Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

the air, but immediately alighted again, to their astonishment, vulture-like with out-stretched wings upon the head. Under the shadow of this horrible plume, the face seemed on the instant to alter like the hideous changes in a dream. It appeared to become of a deathlike paleness, and anon streaked with blood. Another stroke of the oar-the chin had fallen down, and the tongue was hanging out. Another pull— the eyes were gone, and from their sockets, brains and blood were fermenting and flowing down the cheeks. It was the face of a putrefying corpse. In this floating coffin they found the body of another sailor, doubled across one of the thwarts, with a long Spanish knife sticking between his ribs, as if he had died in some mortal struggle, or what was equally probable, had put an end to himself in his frenzy; whilst along the bottom of the boat, arranged with some show of care, and covered by a piece of canvass stretched across an oar above it, lay the remains of a beautiful boy, about fourteen years of age, apparently but a few hours dead. Some biscuit, a roll of jerked beef, and an earthen water-jar, lay beside him, showing that hunger at least could have had no share in his destruction,—but the pipkin was dry, and the small water-cask in the bow was staved and empty.

They had no sooner cast their grappling over the bow, and begun to tow the boat to the ship, than the abominable bird, that they had scared, settled down into it again, notwithstanding their proximity, and began to peck at the face of the dead boy. At this moment they heard a gibbering noise, and saw something like a bundle of old

rags roll out from beneath the stern sheets, and whatever it was, apparently made a fruitless attempt to drive the gallinaso from its prey. Heaven and earth, what an object met their eyes! It was a full-grown man, but so wasted, that one of the boys lifted him by his belt with one hand. His knees were drawn up to his chin, his hands were like the talons of a bird, while the falling in of his chocolate-coloured and withered features gave an unearthly relief to his forehead, over which the horny and transparent skin was braced so tightly that it seemed ready to crack. But in the midst of this desolation, his deep-set coal-black eyes sparkled like two diamonds with the fever of his sufferings; there was a fearful fascination in their flashing brightness, contrasted with the deathlike aspect of the face, and rigidity of the frame. When sensible of the presence of the strangers he tried to speak, but could only utter a low moaning sound. Cringle got on board; the surgeon administered some weak tepid grog to the poor fellow, which acted like magic, and gradually uncoiling himself he seemed to obtain a fresh power over his voice which became comparatively strong and clear. Crawling on his face and the front of his body, like a wretched worm which had been crushed, across the deck, he was enabled to put his head over the port sill: he looked down upon the boat, and he saw the pale countenance of his dead child: he dropped his face against the ship's side and never again rose.

The ship, according to orders, sailed for the coast of Terra Firma, off which she was directed to cruise, but unfortunately she was wrecked in this station, and many of the party on board sank. Cringle, however, we are happy to say, was amongst the survivors, having been brought on shore and secured in a hut belonging to one of the natives on the South American coast. At this period, Morillo was engaged in this part of the world, and he behaved with the most hospitable attention to the two officers who had survived the wreck. At Carthagena, they met with a pilot who had been known to them, and who soon procured for them berths in a ship bound for Jamaica, whither they were anxious to go. The individual with whom they bargained for their passage, was a black man of Scotch descent, in whom they placed implicit confidence, and consequently readily consented to sail in the ship with which he was connected. He was introduced to them as the mate of the vessel, but after they got on board and after the ship had weighed, they found the actual captain in the person of the Scotch negro. Cringle asked the simple question why the negro had not shifted his canvass, or told the truth in the beginning: he replied by another question—" Vy vont you be content to take a quiet passage, and hax no question?" In half an hour afterwards, Cringle and his friend Splinter, the lieutenant of the Torch, found the deck mounted with carronades, and every preparation in readiness for an action. The crew were armed, and in a very short time a sail appeared in the distance, and at the moment when Crin.' gle and Splinter concluded that nobody on board was aware of the approach of a ship, up jumped the captain on a gun, and gave his orders with a fiery energy that startled the passengers. The full intelligence now broke in upon Cringle's mind, that the ship in which they were, was a pirate, and they saw that she was making preparations to board a cutter which the captain was previously informed, had on board a large quantity of specie. The captain having come up alongside the cutter, an officer from her went on board the pirate, and the instant he made his appearance, he was caught by two strong hands, was gagged, and thrown bodily down into the hatchway. He was carried in a boat from the cutter, and after he was disposed of in this way, a fire of thirty-two pound shot was hove into the boat alongside, which crushing the bottom of the boat, swamped her instantly, and sent down the whole of the

