told, are considered more valuable than the dust.
But the staple export from Bathurst--in fact, nine-tenths of the total--consists of the arachide, pistache, pea-nut, or ground-nut (Arachis hypogœa). It is the beat quality known to West Africa; and, beginning some half a century ago, large quantities are shipped for Marseilles, to assist in making salad-oil. Why this 'olive-oil' has not been largely manufactured in England I cannot say. Thus the French have monopolised the traffic of the Gambia; they have five houses, and the three English, Messrs. Brown, Goddard, and Topp, export their purchases in French bottoms to French ports.
Moreover, the treaty of 1845, binding the 'high contracting Powers' to refrain from territorial aggrandisement (much like forbidding a growing boy to grow), expired in 1855. Since that time, whilst we have refrained even from abating the nuisance of native wars, our very lively neighbours have annexed the Casamansa River, with the fine coffee-lands extending from the Nunez southwards to the Ponga River, and have made a doughty attempt to absorb Matacong, lying a few miles north of Sierra Leone.
Whilst English Gambia is monopolised by the French, French Gaboon is, or rather was, in English hands. For a score of years men of sense have asked, 'Why not exchange the two?' When nations so decidedly rivalistic meet, assuredly it is better to separate à l'aimable. Moreover, so long as our economical and free-trade 'fads' endure, it is highly advisable to avoid the neighbourhood of France and invidious comparisons between its policy and our non-policy, or rather impolicy.
According to the best authorities, the whole of the West African coast north of Sierra Leone might be ceded with advantage to the French on condition of our occupying the Gaboon and the regions, coast and islands, south of it, except where the land belongs to the Portuguese and the Spaniards. Some years ago an energetic effort was made to effect the exchange, but it was frustrated by missionary and sentimental considerations. Those who opposed the idea shuddered at the thought of making over to a Romanist Power (?) the poor converts of Protestantism; the peoples who had been peaceful and happy so long under the protecting aegis of Great Britain; the races whom we were bound, by an unwritten contract, not only to defend, but to civilise, to advance in the paths of progress. The colonists feared to part with the old effete possession, lest the French should oppose, as they have done in Senegal, all foreign industry--in fact, 'seal up' the Gambia. A highly respectable merchant, the late Mr. Brown, contributed not a little, by his persuasive pen, to defeat the proposed measure. And now it is to be feared that we have heard the last of this matter; our rivals have found out the high value of their once despised equatorial colony. If ever the exchange comes again to be discussed, I hope that we shall secure by treaty or purchase an exclusively British occupation of Grand Bassam and the Assini valley, mere prolongations of our Protectorate on the Gold Coast. A future page will show the reason why our imperial policy requires the measure. At present both stations are occupied by French houses or companies, who will claim indemnification, and who can in justice demand it.
We steamed out of the Ruined River-port, and left 'this old sandbank in Africa they call St. Mary's Isle,' at 11 A.M. on January 16, with a last glance at the Commissariat-buildings. Accompanied by a mosquito-fleet of canoes, each carrying two sails, we stood over the bar, sighting the heavy breakers which defend the island's northern face, and passed Cape St. Mary, gradually dimming in the distance. After Bald Cape, some sixty miles south, we ran along the long low shore, distinguished only by the mouths and islands of the Casamansa and the Cachéo rivers. Our course then led us by the huge and hideous archipelago off the delta of Jeba and the Bolola, the latter being the 'Rio Grande' of Camoens, which Portuguese editors will print with small initials, and which translators mistranslate accordingly. [Footnote: The Lusiads, v. 12. I have noticed this error in Camoens: his Life and his Lusiads (vol. i. p. 896. London: Quaritch, 1881). It was probably called Grande because it was generally believed to be the southern outlet of the Niger.] These islands are the Bijougas, or Bissagos, the older 'Biziguiches,' inhabited by the most ferocious negroes on the coast, who massacred the Portuguese and who murder all castaways. They are said to shoot one another as Malays 'run amok,' and some of their tribal customs are peculiar to themselves.
Here, about 350 miles north of Sierra Leone, was established the unfortunate Bulama colony. Its first and last governor, the redoubtable Captain Philip Beaver, R.N., has left the queerest description of the place and its people. [Footnote: African Memoranda. Baldwin, London, 1805.] Within eighteen months only six remained of 269 souls, including women and children. In 1792 the island was abandoned, despite its wealth of ground-nuts. After long 'palavering' it was again occupied by Mr. Budge, manager of Waterloo Station, Sierra Leone; but he was not a fixture there. It is now, I believe, once more deserted.
Early next morning we were off the Isles de Los, properly Dos Idolos (of the Idols). On my return northwards I had an opportunity of a nearer view. The triad of parallel rock-lumps, sixty miles north of Sierra Leone, is called Tama, or Footabar, to the west; Ruma, or Crawford, a central and smaller block of some elevation; and Factory Island, the largest, five or six miles long by one broad, and nearest the shore. Their aspect is not unpleasant: the features are those of the Sierra Leone peninsula, black rocks, reefs, and outliers, underlying ridges of red soil; and the land is feathered to the summit with palms, rising from stubbly grass, here and there patched black by the bush-fire. A number of small villages, with thatched huts like beehives, are scattered along the shore. The census of 1880 gives the total figures at 1,300 to 1,400, and of these 800 inhabit Factory Island. Mr. J. M. Metzger, the civil and intelligent sub-collector and custom-house officer, a Sierra Leone man, reduced the number to 600, half of them occupying the easternmost of the three. He had never heard of the golden treasures said to have been buried here by Roberts the pirate, the Captain (Will.) Kidd of these regions.
In our older and more energetic colonial days we had a garrison on the Isles de Los. They found the climate inferior to the Banana group, off Cape Shilling. Factory Island still deserves its name. Here M. Verminck, of Marseille, the successor of King Heddle, has a factory on the eastern side, an establishment managed by an agent and six clerks, with large white dwellings, store-houses, surf-boats, and a hulk to receive his palm-oil. The latter produces the finest prize-cockroaches I have yet seen.
My lack of strength did not allow me to inspect the volcanic craters said to exist in these strips, or to visit any of the 'devil-houses.' Mr. G. Neville, agent of the steamers at Lagos, gave me an account of his trip. Landing near the French factory, he walked across the island in fifteen minutes, followed the western coast-line, turned to the south-west, descended a hollow, and found the place of sacrifice. Large boulders, that looked as if shaken down by an earthquake, stood near one another. There were neither idols nor signs of paganism, except that the floor, which resembled the dripstone of Tenerife, was smoothed by the feet of the old worshippers. When steaming round the south-western point we saw--at least so it was said--the famous 'devil-house' which gave the islands their Portuguese name.
Factory is divided by a narrow strait from Tumbo Island, and the latter faces the lands occupied by the Susus. These equestrian tribes, inhabiting a grassy plain, were originally Mandengas, who migrated south to the Mellikuri, Furikaria, and Sumbuyah countries, and who intermarried with the aboriginal Bulloms, Tonko-Limbas, and Baggas. All are Moslems, and their superior organisation enabled them to prevail against the pagan Timnis, who in 1858-59 applied to the Government of Sierra Leone for help, and received it. Of late years the chances of war have changed, and the heathenry are said to have gained the upper hand. The Susus are an industrious tribe, and they trade with our colony in gum, ground-nuts, and benni, or sesamum-seed.
It is uncommonly pleasant to leave these hotbeds and once more to breathe the cool, keen breath of the Trades, laden with the health of the broad Atlantic.
