TO THE GOLD COAST FOR GOLD by Richard F. Burton

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TO THE GOLD COAST FOR GOLD
A Personal Narrative
by Richard F. Burton
In Two Volumes--Vol. I.
TO OUR EXCELLENT FRIEND
JAMES IRVINE
(OF LIVERPOOL, F.R.G.S, F.S.A, &C.)
WE INSCRIBE THESE PAGES AS A TOKEN OF OUR APPRECIATION AND
ADMIRATION
FOR HIS COURAGE AND ENERGY IN OPENING AND WORKING THE GOLDEN
LANDS OF
WESTERN AFRICA
_'Much have I travelled in the realms of gold'_
SHAKESPEARE
PREFACE.
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, Wasa (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 Goncales 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 Joao 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 'Sao 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 Wasa
(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.
CONTENTS OF THE FIRST VOLUME.
CHAPTER
I.
PRELIMINARY: TRIESTE TO LISBON
II. FROM LISBON TO MADEIRA
III. A FORTNIGHT AT MADEIRA
IV. MADEIRA _(continued)_--CHRISTMAS--SMALL
INDUSTRIES--WINE--DEPARTURE FOR TENERIFE
V. TO TENERIFE, LA LAGUNA, AND OROTAVA
VI. THE ROUTINE ASCENT OF MOUNT ATLAS, THE 'PIKE' OF TENERIFE
VII. THE SPANISH ACCOUNT OF THE REPULSE OF NELSON FROM
SANTA CRUZ DE TENERIFE
VIII. TO GRAND CANARY--LAS PALMAS, THE CAPITAL
IX. THE COCHINEAL--THE 'GALLO'--CANARY 'SACK'--ADIEU TO THE
CANARIES
X.
THE RUINED RIVER--PORT AND THE TATTERED FLAG
XI. SIERRA LEONE: THE CHANGE FOR THE BETTER
TO THE GOLD COAST FOR GOLD.
CHAPTER I.
PRELIMINARY: TRIESTE TO LISBON.
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 Tuerr, whom
we last met at Venice, begins the 'piercing of the Isthmus.' _A
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 (Parnasso), 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 Eumaeus, 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, _via_ 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 _a 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 mastache, 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
25_l._ 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
_proteges_ 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 15_l._, 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 AEolus, 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 veiled 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
Tarik 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 Espichel
(_Promontorium 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 _Se_ or cathedral with dumpy towers; the
black Castle of Sao 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 facades 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.
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 carabinee_,
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 'Erythia,' 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 deg. 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,' Joao Goncales 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
Tristao Vaz Teyxeyra, called in honour 'the Tristam.' Azurara,
[Footnote: _Chronica do Descobrimento de Guine._ 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 Bethencourt'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, Pere Labat, and Ernest de Freville, [Footnote: _Memoire 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 Bassa, 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 Komani)
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 Societe de Geographie_, cinquieme serie, tome
v. p. 260. Also 'Iles de l'Afrique,' in the _Univers._ Paris,
1868.] seems inclined to take the part of 'quelques precurseurs
meconnus contre les pretentions trop exclusives des decouvreurs
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 Sao 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 a 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
Rakah.' 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 a 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 Galvao 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 _debris_ 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. Pegot-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 Sao Thome and other colonies, by convicts, Jews, or
other 'infected peoples.' She was populated by Portuguese 'noble and
taintless'--Palestrellos, Calacas, Pinas, Vieyras, Rabacaes, 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 _podao_ 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 _remplacant_ costs upwards of 50_l_. 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 vertebrae: 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 Sao Lourenco, 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 Sao 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 Goncalo-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 macapes,
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 deg., 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, Sao 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 Sao Joao, 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 aestas.
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 Garajao, [Footnote: Not the meaningless Garajao,
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.
[Footnote:
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 Pauel (Moorland) da Serra. I
now see some change since 1865. East of the yellow-washed, brown-bound
fort of Sao Thiago Minor, the island patron, rises a huge white pile, or
rather piles, the Lazaretto, with its three-arched bridge spanning the
Wady Goncalo 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 Praca 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 Joao 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 Se
(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 facade, 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 Sao 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 Praca da Constituicao, 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 _debarcadere_ 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 Praca da Rainha, a dwarf walk
facing the huge yellow Government House, alias Palacio de Sao Lourenco,
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 monte_, but I know none in Europe
more comfortable. There are many others of the second rank; and the
Hotel Central, with its cafe-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 (11_d_.), 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, Sec.Sec. 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 deg.-16 deg.), and assigns one meridian (0 deg. 0'
0") to Aprositos, Pluitana (Pluvialia? Hierro?), Caspeiria (Capraria?
