Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

14

PORT ROYAL AND KINGSTON.

adjuncts of such an establishment. Some years ago—I am not good at dates, but say seventy,

you will - Port Royal was destroyed by an earthquake.

Those who are geographically inclined should be made to understand that the communication between Port Royal and Kingston, as, indeed, between Port Royal and any other part of the island, is by water. It is, I believe, on record, that hardy Subs, and hardier Mids, have ridden along the Palisades, and not died from sun-stroke in the effort. But the chances are much against them. The ordinary ingress and egress is by water. The ferry boats usually take about an hour, and the charge is a shilling. The writer of these pages, however, has been two hours and a quarter in the transit.

THE TOWN.

15

CHAPTER II.

JAMAICA-TOWN.

WERE it arranged by Fate that my future residence should be in Jamaica, I should certainly prefer the life of a country mouse. The town mice, in my mind, have but a bad time of it. Of all towns that I ever saw, Kingston is perhaps, on the whole, the least alluring, and is the more absolutely without any point of attraction for the stranger than any other.

It is built down close to the sea-or rather, on the lagune which forms the harbor, has a southern aspect, and is hot even in winter. I have seen the thermometer considerably above eighty in the shade in December, and the mornings are peculiarly hot, so that there is no time at which exercise can be taken with comfort. At about 10 A.M., a sea breeze springs up, which makes it somewhat cooler than it is two hours earlier-that is, cooler in the houses. The sea breeze, however, is not of a nature to soften the heat of the sun, or to make it even safe to walk far at that hour. Then, in the evening, there is no twilight, and when the sun is down it is dark. The stranger will not find it agreeable to walk much about Kingston in the dark.

Indeed, the residents in the town, and in the neighborhood of the town, never walk. Men, even young men, whose homes are some mile or half-mile distant from their offices, ride or drive to their work as systematically as a man who lives at Watford takes the railway.

Kingston, on a map—for there is a map even of

16

THE STREETS OF JAMAICA.

Kingston-looks admirably well. The streets all run in parallels. There is a fine large square, plenty of public buildings, and almost a plethora of places of worship. Everything is named with propriety, and there could be no nicer town anywhere. But this word of promise to the ear is strangely broken when the performance is brought to the test. More than half the streets are not filled with houses. Those which are so filled, and those which are not, have an equally ragged, disreputable, and bankrupt appearance. The houses are mostly of wood, and are unpainted, disjointed, and going to ruin. Those which are built with brick not unfrequently appear as though the mortar had been diligently picked out from the interstices.

But the disgrace of Jamaica is the causeway of the streets themselves. There never was so odious a place in which to move. There is no pathway or trottoir to the streets, though there is very generally some such–I cannot call it accommodation-before each individual house. But as these are all broken from each other by steps up and down, as they are of different levels, and sometimes terminate abruptly without any steps, they cannot be used by the public. One is driven, therefore, into the middle of the street. But the street is neither paved nor macadamized, nor prepared for traffic in any way. In dry weather it is a bed of sand, and in wet weather it is a watercourse. Down the middle of this the unfortunate pedestrian has to wade, with a tropical sun on his head; and this he must do in a town which, from its position, is hotter than almost any other in the West Indies. It is no wonder that there should be but little walking

But the stranger does not find himself naturally in possession of a horse and carriage. He may have a

[blocks in formation]

saddle-horse for eight shillings; but that is expensive as well as dilatory if he merely wishes to call at the postoffice, or buy a pair of gloves. There are articles which they call omnibuses, and which ply cheap enough, and carry men to any part of the town for sixpence; that is, they will do so if you can find them. They do not run from any given point to any other, but meander about through the slush and sand, and are as difficult to catch as the musquitoes.

The city of Havana, in Cuba, is lighted at night by oillamps. The little town of Cien Fuegos, in the same island, is lighted by gas. But Kingston is not lighted at all!

We all know that Jamaica is not thriving as once it throve, and that one can hardly expect to find there all the energy of a prosperous people. But still I think that something might be done to redeem this town from its utter disgrace. Kingston itself is not without wealth. If what one hears on such subjects contains any indications towards the truth, those in trade there are still doing well. There is a mayor, and there are aldermen. All the paraphernalia for carrying on municipal improvements are ready. If the inhabitants have about themselves any pride in their locality, let them, in the name of common decency, prepare some sort of causeway in the streets; with some drainage arrangement, by which rain may run off into the sea without lingering for hours in every corner of the town. Nothing could be easier, for there is a fall towards the shore through the whole place. As it is now, Kingston is a disgrace to the country that

owns it.

One is peculiarly struck also by the ugliness of the buildings—those buildings, that is, which partake in any degree of a public character—the churches and places of

[blocks in formation]

worship, the public offices, and such like. We have no right, perhaps, to expect good taste so far away from any school in which good taste is taught; and it may, perhaps, be said by some that we have sins enough of our own at home to induce us to be silent on this head. But it is singular that any man who could put bricks and stones and timber together should put them together in such hideous forms as those which are to be seen here.

I never met a wider and a kinder hospitality than I did in Jamaica, but I neither ate nor drank in any house in Kingston except my hotel, nor, as far as I can remember, did I enter any house except in the way of business. And yet I was there—necessarily there, unfortunately, for some considerable time. The fact is, that hardly any Europeans, or even white Creoles, live in the town. They have country seats, pens as they call them, at some little distance. They hate the town, and it is no wonder they should do so.

That which tends in part to the desolation of Kingstonor rather, to put the proposition in a juster form, which prevents Kingston from enjoying those advantages which would naturally attach to the metropolis of the island—is this : the seat of government is not there, but at Spanish Town. Then our naval establishment is at Port Royal.

When a city is in itself thriving, populous, and of great commercial importance, it may be very well to make it wholly independent of the government. New York, probably, might be no whit improved were the National Congress to be held there; nor Amsterdam, perhaps, if the Hague were abandoned; but it would be a great thing for Kingston if Spanish Town were deserted.

The Governor lives at the latter place, as do also those satellites or moons who revolve round the larger lumi. nary—the secretaries, namely, and executive officers.

« ElőzőTovább »