CHAPTER XI. SIERRA LEONE: THE CHANGE FOR THE BETTER.Edit
After a pleasant run, not in a 'sultry and tedious Pacific,' covering 490 miles from Bathurst, we sighted a heavy cloud banking up the southern horizon. As we approached it resolved itself into its three component parts, the airy, the earthy, and the watery; and it turned out to be our destination. The old frowze of warm, water-laden nimbus was there; everything looked damp and dank, lacking sweetness and sightliness; the air wanted clearing, the ground cleaning, and the sea washing. Such on January 17, 1882, was the first appearance of the redoubtable Sierra Leone. It was a contrast to the description by the learned and painstaking Winterbottom. [Footnote: An Account of the Native Africans im the Neighbourhood of Sierra Leone, etc. London, Hatchard, 1803.] 'On a nearer approach the face of the country assumes a more beautiful aspect. The rugged appearance of these mountains is softened by the lively verdure with which they are constantly crowned (?); their majestic forms (?), irregularly advancing and receding, occasion huge masses of light and shade to be projected from their sides, which add a degree of picturesque grandeur to the scene.'
And first of the name. Pedro de Cintra (1480), following Soeiro da Costa (1462-63), is said to have applied 'Sierra Leone' to the mountain-block in exchange for the 'Romarong' of its Timni owners. He did nothing of the kind: our English term is a mere confusion of two neo-Latin tongues, 'Sierra' being Spanish and 'Leone' Italian. The Portuguese called it Serra da Leôa (of the Lioness), not 'Lion Hill.' [Footnote: So the late Keith Johnston, Africa, who assigns to the apex a height of 2,500 feet.] Hence Milton is hardly worse than his neighbours when he writes--
Notus and Afer, black with thund'rous clouds From Serraliona;
and the old French 'Serrelionne' was the most correct translation. The reason is disputed; some invoke the presence of the Queen of the Cats, others the leonine rumbling of the re-echoed thunder. The latter suggested the Montes Claros of the Portuguese. Cà da Mosto in 1505 tells us that the explorers 'gave the name of Sierra Leone to the mountain on account of the roaring of thunder heard from the top, which is always buried in clouds.' But the traveller, entering the roadstead, may see in the outline of Leicester Cone a fashion of maneless lion or lioness couchant with averted head, the dexter paw protruding in the shape of a ground-bulge and the contour of the back and crupper tapering off north-eastwards. At any rate, it is as fair a resemblance as the French lion of Bastia and the British lion of 'Gib.' Meanwhile those marvellous beings the 'mammies' call 'the city' 'Sillyown,' and the pretty, naughty mulatto lady married to the Missing Link termed it 'Sa Leone.' I shall therefore cleave to the latter, despite 'Mammy Gumbo's' box inscribed 'Sa leone.'
Presently the lighthouse, four to five miles distant from the anchorage, was seen nestling at the base of old Cabo Ledo, the 'Glad Head,' the Timni 'Miyinga,' now Cape 'Sa Leone.' Round this western point the sea and the discharge of two rivers run like a mill-race. According to Barbot (ii. 1) 'the natives call Cabo Ledo (not Liedo) or Tagrin (Cape Sa Leone) 'Hesperi Cornu,' the adjoining peoples (who are lamp-black) Leucsethiopes, and the mountain up the country Eyssadius Mons.' All the merest conjecture! Mr. Secretary Griffith, of whom more presently, here finds the terminus of the Periplus of Hanno, the Carthaginian, in the sixth century B.C., and the far-famed gorilla-land. [Footnote: This I emphatically deny. Hanno describes an eruption, not a bush-fire, and Sa Leone never had a volcano within historic times. There is no range fit to be called Theôn Ochema (Vehicle of the Gods), which Ptolemy places on the site of Camarones Peak, and there is no Notou Keras, or Horn of the South. Lastly, there is no island that could support the gorilla: we must go further south for one, to Camarones and Corisoo in the Bight of Benin.]
Formerly the red-tipped lantern-tower had attached to it a bungalow, where invalids resorted for fresh air; it has now fallen to pieces, and two iron seats have taken its place. Over this western end of the peninsula's northern face the play of the sea-breeze is strong and regular; and the wester and north-wester blow, as at Freetown, fifty days out of sixty. The run-in from this point is picturesque in clear weather, and it must have been beautiful before the luxuriant forest was felled for fuel, and the land was burnt for plantations which were never planted. A few noble trees linger beside and behind the lighthouse, filling one with regret for the wanton destruction of their kind. Lighthouse Hillock, which commands the approach to the port, and which would sweep the waters as far as the Sá Leone River, will be provided with powerful batteries before the next maritime war. And we must not forget that Sá Leone is our only harbour of refuge, where a fleet can water and refit, between the Gambia and the Cape of Good Hope.
The northern face of the Sá Leone peninsula is fretted with little creeks and inlets, bights and lagoons, which were charming in a state of nature. Pirate's Bay, the second after the lighthouse, is a fairy scene under a fine sky; with its truly African tricolor, its blue waters reflecting air, its dwarf cliffs of laterite bespread with vivid leek-green, and its arc of golden yellow sand, upon which the feathery tops of the cocoa-palms look like pins planted in the ground. To the travelled man the view suggests many a nook in the Pacific islands. The bathing is here excellent: natural breakwaters of black rock exclude the shark. The place derives its gruesome name from olden days, when the smooth waters and the abundant fish and fruit tempted the fiery filibusters to a relache. It was given in 1726 by Mr. Smith, surveyor to the Royal African Company, after Roberts the pirate, who buried 'his loot' in the Isles de Los, had burned an English ship. There is also a tradition that Drake chose it for anchoring.
Beyond Pirate's Bay, and separated by a bushy and wooded point, lies Aberdeen Creek, a long reach extending far into the interior, and making, after heavy rains, this portion of the country
Both land and island twice a day.
The whole site of Sa Leone is quasi-insular. Bunce or Bunch River to the north, and Calamart or Calmont, usually called Campbell's Creek, from the south, are said to meet at times behind the mountain-mass; and at all seasons a portage of a mile enables canoes to paddle round the hill-curtain behind Freetown. This conversion of peninsula into islet is by no means rare in the alluvial formations further south.
Aberdeen Creek abounds in sunken rocks, which do not, however, prevent a ferry-boat crossing it. Governor Rowe began a causeway to connect it with the next village, and about a third of the length has already been done by convict labour. Aberdeen village is a spread of low thatched huts, lining half-cleared roads by courtesy called streets. Murray Town and Congo Town bring us to King Tom's Point. Here is the old Wesleyan College, a large whitewashed bungalow with shingled roof, upper jalousies, and lower arches; the band of verdure in front being defended from the waves by a dwarf sea-wall and a few trees still lingering around it. The position is excellent: the committee, however, sold it because the distance was too great for the boys to walk, and bought a fitter place near Battery Point. Thus it became one of the many Government stores. A deep indentation now shows Upper Town or Kru Town, heaps of little thatched hovels divided by remnants of bush. It is, despite its brook, one of the impurest sites in the colony: nothing can teach a Kruman cleanliness; a Slav village is neatness itself compared with his. This foul colony settled early in Sá Leone, and in 1816 an ordinance was passed enabling it to buy its bit of land. The present chief is 'King' Tom Peter, who is also a first-class police-constable under the Colonial Grovernment; and his subjects hold themselves far superior to their brethren in the old home down coast. 'We men work for cash-money; you men work for waist-cloth.' Again 'pig-iron and tenpenny nails!'
Beyond this point, at a bend of the bight, we anchor a few hundred feet from the shore, and we command a front view of roadstead and 'city.' St. George's Bay, the older 'Baie de France,' would be impossible but for the Middle Ground, the Scarcies Bank, and other huge shoals of sand pinned down by rocks which defend the roadstead from the heavy send of the sea. It is supplied with a tide-rip by the Tagrin, Mitomba, Rokel, or Rokelle, the Sá Leone River, which Barbot makes the ancients term Nia (Nia), and which the Timni tribe call Robung Dakell, or Stream of Scales. Hence some identify it with Pliny's 'flumen Bambotum crocodilis et hippopotamis refertum.' Its northern bank is the low Bullom shore, a long flat line of mud and mangrove, on which all the fevers, Tertiana, Quartana, and Co., hold their court. The sea-facing dot is Leopard, anciently Leopold, Island, where it is said a leopard was once seen: it is, however, a headland connected by a sandspit with the leeward-most point of the coast. The Bullom country takes a name after its tribe. A score of years ago I was told they were wild as wild can be: now the chief, Alimami (El-Imám) Sanúsi, hospitably receives white faces at his capital, Callamondia. Moreover, a weekly post passes through Natunu to Kaikonki via Yongro, Proboh, and Bolloh.