Lanzarote?), and another and the same (1 deg. 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 deg. 40' west long.), 380; and 260 from Santa Cruz, Tenerife. The
main island lies between N. lat. 32 deg. 49' 44" and 32 deg. 37' 18"; the
parallel is that of Egypt, of Upper India, of Nankin, and of
California. Its longitude is included within 16 deg. 39' 30" and 17 deg. 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 Madere,' &c., par A. C. Mourao-Pitta, Montpellier, 1859, the latter
ably pleading a special cause.)
CHAPTER III.
A FORTNIGHT AT MADEIRA.
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 _flaner_, 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
Praca 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-_baudriere_ 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 fete 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 Sao Vicente, which abounds in opportunities for
neck-breaking. The next is a long day with a necessary guide to the
Pauel 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 deg., 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, Joao
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 deg. (F.)
when the conservatory upon the bay shows 72 deg.. 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
Madeira.............28,522
Porto Santo......... 435
Males Females Total
62,900 67,367 130,267
874
874 1,748
_______
132,015
_No. of Persons who can read and write._
Males Females Total
Madeira..............................4,454 4,286
8,740
Porto Santo.......................... 77
34
111
______
8,851
_No. of Persons who can read but not write._
Males
Madeira.......1,659
Porto Santo... 42
Females
Total
2,272
3,931
60
102
_____
4,033
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
_caxaca_ (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 benite a 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 _carapuca_, 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 _carapuca_, 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 _oragao_ (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, _bacalhao_,
[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 'bacalhao' 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-pe_, 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 nao se sabe quem,
sao 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-fe_. 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 _Falcao_ 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 Pauel 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 Joao, 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 Angustias_ (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
8,000_l_., and let at 500_l_. to 1,000_l_, 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 Girao, 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 _decor de theatre_.
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
Girao, 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 Girao ('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 Girao 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 deg., the western range between 20 deg. above and 40 deg. 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 Girao 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 _debris_ 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
Calcada. 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 Galera, with
its rooky spur, we sighted Jardim do Mar, a village on a mound of
_debris_ with black walls of dry stone defending the terraces from
surf and spray. The furthest point, where we halted half an hour, is
'Pauel do Mar' (Swamp of the Sea), apparently a misnomer. It is the port
of the Fajaa 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 Pauel 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
_Falcao_. Garajao, 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 Girao, 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 Garajao 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 Garajao 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 Canico 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 Sao 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 Sao 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 'Citta 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
_debarcadere_ 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 Visitacao._ 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 Chao, the Northern or Table Deserta, not unlike Alderney or a
Perigord 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.
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 _cacadores_, 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 Sao 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 _manieree_. 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 _regime_, 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
Madere_. 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 _a 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
'Encyclopedie' 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 Cafe 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 100_l_. 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 10_s_. 6_d_. 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 a 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--_dejeuner a 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 5,000_l_. to 15,000_l_. a generation
ago have been sold to 'Demerarists' for one-tenth that
sum. 'Palmeira,' for instance, was built for 42,000_l_., and was
bought for 4,000_l_. A family can live quietly, even keeping
ponies, for 500_l_. 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
Bearnais 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 anaemia, 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 _Torreao_. The large rival mill with the
tall regulation smoke-stack near the left mouth of the Ribeira de Sao'
Joao, 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
(4_d_.) 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 Madere, etc_., par C. A. Mourao 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 depot for
island-growths. It sells 'Escuros' (dark brands) of 20 reis, or
1_d_., 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 1_d_.
An influential planter, Senhor Joao 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 7_d_. per lb. The traders
are now introducing Kentucky, which, landed from Yankee ships, costs
6_d_. 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 _cigarros_ (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 Braganca 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 deg. F.: it will
rise after midday to 140 deg., and fall at night to 65 deg.. 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 2_l_., and he easily
obtains from 10_s_. to 15_s_. 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
Oidium 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 oidium-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, 36_s_.;
tawny Tinta, also called 'Madeira Burgundy,' a red wine mixing well with
water, 40_s_.; fine old dry Verdelho, 48_s_.; rich soft old
Bual, not unlike Amontillado, 54_s_.; very fine dry old Sercial
(the Riesling grape), 56_s_.; 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 70_s_., and the best Old Preserve wine
86_s_. For wines very old in bottle there are special quotations.]
