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ABSENCE OF SCENIC BEAUTY.
BARBADOS is a very respectable little island, and it makes a great deal of sugar. It is not picturesquely beautiful, as are almost all the other Antilles, and therefore has but few attractions for strangers.
But this very absence of scenic beauty has saved it from the fate of its neighbors. A country that is broken into landscapes, that boasts of its mountains, woods, and waterfalls, that is regarded for its wild loveliness, is sel. dom propitious to agriculture. A portion of the surface in all such regions defies the improving farmer. But, beyond this, such ground under the tropics offers every inducement to the negro squatter. In Jamaica, Dominica, St. Lucia, and Grenada, the negro, when emancipated, could squat and make himself happy; but in Barbados there was not an inch for him.
When emancipation came there was no squatting ground for the poor Barbadian. He had still to work and make sugar-work quite as hard as he had done while yet a slave. He had to do that or to starve. Consequently, labor has been abundant in this island, and in this island only; and in all the West Indian troubles it has kept its head above water, and made sugar respectably—not, indeed, showing much sugar genius, or going ahead in the way of improvements, but paying twenty shillings in the pound, supporting itself, and earning its bread decently by the sweat of its brow. The pity is that
APPEARANCE OF THE COUNTRY.
the Barbadians themselves should think so much of their own achievements.
The story runs, that when Europe was convulsed by revolutions and wars—when continental sovereigns were flying hither and thither, and there was so strong a rumor that Napoleon was going to eat us—the great Napoleon I mean—that then, I say, the Barbadians sent word over to poor King George the Third, bidding him fear nothing. If England could not protect him, Barbados would. Let him come to them if things looked really blue on his side of the channel. It was a fine, spirited message, but perhaps a little self glorious. That, I should say, is the character of the island in general.
As to its appearance, it is, as I have said, totally different from any of the other islands, and to an English eye much less attractive in its character. But for the heat its appearance would not strike with any surprise an Englishman accustomed to an ordinary but ugly agricultural country. It has not the thick tropical foliage which is so abundant in the other islands, nor the wild grassy dells. Happily for the Barbadians every inch of it will produce canes; and, to the credit of the Barbadians, every inch of it does so. A Barbadian has a right to be proud of this, but it does not make the island interesting. It is the waste land of the world that makes it picturesque. But there is not a rood of waste land in Barbados. It certainly is not the country for a gipsy immigration. Indeed, I doubt whether there is even room for a picnic.
The island is something over twenty miles long, and something over twelve broad. The roads are excellent, but so white that they sadly hurt the eye of a stranger. The authorities have been very particular about their milestones, and the inhabitants talk much about their journeys. I found myself constantly being impressed
with ideas of distance, till I was impelled to suggest a rather extended system of railroads—a proposition which was taken in very good part. I was informed that the population was larger than that of China, but my informant of course meant by the square foot. He could hardly have counted by the square mile in Barbados.
And thus I was irresistibly made to think of the frog that would blow itself out and look as large as
Bridgetown, the metropolis of the island, is much like a second or third rate English town. It has none of the general peculiarities of the West Indies, except the heat. The streets are narrow, irregular, and crooked, so that at first a stranger is apt to miss his way. They all, however, converge at Trafalgar Square, a spot which, in Barbados, is presumed to compete with the open space at Charing Cross bearing the same name. They have this resemblance, that each contains a statue of Nelson. The Barbadian Trafalgar Square contains also a tree, which is more than can be said for its namesake. It can make also this boast, that no attempt has been made within it which has failed so grievously as our picture gallery. In saying this, however, I speak of the building only—by no means of the pictures.
There are good shops in Bridgetown—good, respectable, well-to-do shops, that sell everything from a candle down to a coffin, including wedding rings, corals, and widows' caps. But they are not hot, fusty, crowded places, as are such places in third rate English towns. But then the question of heat here is of such vital moment! A purchase of a pair of gloves in Barbados drives one at once into the ice-house.
And here it may be well to explain this very peculiar, delightful but too dangerous West Indian institution.
By-the-by, I do not know that there was any ice-house in Kingston, Jamaica. If there be one there, my friends were peculiarly backward, for I certainly was not made acquainted with it. But everywhere else—at Demerara, Trinidad, Barbados, and St. Thomas—I was duly introduced to the ice-house.
There is something cool and mild in the name, which makes one fancy that ladies would delight to frequent it. But, alas ! a West Indian ice house is but a drinkingshop-a place where one goes to liquor, as the Americans call it, without the knowledge of the feminine creation. It is a drinking shop, at which the drafts are all cool, are all iced, but at which, alas! they are also all strong. The brandy, I fear, is as essential as the ice. A man may, it is true, drink iced soda-water without any concomitant, or he may simply have a few drops of raspberry vinegar to flavor it. No doubt many an easy-tempered wife so imagines. But if so, I fear that they are deceived. Now the ice-house in Bridgetown seemed to me to be peculiarly well attended. I look upon this as the effect of the white streets and the fusty shops.
Barbados claims, I believe-but then it claims everything—to have a lower thermometer than any other West Indian island—to be, in fact, cooler than any of her sisters. As far as the thermometer goes, it may be possible ; but as regards the human body, it is not the fact. Let any man walk from his hotel to morning church and back, and then judge.
There is a mystery about hotels in the British West Indies. They are always kept by fat, middle-aged colored ladies, who have no husbands. I never found an exception except at Berbice, where my friend Paris Brittain keeps open doors in the city of the sleepers. These ladies are generally called Miss So-and-So; Miss
Jenny This, or Miss Jenny That: but they invariably seemed to have a knowledge of the world, especially of the male hotel-frequenting world, hardly compatible with a retiring maiden state of life. I only mention this. I cannot solve the riddle. Davus sum, non Edipus.” But it did strike me as singular that the profession should always be in the hands of these ladies, and that they should never get husbands.
As a rule, there is not much to be said against these hotels, though they will not come up to the ideas of a traveler who has been used to the inns of Switzerland. The table is always plentifully supplied, and the viands generally good. Of that at Bardados I can make no complaint, except this ; that the people over the way kept a gray parrot which never ceased screaming day or night. I was deep in my Jamaica theory of races, and this wretched bird nearly drove me wild.
Can anything be done to stop it, James ?" No, massa." “Nothing? Would'nt they hang a cloth over it for a shilling ?"
No, massa; him only make him scream de more to speak to him.”
I took this as final, though whether the “him the man or the parrot, I did not know. But such a bird I never heard before, and the street was no more than twelve feet broad. He was, in fact, just under my window. Thrice had I to put aside my theory of races. Otherwise than on this score, Miss Caroline Lee's hotel at Barbados is very fair. And as for hot pickles—she is the very queen of them.
Whether or no my informant was right in saying that the population of Barbados is more dense than that of China, I cannot say; but undoubtedly it is very great ;