Inland (east) of the Bulloms, or lowlanders, dwell the Timnis, who drove to seaward the quondam lords of the land. Kissy, Sherbro, and Casamansa are all named from their 'Reguli.' They retain a few traditional words, such as 'potu,' meaning a European: similarly in Central Africa the King of Portugal is entitled Mueneputo. Butter is also 'Mantinka,' the Lusitanian Mantêiga, and a candle is Kandirr. Although 'the religion of Islam seems likely to diffuse itself peaceably over the whole district in which the colony (Sá Leone) is situated, carrying with it those advantages which seem ever to have attended its victory over negro superstition,' [Footnote: Report of Directors of Sierra Leone Company to the House of Commons, quoted by Winterbottom and the Rev. Mr. Macbriar.] the tribe has remained pagan.
Buttressing the southern shore of the Rokel's débouchure is a dwarf Ghaut, a broken line of sea-subtending highlands, stretching south-south-east some eighteen miles from Cape Sá Leone to Cape Shilling. Inland of these heights the ground is low. The breadth of the peninsula is about twelve miles, which would give it an area of 300 square miles, larger than the Isle of Wight. There are, besides it, the Kwiah (Quiah) country, British Sherbro, an important annexation dated 1862; the Isles de Los, the Bananas, and a strip of land on the Bullom shore,--additions which more than treble the old extent.
The peninsula is distinctly volcanic, and subject to earthquakes: the seismic movement of 1858 extended to the Gold Coast, and was a precursor of the ruins of 1862. [Footnote: For the older earthquakes see Winterbottom, i, 34-5.] Its appearance, however, is rather that of a sandstone region, the effect of the laterite or volcanic mud which, in long past ages, has been poured over the plutonic ejections; and the softly rounded contours, with here and there a lumpy cone, a tongue of land, and a gentle depression, show the long-continued action of water and weather. This high background, which arrests the noxious vapours of the lowlands and of the Bullom shore, and which forbids a thorough draught, is the fons malorum, the grand cause of the fevers and malaria for which the land has an eternal ill fame. The 'Sultan' of the Ghauts is Regent Mountain, or Sugarloaf Peak, a kind of lumpy 'parrot's beak' which rises nearly 3,000 feet above sea-level: one rarely sees even its base. The trip to the summit occupies two days; and here wild coffee is said to flourish, as it does at Kwiah and other parts of the lowland. The 'Wazir' is Wilberforce, which supports sundry hamlets set in dense bush; and Leicester Cone, the lioness-hill, ranks third. The few reclaimed patches, set in natural shrubbery, are widely scattered: the pure, unsophisticated African is ever ashamed of putting hand to hoe or plough; and, where the virgin soil would grow almost everything, we cannot see a farm and nothing is rarer than a field. Firing the bush also has been unwisely allowed: hence the destruction of much valuable timber and produce; for instance, tallow-trees and saponaceous nut-trees, especially the Pentadesma butyracea, and the noble forest which once clothed the land from Sá Leone to the Niger.
Looking towards the Rokel River, we see the Fourah Bay and College, a large and handsome building, now terribly out of repair. This establishment, the 'Farran's House' of old maps, is well known to readers of propagandist works; it opened on February 18, 1828, with six pupils, one of whom was the 'boy Ajai,' now Bishop Crowther of the Niger territory. The Church Missionary Society has spent upon it a small treasury of money; at present it ranks as a manner of university, having been affiliated in May 1876 to that of Durham. Sealed papers are sent out from England, but perhaps the local examiners are easy distributors of B.A.s and so forth to the golden youth of Sá Leone. It is free to all, irrespective of religious denomination, a liberal concession which does it high honour. The academical twelve-month has three terms; and there are three scholarships, each worth 40l. per annum, open for competition every year. Not bad for a maximum of sixteen students, whose total is steadily diminishing. College evening-classes are held for the benefit of those who must work by day; and charges are exceedingly moderate, the admission fee being 10s. 6d. The Society proposes, they say, to give it up. It may be wanted half a century hence. [Footnote: An annual report is published. Those curious on the subject will consult it.]
West of Fourah College, and separated, longo intervallo, by an apparently unbroken bush, is Bishop's Court, where the Right Reverend lives as long as he can or will. Nearer the 'city' lies the deep little bight called Susan or Sawpit Bay. It is also known as Destruction Bay--a gloomy name--where ships caught carrying 'bales,' or 'dry goods,' or 'blackbirds,' were broken up. Twenty years ago traces of their ruins were still seen. Susan is now provided with a large factory: here 'factories' do not manufacture. A host of boats and dug-outs, a swarm of natives like black ants, a long wooden jetty, and some very tall houses denote the place where Messrs. Randall and Fisher store and sell their Kola-nuts. This astringent, the Gora of old writers (Sterculia acuminata), acts in Africa like the Brazilian Guaraná, the Kát (Catha edulis) of southern Arabia, the Betel-nut of Hindostan, and the opium of China, against which certain bigots, with all the presumption of utter ignorance, have been, and still are, waging an absurd war. Sá Leone exported 3,445l. worth of Kola-nuts in 1860; in 1870 10,400l.; and, in 1880, 24,422l. The demand therefore increases and will increase. [Footnote: Mr. Griffith says, 'The Mohammedans of Africa have a singular belief that if they die with a portion of this nut in their stomach their everlasting happiness is secured.' This must be some fanciful Christian tale. Amongst them, however, the red Kola, when sent to the stranger, denotes war, the white Kola peace.]
In Susan Bay there is a good coal-shed with a small supply for the use of the colonial steamer. A store of compressed coal is on the town-front and heaps used to lie about King Tom's Point. A hulk was proposed and refused. It is now intended to increase the quantity, for the benefit of future companies, especially the 'Castle Line,' which talks of sending their steamers to Sá Leone. I hope they will so do; more competition is much wanted. But the coal-depôt may prove dangerous. The mineral in the tropics produces by its exhalations fatal fevers, especially that exaggerated form of bilious-remittent popularly known as 'Yellow Jack.' It is certain that in places like West Indian St. Thomas the neighbourhood of the coal-sheds is more unhealthy, without apparent reason, than the sites removed from it.
And now we reach Freetown proper, which may be called Cathedral-Town or Jail-Town. At a distance the 'Liverpool' or 'London of West Africa,' as the lieges wildly entitle it, is not unpicturesque; but the style of beauty is that of a baronial castle on the Rhine with an unpensioned proprietor, ruinous and tumbledown. After Las Palmas and Santa Cruz it looks like a dingy belle who has seen better and younger days; and who, moreover, has forgotten her paint. She has suffered severely from the abolition of the export slave-trade, in whose palmy times she supplied many a squadron, and she will not be comforted for the loss.
The colours of the houses are various; plain white is rare, and the prevailing tints are the light-brick of the fresh laterite and the dark rusty ochre of the old. But all are the same in one point, the mildewed, cankered, gangrened aspect, contrasting so unfavourably with the whitewashed port-towns of the Arabs. The upper stories of wood-work based on masonry, the fronting piazzas or galleries, the huge plank-balconies, and the general use of shingle roofs--in fact, the quantity of tinder-timber, reminding one of olden Cairo, are real risks: some of the best houses have been destroyed by fire; and, as in Valparaiso and the flue-warmed castles of England, it is only a question of time when the inmates will be houseless. Thanks to the form of ground, the townlet is well laid out, with a gradual rake towards the bay. But there is no marine parade, and the remarkably uneven habitations crowd towards the water-front, like those of Eastern ports, thinning off and losing style inland. The best are placed to catch the 'Doctor,' or sea-breeze: here, as at Zanzibar, the temperature out of the wind becomes unendurable.