The lowest price free on board is 23_l_, and the values rise from
40_l_. at four years old to 1OO_l_. 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 deg.-25 deg. 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 Sao
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 Madere_ 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'hote_, 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
Nationality
Sailing/Steamers
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
Pleasure Vessels
Nationality Steam Yachts
Yachts
American
- Argentine
- Austrian
- Belgian
- Brazilian
- British
2 4
Danish
Dutch
French
- German
Italian
- Norwegian
Portuguese - Russian
- Spanish
- Swedish
Totals:
2
4
Merchant Vessels
Nationality Steamers Ships
Barques Barquantines Brigs
American
3
Argentine 1
Austrian
1
2
Belgian
26
Brazilian 3
British
439
1
9
20
Danish
Dutch
1
French
3
German
8
16
Italian
Norwegian 5
1
Portuguese 48
3
Russian
2
Spanish
2
Swedish
2
Totals:
526
2
43
21
9
1
2
1
13
CHAPTER V.
TO TENERIFE, LA LAGUNA, AND OROTAVA.
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 'Anasa.' 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 publie 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 Senor 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 Camino 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 kilometres 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
Bethencourt, 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 deg. 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
A ceux qui font voeu d'etre 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 200_l._;
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.
[Footnote:
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.
[Footnote:
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 Remusat 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 Sahara, attributed to the ancient Tawarik
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.]
[Illustration]
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 deg. to 85 deg., 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 Canadas 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 Bethencourt'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 Bethencourt
[Footnote: Bontier and Le Verrier, _Histoire de la premiere Decouverte
e Conquete 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 fortunees_. 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 negres de la Senegambie denotent la reunion 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. Jose 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 delicieux 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'
(_pulaos_) 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 1,000_l_. added
4,000_l_. of his own, besides 400_l_. 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.
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 Riedle. 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
bat-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 Canada-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 Camino 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 Canadas 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
_debris_ 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 Canadas was shown to be a
volcanic crater in 1803 by Professor Cordier, the first scientific
visitor in modern days (_Lettre a 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 Canadas, 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 Canadas 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 Canadas. 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 bat-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 deg.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 Canadas.
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 deg.. 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 Canadas; 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 Canadas 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 deg. and 158 deg. Fahr. being, perhaps, the extremes; my thermometer showed
130 deg.. 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 pelee_ 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 Ochema, Camerones Peak. I found a
spoon-shaped hollow, with a gradual slope to the centre, 100 x 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 Canaria.
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.
[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 Senora 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
tete_, 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 fete 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 Fregate Citizen Ponne [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 depot, 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 Vina and Don Luis Roman.
'Our Commandant-General, H. E. Senor 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
Patino; of Lieutenant-Colonel Don Juan Creagh (locally pronounced
Cre-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, _a 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 centimetres, 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 14_l_.]
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 a 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
Francois 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.
'SAML. HOOD.
'_Ratified by_
'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 _bona
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 Senor Don Antonio Gutierrez, Commandant-General,
Canary Islands.
'Having received with due appreciation this honourable letter, our
chief replied as follows:-'Muy Senor 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 depot, 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 Savinon, 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 Andres, 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
Bartolome 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.
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 _montanetas_. 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 Nunez de la Pena
(_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 kilometres 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 Hotel 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 Bethencourt
(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
Jose de Viera y Clavigo, born at Lanzarote, poet, 'elegant translator'
of Buffon, lexicographer, and honest man.
Directly facing the cathedral-facade 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 Jose 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 _Vineta_, 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 Arucas. Beyond Tenoya town I
inspected a crateriform ravine, and Monte Cardones boasted a honeycomb
of caves like the Atalaya. The fine rich _vega_ of Arucas, 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
Banaderos 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.
I must not leave the Jezirat el-Bard (of Gold), or Jezirat el-Khalidat
(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 _KOKKOS_, 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 metre-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 _hacada_ (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 Imperial 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 deg.-32 deg. (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 deg.-160 deg. (Fahr.). The drying process is managed by reducing the
temperature to 140 deg.. 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 6_d_. 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 250,000_l_. During the
rage of the oidium 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 2_s_. 6_d_.-3_s_. 4_d_.
to 1_s_. 8_d_. and 1_s_. 10_d_. [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
1_s_. 4_d_. 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 _masala_ 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 400_l_. 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 Hauran. 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 charac-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 oidium. In 1852 Admiral Robinson reduced the number of
pipes to 20,000, worth 200,000_l_. 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
oidium 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.