Freetown lies upon a gentle declivity, a slope of laterite and diluvium washed down from the higher levels. The ground is good for drainage, but the soft and friable soil readily absorbs the deluging torrents of rain, and as readily returns them to the air in the shape of noxious vapours. The shape is triangular. The apex is 'Tower Hill,' so named from a ruined martello, supposed to have been built by the Dutch, and till lately used for stores. The barracks, which lodge one of the West India regiments, are six large blocks crowning the hill-crest and girt with a low and loopholed wall. In winter, or rather in the December summer, the slopes are clad in fine golden stubbles, the only spectacle of the kind which this part of the coast affords. Though not more than four hundred feet or so above sea-level, the barracks are free from yellow fever; and in the years when the harbour-town has been almost depopulated the only fatal cases were those brought up from below. Moreover, the disease did not spread. The officers' quarters, with cool and lofty rooms, twenty feet high, are surrounded by shady and airy piazzas or verandahs, where the wind, when there is any, must find its way. For many years they had jalousies and half-windows instead of glass, which forced the inmates to sit in outer darkness during tornadoes and the Rains. The garrison, like the town, owes an eternal debt of gratitude to Governor J. Pope Henessy. Seeing the main want of Sá Leone, he canalised in 1872, with the good aid of Mr. Engineer Jenkins, a fine fountain rising below 'Heddle's Farm,' enabling the barracks to have a swimming-bath and the townsfolk to lay on, through smaller pipes, a fair supply of filtered water. For this alone he amply deserves a statue; but colonies, like republics, are rarely grateful.
The sea-front of the triangle, whose lowest houses are sprinkled by the wave-spray, is bounded on the east by Battery Point. It is a grassy flat with a few fine trees, and benches ever black with the native lounger. Here the regimental band plays on Wednesdays; an occasional circus pitches its tents, and 'beauty and fashion' flock to see and be seen. The many are on foot; the few use Bath-chairs or machilas, --fautenils hung to a pole. The only carriage in the place belongs to the Governor, and he lost no time in losing one of his horses. Riding is apparently unknown.
The Battery is the old Fort Falconbridge. A worm-eaten gun or two, far more dangerous to those in rear than to those in front, rises en barbette. The affair would fall in half an hour before the mildest of gunboats. Yet by fortifying three points at an expense of some 6,000£ to 8,000£ Sá Leone might be decently defended. The first is Lighthouse Point, along which ships entering and leaving perforce must run; the second would be King Tom's Point, flanking the harbour-front; and the third would be Johnson's Battery, where salutes are now fired, a work lying above Government House upon a spur of Barrack Hill. Needless to say all three would want the heaviest guns.
Running the eye west of the Battery, a few wooden houses or sheds, some of them overhanging the dwarf cliff, the black rocks, and the red-yellow sands, lead to Taylor's warehouses, a huge pile of laterite still unfinished. Here the traditional 'man and boy' may sometimes be seen working in the cooler and more comfortable hours. Beyond it, on a level with the water, stands the new camber, where we shall land. Then comes the huge block built by Mr. Charles Heddle, of Hoy, who by grace of a large fortune, honourably made at Freetown, has become proprietor of a noble château and broad lands in France. It has now been converted into the Crown commissariat-store. The sea-frontage has a clear fall of eighty feet, whereas, from the street behind the wooden upper story, it appears below the average height. Very mean are the custom-house and adjoining coal-shed. Governor 'Dangan's Wharf,' a contemptible jetty, and its puny lighthouse have at length made way for a quay, along which ships, despite sunken rocks, were expected to lie; but the sea soon broke down the perpendicular wall, and now it is being rebuilt with a 'batter.' A hollow square behind it shows the workmen blasting the material, a fine-grained grey granite, which seems here, as at Axim, to be the floor-rock of the land. No wonder that the new harbour-works have cost already 70,000l., of which 50,637l. are still owed, and that the preposterous wharfage-duty is 10s. per ton. To avoid this and the harbour-dues, ships anchor, whenever they safely can, in the offing, where the shoals are Nature's breakwaters. West of the quarry-hollow, in my day a little grassy square, are the old Commissariat-quarters, now a bonded warehouse. This building is also a long low cottage viewed from inland, and a tall, grim structure seen from the sea. On a higher level stands St. George's, once a church, but years ago promoted to a cathedral-dignity, making Freetown proud as Barchester Towers. We shall presently pass it and its caricature, the pert little Wesleyan church to its east. The extreme west of the triangle-base is occupied by the gaol. No longer a 'barn-like structure faced by a black wall,' it is a lengthy scatter of detached buildings, large enough to accommodate half the population, and distinguished by its colour, a light ashen grey. Behind this projecting site lies King Jimmy's Bridge, a causeway through whose central arch a stream of sparkling water winds its way seawards.
Below King Jimmy's Bridge is the only antiquity which Sá Leone knows. Here, according to some, Sir Francis Drake, the discoverer of California and her gold, the gallant knight of whom the Virgin Queen said that 'his actions did him more honour than his title,' left his name upon the buttress of primitive rock. Others have (correctly?) attributed the inscription to Sir John Hawkins, the old naval worthy whose name still blossoms in the dust at Sá Leone as the 'first slaver.' The waters and the tramp of negro feet have obliterated the epigraph, which was, they say, legible forty years ago. The rock is covered with griffonages; and here some well-cut square letters easily read--
M. A. RVITER. VICE-AMIRALL- VAN-HOLLANT.
Near this 'written rock' is King James's Well, a pure stream which in former times supplied the shipping.
The scene in the harbour is by no means lively, although the three or four dismantled merchant-craft, dreary as the settlement, have now disappeared. A little white-painted colonial steamer, a dwarf paddle-wheeler, the Prince of Wales, lies moping and solitary off foul Krutown Bay. At times a single gunboat puts in an appearance. There may be a French steamer with a blue anchor on a white flag bound for Sherbro, or the Isles de Los; and a queer Noah's Ark kind of craft, belonging to Mr. Broadhurst, a partner in Randall and Fisher's, runs to the river Scarcies and others. These are the grandees of the waters. The middle class is composed of Porto Loko [Footnote: Porto Loko--not Locco--derives its name from a locust-tree, whose fruit is an ingredient in 'palaver sauce;' and Winterbottom (I.4), who calls it Logo, derives the word from the land of that name.] boats, which affect the streams and estuaries. Originally canoes, they were improved to the felucca-type of the Portuguese, and the hulls reminded Cameron and myself of the Zanzibarian 'Mtepe.' A strong standing-awning of wood occupies the sternward third; the masts number two or three, with a short jib, and there are six oars on each side, worked by men on foot, who alternately push and pull--a thoroughly novel process in rowing. The Sá Leone boats which carry passengers on shore are carefully named, but apparently never washed: they want the sunshades of the Bathurst craft. The commonalty of the sea is the host of dug-outs, in which the sable fisherman, indolently thrown back, props his feet upon the gunwales and attaches a line to each big toe. These men land little more than enough for their own subsistence, and the market-supply is infinitesimal compared with what industry and proper appliances might produce.
The background of the 'city' is a green curtain of grass and fruit-trees, amongst which predominate the breadfruit, an early introduction; the prim dark mango, somewhat like an orange multiplied by two, or three, and palms, ever present in equinoctial lowlands. On the heights above the settlement there is room for cool country-seats, where European exiles might live comparatively safe from fever and the more deadly dysentery. A white lodge peeping from a densely wooded mountain-flank, originally Carnes's Farm and now Heddle's Farm, was called Mount Oriel (Oriole?) by Mrs. Melville, the wife of a pensioned judge of the Mixed Customs Court, who lived here seven years. Her sketch of a sojourn upon the Lioness Range is not tempting: young gentlemen who intend leading brides to the deadly peninsula should hide the book from their fair intendeds. I cannot, however, but admire the 'word-painting' of the scenery and the fidelity of those descriptions concerning which I have a right to form an opinion. The book [Footnote: A Residence in Sierra Leone. By a Lady. London: Murray, 1849.] was edited by the late Mrs. Caroline Norton.
Though not more than 550 feet above sea-level, the climate of Heddle's Farm is said to be wholly different from that of the lower town. The property was bought by Government for a song, and now it occasionally lodges a sick governor or a convalescent officer. During my last visit the Sa Leonites spoke of building a sanatorium at Wilberforce village, alias Signal Hill, where a flag announces the approach of vessels. The tenement rose to nearly the first story, when it stopped short for want of funds. Now they talk of a white regiment being stationed at the 'White Man's Grave,' and propose barracks high up the hills beyond sight of the town-frontage. The site was pointed out to me where the artillery-range now is, and beyond where a dwarf thatch shows the musketry-ground of the West India regiment. We shall sight from afar, when steaming out southwards, the three white dots which represent quarters on Leicester Cone; now they are hidden in frowsy fog-clouds. But all these heights have one and the same disadvantage. You live in a Scotch mist, you breathe as much water as air, and you exchange fever and dysentery for rheumatism, and lumbago, and all that dire cohort.
Presently the health-officer with his blue flag gave us pratique, and the fort-adjutant with his red flag carried off our only soldier. The latter, with a hospitality rare, it is to be hoped, in British regiments, would hardly recognise his quondam shipmates. We were duly interviewed, in most civilised style, by a youth who does this work for Mr. George A. Freeman, manager of the 'West African Reporter.' Then the s.s. Senegal was attacked and captured by a host of sable visitors, some coming to greet their friends, other to do a little business in the washing and the shoreboat lines.
The washerwoman lost no time in showing up, although her charges have been greatly reduced. She formerly demanded nearly treble as much as in London; now, however, she makes only sixteen to twenty shillings a month, not bad pay in a place where living costs threepence, and comfortable living sixpence, a day. These nymphs of the wash-tub are painfully familiar and plain. The dress is a bright cotton foulard bound on like the anatomy of a turban and garnished, as were our grandmothers' nightcaps, with huge front bows. Gaudy shawls cover white cotton jackets; and skirts of bright, showy longcloth suggest the parrot or the cockatoo. The ornaments are large gold earrings and necklaces of beads or coral. I could not but remark the difference of tone. There was none of the extreme 'bumptiousness' and pugnacious impudence of twenty years ago; indeed, the beach-boys, nowhere a promising class, were rather civil than otherwise. Not a single allusion to the contrast of 'white niggahs and black gen'lemen.' Nor did the unruly, disorderly African character ever show itself, as formerly it often did, by fisticuffing, hair-pulling, and cursing, with a mixture of English and Dark-Continent ideas and phraseology, whose tout ensemble was really portentous.
The popular voice ascribes this immense change for the better to the energetic action of Governor S. Rowe (1876); and if so his statue deserves to stand beside that of Pope Henessy. We could not fairly complain of the inordinate noise, which would have been the death of a sick traveller. Niger cannot speak without bawling. The charge for landing was only threepence; en revanche the poor fellows stole every little thing they could, including my best meerschaum.
Cameron and I went ashore to hire Krumen for the Gold Coast, and herein we notably failed. We disembarked at the camber, a huge pile of masonry, whose weight upon an insecure foundation has already split the sea-wall in more than one place. The interior also is silting up so fast that it will constantly require dredging to admit boats. In fact, the colony must deeply repent not having patronised Mr. Jenkins's project of a T-headed pier, on one side of which landing would have been practicable in all weathers.
The sun, despite the mist, seemed to burn our backs, and the glare from the red clay soil roasted our eyes as we toiled up the ramp, bad as those of 'Gib.,' which leads to Water Street, the lower line subtending the shore. Here we could inspect St. George's Cathedral, built, they say, at a cost of 10,000l. to 15,000l., which would be reduced to 5,000l. in England--contracts in such 'colonies' cost more than stone and slate. The general aspect is that of its Bombay brother, and the order is called, I believe, neo-Gothic, the last insult to ecclesiastical architecture. A single rusty tower, with toy-battlements, pins down along ridge-back, evidently borrowed from a barn; the light yellow-wash is mildewed and weather-stained, and the windows show unseemly holes. Surely Bishop Cheetham could have afforded a few panes of glass when exchanging his diocese for a rectory in England. Let me here note that the Catholic bishop at Goa and elsewhere is expected to die at his post, and that there is an over-worldly look in this Protestant form of the 'nolo episcopari.' East of the cathedral, and uncompromisingly 'Oriented' to the north, stands the unfinished shell of a Wesleyan chapel, suggesting that caricature which has intruded itself into the shadow of York Minster. Some 5,000l. were spent upon this article by the locals; but the home committee wisely determined that it should not be finished, and now they propose to pull it down for building-material.
We then entered the fruit and vegetable market, a neat and well-paved bazar, surmounted by a flying roof and pierced for glass windows. The dead arches in the long walls are externally stone and internally brick. The building was full of fat middle-aged negresses, sitting at squat before their 'blyes,' or round baskets, which contained a variety and confusion of heterogeneous articles. The following is a list almost as disorderly as the collection itself.
There were pins and needles, yarn and thread, that have taken the place of the wilder thorn and fibre; all kinds of small hardware; looking-glasses in lacquered frames; beads of sorts, cowries and reels of cotton; pots of odorous pomatum and shea-butter nuts; feathers of the plantain-bird and country snuff-boxes of a chestnut-like fruit (a strychnine?) from which the powder is inhaled, more majorum, through a quill; physic-nuts (tiglium, or croton), a favourite but painful native remedy; horns of the goat and antelope, possibly intended for fetish 'medicine;' blue-stone, colcothar and other drugs. Amongst the edibles appeared huge achatinae, which make an excellent soup, equal to that of the French snail; ground-nuts; very poor rice of four varieties, large and small, red and dark; cheap ginger, of which the streets are at times redolent, and which makes good home-brewed 'pop;' the Kolá-nut, here worth a halfpenny and at Bathurst a penny each; the bitter Kolá, a very different article from the esculent; skewered rôts of ground-hog, a rodent that can climb, destroy vegetables, and bite hard if necessary; dried bats and rats, which the African as well as the Chinese loves, and fish cuits au soleil, preferred when 'high,' to use the mildest adjective. From the walls hung dry goods, red woollen nightcaps and comforters, leopards' and monkeys' skins, and the pelt of an animal which might have been a gazelle.
Upon the long counters or tables were displayed the fruits and vegetables. The former were the custard-apple or sweet-sop (Annona squamosa), the sour-sop (A. muricata), the Madeiran chirimoya, (A. cherimolia), citrons, sweet and sour limes, and oranges, sweet and bitter, grown in the mountains; bananas (M. paradisiaca), the staff of life on the Gold Coast, and plantains (M. sapientum), the horse-plantains of India; [Footnote: The West Indian plantain is apparently unknown or unused] pine-apples more than half wild; mangoes terribly turpentiney unless the trunk be gashed to let out the gum; 'monkey-plums' or 'apples' and 'governor's plums.' The common guavas are rank and harsh, but the 'strawberry guava,' as it is locally called, has a delicate, subacid flavour not easily equalled. The aguacáte, or alligator-pear (Persea gratissima), which was not 'introduced by the Basel missionaries from the West Indies,' is inferior to the Mexican. Connoisseurs compare its nutty flavour with that of the filbert, and eat it with pepper, salt, and the sauce of Worcester, whose fortune was made by the nice conduct of garlic. The papaw [Footnote: The leaves are rubbed on meat to make it tender, and a drop of milk from the young fruit acts as a vermifuge.] should be cooked as a vegetable and stuffed with forced meat; the flesh of the granadilla, which resembles it, is neglected, while the seeds and their surroundings are flavoured with sherry and sugar. There is an abundance of the Eriobotrya Japonica, in Madeira called the loquat and elsewhere the Japanese medlar: it grows wild in the Brazil, where the people distil from it. [Footnote: I cannot yet decide whether its birthplace is Japan or South America, whose plants have now invaded Western India and greatly altered the vegetation.]