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 Sahara. 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 Goncalez
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), Golfao_, 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 deg. 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 Senegal, 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
to Paris.
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 Sahara. 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
Sudan, 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 Cacheo
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 Felup 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 deg. to S. lat. 20 deg.. 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 plebiscite. 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 Fulahs
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 Wolofs. The former, whom Europeans divide into the
Marabut, 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 Wangara. 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 _kamis_,
a nightgown of long-cloth, and wide, short drawers; the whole is covered
with a sleeveless _aba_, 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'awiz_, 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 20_l_. and 40_l_.
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 Wolofs, 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. Joao 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
Wolof. As M. Dard remarks in his 'Grammaire Wolof,' the [Footnote: He
was Instituteur de l'Ecole Wolof-Francaise du Senegal, and published in
1826. It is still said that no one will speak Wolof like him, the result
of the new _regime_ 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
Wolofs 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 Wolof '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 employes 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 'fufu,' 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
24,500_l_., the expenditure is 20,000_l_. in round numbers,
and the economies are said to reach 25,000_l_. 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 Hindus, 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 7,075_l_. I
now complain that it has been reduced to 2,600_l_. [Footnote:
Administrator = 1,300_l_;.; Chief Magistrate = 600_l_.;
Collector and Treasurer = 700_l_. 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 20,000_l_., 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.' Salsolaceae 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_ umbrellah: no go widout _my_
umbrellah.'
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 Mahe 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 hypogoea_). 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 _a 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 Cacheo 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.
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 Leoa (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. Ca 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 Theon 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 Sa Leone River, will be
provided with powerful batteries before the next maritime war. And we
must not forget that Sa 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 Sa 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 Sa 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 Sa Leone River, which Barbot makes the ancients term Nia
(N_ia_), 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-Imam) Sanusi, 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 _Manteiga_, and a candle is _Kandirr_. Although 'the
religion of Islam seems likely to diffuse itself peaceably over the
whole district in which the colony (Sa 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 _debouchure_ is a dwarf
Ghaut, a broken line of sea-subtending highlands, stretching
south-south-east some eighteen miles from Cape Sa 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 Sa 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 Sa 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 40_l._ 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 10_s._ 6_d._ 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 Guarana,
the Kat (_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. Sa Leone exported 3,445_l_. worth of Kola-nuts in
1860; in 1870 10,400_l_.; and, in 1880, 24,422_l_. 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 Sa Leone. I hope they will so do; more competition is
much wanted. But the coal-depot 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 Sa 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 6,000L
to 8,000L Sa 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 chateau 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 70,000_l_., of which 50,637_l_. are still owed,
and that the preposterous wharfage-duty is 10_s_. 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 Sa 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 Sa 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 Sa 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 10,000_l._ to 15,000_l._, which would be
reduced to 5,000_l._ 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 5,000_l._
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 Kola-nut, here worth a halfpenny and at Bathurst
a penny each; the bitter Kola, a very different article from the
esculent; skewered _rots_ 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 _aguacate_, 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 6_d_., the latter
9_d_. 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 (l0_d_. to 2_s_.), partridges, ducks (2_s_.
6_d_.), 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 (10_s_. to 15_s_.),
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 (1_s_. 8_d_. 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 Sa Leonites called a 'black chimpanzee.'
Though badly wounded she had cost 27_l_., and died after a few days
of the cage. The young chimpanzees were valued at 6_1_.
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 Sa Leone, a 'folly' which has cost 3,000_l_. 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 Sa Leonites, hopeless of obtaining a Government grant, have set
on foot a subscription which reached 500_l_.--some say 700_l_.
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
700_l_. was subscribed, and only 800_l_. was wanting; but all
those interested in the matter died, and the 350_l_. 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 Sa 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 deg. Fahr.; the usual temperature of the dwellings is from 78 deg. to 86 deg.
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 Sa 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 Moduka 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 Sa 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 Sa 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 Sa 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
4_l_., and the profits 1_s_. 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 Sa 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 deg. or 5 deg. 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.
END OF THE FIRST VOLUME.

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