The chief vegetables were the watercress, grown in private gardens; onions, large and mild as the Spanish; calavances, or beans; okras or gumbos, the bhendi of India (Hibiscus esculentus), the best thickening for soup; bengwas, or egg-plants; yams (Dioscorea bulbifera) of sorts; bitter Cassada (Jatropha manihot) and the sweet variety (Jatropha janipha); garlic; kokos (Colocasia esculenta); potatoes, which the steamers are beginning to bring from England, not from Madeira; tomatoes like musket-balls, but very sweet and wholesome; and the batata, (Convolvulus patatus, or sweet potato), which whilom made 'kissing comfits.' The edibles consisted of' fufu' (plantain-paste); of 'cankey,' a sour pudding of maize-flour; of ginger-cake; of cassava-balls finely levigated, and of sweetened 'agadi,' native bread in lumps, wrapped up in plantain-leaves. Toddy was the usual drink offered for sale.
The butchers' yard, near the market, is no longer a 'ragged and uncleanly strip of ground.' The long-horned cattle, small, mostly humpless, and resembling the brindled and dun Alderney cow, are driven in from the Pulo (Fulah) country. I have described the beef as tasting not unlike what one imagines a knacker's establishment to produce, and since that time I have found but scant improvement. It is sold on alternate days with mutton, the former costing 6d., the latter 9d. a pound. Veal, so bad in England and so good in Southern Europe, is unknown. The long, lean, hairy black-and-white sheep do not supply an excellent article. Goats and kids are plentiful, and the flesh would be good if it had any taste. Hogs abound, as in Ireland; but no one eats pork, for the best of reasons. The poultry-list comprises small tough fowls (l0d. to 2s.), partridges, ducks (2s. 6d.), geese, especially the spur-winged from Sherbro, and the Muscovy or Manilla duck--a hard-fleshed, insipid bird, whose old home was South American Paraguay--turkeys (10s. to 15s.), and the arripiada, or frizzly chicken, whose feathers stand on end. Milk is scarce and dear. Englishmen raw in the tropics object to milch-goats and often put up with milch-pigs, which are said to be here kept for the purpose. I need not tell all the old tale, 'Goat he go die; pig he go for bush,' &c. Butter (1s. 8d. in 2-lb. tins) is oily and rancid, with the general look of cartgrease, in this tropical temperature. It is curious that the Danish and Irish dairies cannot supply the West African public with a more toothsome article.
Near the meat-market is the double row of houses with shops upon the ground-floor, not unlike a Banyan's street in outer Bombay, but smaller, dirtier, meaner far. Here the stranger can buy dry goods and a few curiosities of Mandenga manufacture--grigris (teraphim or charms), bows, spears, and saddles and bridles like those of the Somal, both perfectly useless to white men. The leather, however, is excellent as the Moroccan, and the work dates from the days when the Saracens pushed southwards from the Mediterranean to the Niger-valley. Wild animals are at times offered for sale, but Darkey has heard exaggerated accounts of prices paid in England for grey parrots, palm-birds, monkeys, bush-antelopes, mongooses, ground-pigs, and other 'small deer' brought from the rivulets behind Freetown. Sundry snakes were offered for sale, the Mandenga, 4 to 5 feet long, with black marks upon a yellow ground, and the spitting serpent, between 5 and 6 feet long, with a long head, also dark above and silvery grey below. I doubted the fact of its ejecting saliva till assured by the Rev. John Milum that two missionaries at Lagos, Messieurs J. B. Wood and David, had suffered severely from inflamed eyes after the contemptuous ophine crachat. All along the coast is a cerastes (horned snake), whose armature is upon the snout and whose short fat form suggests the puff-adder. The worst is a venomous-looking cobra, or hooded viper, with flat, cordate head, broad like all the more ferocious species. It is the only thanatophid whose bite I will not undertake to cure. We carried on the A.S.S. Winnebah, for the benefit of Mr. Cross, of Liverpool, a big black ape, which the Sá Leonites called a 'black chimpanzee.' Though badly wounded she had cost 27l., and died after a few days of the cage. The young chimpanzees were valued at 61.
I looked in vain for the old inn, the only thing in the place, a dirty hovel, kept, in 1862, by a Liberian negro, inscribed 'Lunch-house' on a sign-board flanked by the Union Jack and the U.S. 'oysters and gridiron.' Nothing has succeeded to this 'American hotel,' and visitors must depend upon the hospitality of acquaintances. A Frenchman lately opened a Gasthaus, and lost no time in becoming bankrupt. There is, however, a manner of boarding-house kept by a Mrs. King.
Turning south from Water Street, we passed the Wilberforce, or rather the 'Willyfoss,' memorial, a colossal scandal noticed by every visitor at Sá Leone, a 'folly' which has cost 3,000l. Its condition is exactly what it was two decads ago--a chapel-like shell of dingy, mouldy laterite with six lancet-windows and metal pillars. Its case is a complicated concern. The ecclesiastical authorities wanted it for their purposes, and so did the secular civilians, and so did the military. At last the Sá Leonites, hopeless of obtaining a Government grant, have set on foot a subscription which reached 500l.--some say 700l. There are, therefore, certain fitful signs of activity, and bricks and fire-bricks now cumber the ground; but it is all a 'flash in the pan.' The present purpose is to make it a library, in place of the fine old collection which went to the dogs. It is also to serve as a lecture-room. But who is there in the 'African Liverpool' that can lecture? What is he to lecture about? Who will stand or sit out being lectured?
Immediately beyond this grim and grisly reminiscence are the neat dwelling-house and the store of the Honourable Mr. Sybille Boyle, so named from a ship and from her captain, R.N., who served in the preventive squadron about 1824. He is an unofficial member of Council and a marked exception to the rule of the 'Liberateds.' Everybody has a good word to say of him. The establishment is the regular colonial, where you can buy anything between a needle and a sheet-anchor. Bottled ale is not wanting, and thus steamer-passengers learn to congregate in the back parlour.
We then walked to the top of Gloucester Street, expecting to see the Duke of Edinburgh's memorial. I left it an arch of sticks and timber spanning this main cross-line, which leads to Government House. The temporary was to be supplanted by a permanent marble arc de triomphe, commemorating the auspicious occasion when the black colony first looked upon a live white Royal Highness. At once 700l. was subscribed, and only 800l. was wanting; but all those interested in the matter died, and the 350l. which remained in the chest was, I believe, transferred to the 'Willyfoss.' The august day is still kept as a public holiday, for the people are, after their fashion, loyal-mouthed in the extreme. But the memorial is clean forgotten, and men stare if you ask about it. Half-way up the street is the post-office, whose white chief is not a whit more civil than the negro head in 1862.
Upon this highly interesting spot we stood awhile to note the peculiarities of the place and its position. The soil is a loose clay, deep-red or brown, impregnated with iron and, where unclothed with humus, cold and infertile, as the spontaneous aloe shows. The subsoil is laterite, also highly ferruginous. Soft and working well with the axe while it retains the quarry-water, it soon hardens by exposure; and, thus weathered, it forms the best and ugliest of the local building materials. Embedded in the earth's surface are blocks and boulders apparently erratic, dislodged or washed down from the upper heights, where similar masses are seen. Many are scattered, as if by an eruption; others lie in slab or dome shape upon the shore. The shape is usually spheroidal, and the material hypersthene (a hard and close-grained bluish granite) or diorite, greenstone-trap blackened by sun and rain. In the few cuttings of the higher levels I afterwards remarked that detached 'hardheads' are puddinged into the friable laterite; but I nowhere found the granitic floor-rock protruding above ground. The boulders are treated by ditching and surrounding with a hot fire for forty-eight hours; cold water, not vinegar, is then poured upon them, and causes the heated material suddenly to contract and fracture, when it can easily be removed. Magnetic iron also occurs, and specimens have been sent to England; but veins have not yet been discovered.
Our walk had furnished us with a tolerable idea of 'the city's' plan, without referring to the printed affair. Fronting north with westing, it is divided into squares, blocks, and insulae, after the fashion of a chessboard. This is one of the oldest as well as the newest mode of distributions. The temples of the classical gods, being centrally situated, required for general view broad, straight approaches. From Washington to Buenos Ayres the modern cities of the New World have reverted to this ancient system without other reason but a love of regularity and simplicity. Here the longer streets flank the sea and the shorter run at right angles up the inner slopes. Both are bright red lines worn in the vegetation between the houses. The ribbons of green are the American or Bahama grass; fine, silky, and creeping along the ground, it is used to stuff mattresses, and it forms a good substitute for turf. When first imported it was neglected, cut away, and nearly killed out; now it is encouraged, because its velvety plots relieve the glaring red surface, it keeps off the 'bush,' and it clears the surface of all other vegetation. Looking upon the city below, we were surprised to see the dilapidation of the tenements. Some have tumbled down; others were tumbling down; many of those standing were lumber or board shanties called 'quarter-frames' and 'ground-floors;' sundry large piles rose grisly and fire-charred, and the few good houses looked quite modern. But what can be expected in a place where Europeans never expect to outstay the second year, and where Africans, who never yet worked without compulsion, cannot legally be compelled to work?
We then walked up to Government House, the Fort Thornton of old charts, whose roof, seen from the sea, barely tops the dense curtain of tree and shrubbery that girds and hangs around it. Passing under a cool and shady avenue of mangoes and figs, and the archway, guarded by a porter's lodge and a detachment of the three hundred local police, we came in sight of the large, rambling residence, built piecemeal, like many an English country-house. There is little to recommend it save the fine view of the sea and the surrounding shrubbery-ground. I can well understand how, with the immense variety of flower and fruit suddenly presented to his eyes, the gentleman fresh from England required six months to recover the free and full use of all his senses and faculties.
A policeman--no longer a Zouave of the West Indian corps--took in our cards, and we introduced ourselves to Captain A. E. Havelock, 'Governor-in-Chief of Sierra Leone and the Gambia.' He is No. 47 since Captain Day, R.N., first ruled in A.D. 1803. I had much to say to him about sundry of his predecessors. Captain Havelock, who dates only from 1881, has the reputation of being slightly 'black.' The Neri and the Bianchi factions here represent the Buffs and Blues of a land further north. He is yet in the heyday of popularity, when, in the consecrated phrase, the ruler 'gains golden opinions.' But colonial judgments are fickle, and mostly in extremes. After this smiling season the weather lowers, the storm breaks, and all is elemental rage, when from being a manner of demigod the unhappy ruler gradually becomes one of the 'meanest and basest of men.' Absit omen!
We returned at sunset to Government House and spent a pleasant evening. The 'smokes' had vanished, and with them the frowse and homeliness of morning. The sun, with rays of lilac red, set over a panorama of townlet, land, and sea, to which distance added many a charm. Mingling afar with the misty horizon, the nearer waters threw out, by their golden and silvery sheen, the headlands, capes, and tongues stretching in long perspective below, while the Sugarloaf, father of mountains, rose in solitary grandeur high above his subject hills. On the nearer slope of Signal Hill we saw the first of the destructive bush-burnings. They are like prairie-fires in these lands, and sometimes they gird Freetown with a wall of flame. Complexion is all in all to Sá Leone, and she showed for a few moments a truly beautiful prospect.
The Governor has had the courage to bring out Mrs. Havelock, and she has had the courage to stand firm against a rainy season. The climate is simply the worst on the West Coast, despite the active measures of sanitation lately taken, the Department of Public Health, the ordinances of the Colonial Government in 1879, and the excellent water with which the station is now provided. On a clear sunny day the charnel-house, I repeat, is lovely, mais c'est la mort; it is the terrible beauty of death. Mrs. Melville says, with full truth, 'I felt amidst all the glory of tropic sunlight and everlasting verdure a sort of ineffable dread connected with the climate.' Even when leaving the 'pestilent shore' she was 'haunted by the shadowy presence.' This is womanly, but a little reflection must suggest it to man.
Even half a century ago opinions differed concerning the climate of the colony. Dr. Madden could obtain only contradictory accounts. [Footnote: See Wanderings in West Africa, for details, vol. i. p. 275.] There is a tradition of a Chief Justice applying to the Colonial Office for information touching his pension, the clerks could not answer him, and he presently found that none of his predecessors had lived to claim it. Mr. Judge Rankin was of opinion that its ill-fame was maintained by 'policy on the one hand and by ignorance of truth on the other.' But Mr. Judge died a few days after. So with Dr. Macpherson, of the African Colonial Corps. It appears ill-omened to praise the place; and, after repeated visits to it, I no longer wonder that the 'Medical Gazette' of April 14, 1838, affirmed, 'No statistical writer has yet tried to give the minutest fraction representing the chance of a surgeon's return from Sierra Leone.'
On the other hand, Mrs. Falconbridge, whose husband was sent out from England on colonial business in 1791, and who wrote the first 'lady's book' upon the Coast, pointed out at the beginning that sickness was due quite as much to want of care as to the climate. In 1830 Mr. John Cormack, merchant and resident since 1800, stated to a Committee of the House of Commons that out of twenty-six Europeans in his service seven had died, seven had remained in Africa, and of twelve who returned to England all save two or three were in good health. We meet with a medical opinion as early as 1836 that 'not one-fourth of the deaths results merely from climate.' Cases of old residents are quoted--for instance, Governor Kenneth Macaulay, a younger brother of Zachary Macaulay, who resisted it for twenty years; Mr. Reffall for fifteen years, and sundry other exceptions.
In this section of the nineteenth century it is the custom to admit that the climate is bad and dangerous; but that it has often been made the scape-goat of European recklessness and that much of the sickness and death might be avoided. The improvement is attributed to the use of quinine, unknown to the early settlers, and much is expected from sanatoria and from planting the blue gum (Eucalyptus globulus), which failed, owing to the carelessness and ignorance of the planters. A practical appreciation of the improvement is shown by the Star Life Assurance Society, which has reduced to five per cent. its former very heavy rates. Lastly, the bad health of foreigners is accounted for by the fact that they leave their own country for a climate to which they are not accustomed, where the social life and the habits of the people are so different from their own, and yet that they continue doing all things as in England.
But how stand the facts at the white man's Red Grave? Mrs. Havelock and the wife of the officer commanding the garrison are the only Europeans in the colony, whereas a score of years ago I remember half a dozen. Even the warmest apologisers for the climate will not expose their wives to it, preferring to leave them at home or in Madeira. During last March there were five deaths of white men--that is, more than a third--out of a total of 163. What would the worst of English colonies say to a mortality of 350 per thousand per annum? Of course we are told that it is exceptional, and the case of the insurance societies is quoted. But they forget to tell us the reason. A mail steamer now calls at Freetown once a week, and the invalid is sent home by the first opportunity. Similarly a silly East Indian statistician proved, from the rare occurrence of fatal cases, Aden to be one of the healthiest stations under 'the Company.' He ignored the fact that even a scratch justified the surgeons in shipping a man off on sick leave.
I quite agree with the view of Mr. Frederick Evans: [Footnotes: The Colonies and India, Dec. 24, 1881.] 'Let anyone anxious to test the nature of the climate go to Kew Gardens and sit for a week or two in one of the tropical houses there; he may be assured that he will by no means feel in robust health when he leaves.' The simile is perfect. Europeans living in Africa like Europeans as regards clothing and diet are, I believe, quite right. We tried grass-cloth, instead of broadcloth, in Western India, when general rheumatism was the result. In the matter of meat and drink the Englishman cannot do better than adhere to his old mode of life as much as possible, with a few small modifications. Let him return to the meal-times of Queen Elizabeth's day--
Sunrise breakfast, sun high dinner, Sundown sup, makes a saint of a sinner--
and especially shun the 9 A.M. breakfast, which leads to a heavy tiffin at 1 P.M., the hottest and most trying section of the day. With respect to diet, if he drinks a bottle of claret in England let him reduce himself in Africa to a pint 'cut' with, water; if he eats a pound of meat he should be contented with eight ounces and an extra quantity of fruit and vegetables. In medicine let him halve his cathartics and double his dose of tonics.
From its topographical as well as its geographical position the climate of Freetown is oppressively hot, damp, and muggy. The annual mean is 79.5° Fahr.; the usual temperature of the dwellings is from 78° to 86° Fahr. Its year is divided into two seasons, the Dries and the Rains. The wet season begins in May and ends with November; for the last five years the average downfall has been 155 inches, five times greater than in rainy England. These five months are times of extreme discomfort. The damp heat, despite charcoal fires in the houses and offices, mildews everything--clothes, weapons, books, man himself. It seems to exhaust all the positive electricity of the nervous system, and it makes the patient feel utterly miserable. It also fills the air with noxious vapours during the short bursts of sunshine perpendicularly rained down, and breeds a hateful brood of what the Portuguese call immundicies--a foul 'insect-youth.' Only the oldest residents prefer the wet to the dry months. The Rains end in the sickliest season of the year, when the sun, now getting the upper hand, sucks the miasmatic vapours from the soil and distributes them to mankind in the shape of ague and fever, dysentery, and a host of diseases. The Dries last from November to April, often beginning with tornadoes and ending with the Harmatan, smokes or scirocco. The climate is then not unlike Bombay, except that it lacks the mild East Indian attempt at a winter, and that barometric pressure hardly varies.
During my last visit to Sá Leone I secured a boat, and, accompanied by Dr. Lovegrove, of the A.S.S. Armenian, set out to inspect the lower bed of the Rokel and the islands which it waters. Passing along Fourah Bay, we remarked in the high background a fine brook, cold, clear, and pure, affording a delicious bath; it is almost dry in the Dries, and swells to a fiumara during the Rains. Its extent was then a diminutive rivulet tumbling some hundreds of feet down a shelving bed into Granville Bay, the break beyond Fourah. On the way we passed several Timni boats, carrying a proportionately immense amount of 'muslin.' Of old the lords of the land, they still come down the river with rice and cocoa-nuts from the Kwiah (Quiah) country, from Porto Loko, from Waterloo, and other places up stream. They not unfrequently console themselves for their losses by a little hard fighting; witness their defence of the Modúka stockade in 1861, when four officers and twenty-three of our men were wounded. [Footnote: Wanderings in West Africa, vol. i pp. 246-47.] Some of the boats are heavy row-barges with a framework of sticks for a stern-awning; an old Mandenga, with cottony beard, sits at each helm. They row simplices munditiis. At Sá Leone men are punished for not wearing overalls, and thus the 'city' becomes a rag-fair. The Timni men are dark negroids with the slightest infusion of Semitic blood; some had coated their eyebrows and part of their faces with chalk for ophthalmia. They appeared to be merry fellows enough; and they are certainly the only men in the colony who ever pretend to work. A Government official harshly says of them, 'I would willingly ascribe to the nearest of our neighbours and their representatives in Freetown, of whom there are many, some virtues if they possessed any; but, unfortunately, taken as a people, they have been truly described by able and observant writers as dishonest and depraved.' Mr. Secretary evidently forgets the 'civilising' and infectious example of Sá Leone, versus the culture of El-Islam.
Arrived at Bishopscourt, we disembarked and visited the place. Here in old days 'satisfaction' was given and taken; and a satirical medico declared that forty years of rencontres had not produced a single casualty. He was more witty than wise; I heard of one gentleman who had been 'paraded' and 'winged.' Old Granville Town, which named the bay, has completely disappeared; the ruins of the last house are gone from the broad grassy shelf upon which the first colonists built their homes.
From Granville Bay the traveller may return by the 'Kissy Road.' Once it was the pet promenade, the Corso, the show-walk of Freetown; now it has become a Tottenham Court Road, to which Water, Oxford, and Westmoreland Streets are preferred. The vegetation becomes splendid, running up to the feet of the hills, which swell suddenly from the shelf-plain. The approach to Sá Leone is heralded by a row of shops even smaller and meaner than those near the market-place. There are whole streets of these rabbit-hutches, whose contents 'mammy,' when day is done, carries home in a 'bly'-basket upon her head, possibly leaving 'titty' to mount guard upon the remnant. The stock in trade may represent a capital of 4l., and the profits 1s. a day. Yet 'daddy' styles himself merchant, gets credit, and spends his evenings conversing and smoking cigars--as a gentleman should--with his commercial friends.
Passing the easternmost end of the peninsula, and sailing along the Bullom ('lowland') shores, we verified Dr. Blyden's assertion that this 'home of fevers' shows no outward and visible sign of exceeding unhealthiness. The soil is sandy, the bush is comparatively thin, and the tall trees give it the aspect of a high and dry land. We then turned north-east and skirted Tasso Island, a strip of river-holm girt with a wall of mangroves. It had an old English fort, founded in 1695; the factors traded with the Pulo (Fulah) country for slaves, ivory, and gold. It was abandoned after being taken by Van Ruyter, when he restored to the Dutch West Indian Company the conquests of Commodore Holmes. The rich soil in 1800 supported a fine cotton plantation, and here Mr. Heddle kept a 'factory.' The villagers turned out to gaze, not habited like the Wolofs of Albreda, but clad in shady hats and seedy pantaloons.
After clearing Tasso we advanced merrily, and at the end of two hours' and a half actual sailing and pulling we landed upon Bance, which some call Bence's Island. A ruined jetty with two rusty guns, buried like posts, projected from the sand-strip; and a battery, where nine cannon still linger, defended the approach. There is a similar beach to the north-east, with admirable bathing in the tepid, brackish waves and a fine view of the long leonine Sierra. The outlying rocks, capped with guano, look like moored boats and awnings. The sea-breeze was delicious; the lapping, dazzling stream made sweet music, and the huge cotton-trees with laminar buttresses gave most grateful shade.
The island resembles Gambian James multiplied by four or five. Behind the battery are the ruins of a huge building, like the palaces of old Goa, vast rooms, magazines, barracoons, underground vaults, and all manner of contrivances for the good comfort and entertainment of the slaver and the slave. A fine promenade of laterite, which everywhere about Sá Leone builds the best of roads, and a strip of jungle rich in the Guilandina Bonduc, whose medicinal properties are well known to the people, leads to the long-deserted graveyard. We pass an old well with water thirty-five feet deep, and enter the enceinte, that contains four tombs; the marble tablets, which would soon disappear in India for the benefit of curry-stuffs, here remain intact. One long home was tenanted by 'Thomas Knight, Esquire, born in the county of Surrey, who acted eighteen years as agent for the proprietors of this island, and who died on August 27 of 1785,' beloved, of course, by everybody. Second came the 'honourable sea-Captain Hiort, born in 1746, married in 1771 to the virtuous lady Catherine Schive, and died in 1783, leaving two good-natured daughters, which his soul is in the hands of God.' The third was Mr. John Tittle, who departed life in 1776; and the last was Captain Josiah Dory, a 'man of upright character,' who migrated to the many in 1765.
Barbot (ii. 1) describes Bance's Island as defended by a small fort on a steep rock of difficult access, ascended only by a sort of stairs cut in the stone, and acting as the store-house of the Royal African Company. The low walls of lime and ashlar had a round 'flanker' with five guns, a curtain with embrasures for four large cannon, and a platform just before it for six guns, all well mounted. The only good buildings were the slave-booths. Winterbottom, who places it over eighteen miles above St. George's Bay (Baie de France) and north of Tasso Island, thus describes Bance: 'This is a small barren island considerably elevated, with a dry, gravelly soil; but being placed as it were in the midst of an archipelago of low marshy islands, the breeze, from whatever quarter it blows, is impregnated with moisture and marsh effluvia, which render it sickly. The air also is very much heated, and the thermometer generally stands 4° or 5° higher on this island than it does at Freetown.'
We regained the steamer shortly after dark, delighted with our picnic and resolved always to take the same advantage of all halts. In those days the interior was most interesting. The rivers Scarcies, Nunez, and Ponga were unknown; the equestrian Susu tribe had never been visited; and, the Timbo country, the great centre whence arise the Niger, the Rokel, and the Senegal, awaited exploration.