A few minutes only elapsed, when the infamous captain of the pirate gave orders for his ship to wear across the stern of the cutter, which being effected, he poured in a broadside upon her: Cringle heard the shot rattle and tear along the cutter's deck, mingled with the shrieks and groans of the wounded. Close action now commenced, the pirate being ranged alongside the cutter. Never was there a more infernal scene. Up to this moment there had been neither confusion nor noise on board the pirate--all had been coolness and order; but when

crew.

come a

tran the yards locked, the crew broke loose from all controul they ceased to be men—they were demons, for they threw down their own dead and wounded, as they were mown down like grass by the cutter's grape, indiscriminately down the hatchways to get clear of them. They had stript themselves almost naked; and, although they fought with the most desperate courage, yelling and cursing, cach in his own tongue, most hideously, yet their very numbers, pent up in a small vessel, were against them.' At length, amidst the fire, aud smoke, and hellish uproar, the deck had be

a very shambles; and unless they soon carried 'the cutter by boarding, it was clear that the coolness and discipline of the cutter, men must prevail, even against such fearful odds, the superior size of the vessel, greater number of guns, and heavier metal. The pirates seemed aware of this themselves, for they now made a desperate attempt forward to carry their antagonist by boarding, led on by the black captain. Just at this moment, the cutter's main-boom fell across the schooner's deck, and Cringle and his companion, by a sudden impulse, jumped down into the cutter, and shortly afterwards the pirate sailed away.

In the cutter, Čringle and his companions were able to reach Port Royal. During a visit to the interior he saw at a distance, near the shore, two men-of-war's boats with three officers each in the stern, who came there for the purpose, it seems, of settling'a quarrel. Finally, it so happened, that a sufficient number of officers were gathered at this station to constitute a court-martial for disposing of the case of the Torch, which had been wrecked, and the ceremony was soon over. Cringle with his colleague were next turned over to the receiving ship, the Old Shark, and he was delighted at the coincidence which brought him at the same moment a commission as lieutenant, from home.

During his stay in the island of Jamaica, he had occasionally made a number of observations on its scenery, and on the customs and manners of its inhabitants. Having been exceedingly struck with the beauty of the negro villages on the old settled estates which are usually situated in the most picturesque spots, he made up his mind to visit one of them which lay on a sunny bank, full in view from his window. At the distance from which he had first viewed it, the village had the appearance of one entire orchard of fruit trees, where were mingled together the pyramidal orange, in fruit and in flower, the former in all its stage from green to dropping ripe,—the citron, lemon, and lime trees, the stately, glossyleaved star-apple, the golden shaddock and grape fruit, with their slender branches bending under their ponderous yellow fruit,the cashew, with its apple like those of the cities of the plain, fair to look at, but acrid to the taste, to which the far-famed nut is appended like a bud, -the avocada, with its brobdignag pear, as large as a purser's lantern,—the bread-fruit, with a leaf, one of which would have covered Adam like a bishop's apron, and a

il

fruit for all the world in size and shape like a blackamoor’s head; while, for underwood, you had the green, fresh, dew-spangled plantain, round which in the hottest day there is always a halo of coolness,--the cocoa root, the yam and granadillo, with their long, vines, twining up the neighbouring trees and shrubs like hop-tendrils,-and peas and beans, in all their endless variety of blossom and of odour, from the Lima bean, with a stalk as thick as my arm, to the mouse pea, three inches high,—the pine-apple, literally growing in, and constituting, with its prickly leaves, part of the hedgerows,--the custard-apple, like russet bags of cold pudding, --the cocoa and coffee bushes, and the devil knows what all that is delightful in nature besides; while, aloft, the’tall, graceful cocoa

, shot

& here and there like minarets far above the rest, high into the blue heavens. He entered one of the narrow winding footpaths, where an immense variety of convolvuli crept along the penguin fences, disclosing their delicate flowers in the morning freshness (all that class here shut up at noon), and passion flowers of all sizes, from a soup plate to a thumb ring. The huts were substantially thatched with palm leaves, and the walls woven with a basket-work of twigs, plastered over with clay, and whitewashed: the floors were of baked clay, dry and comfortable. They all consisted of a hall and a sleeping-room off each side of it: in many of the former he noticed mahogany sideboards and chairs, and glass decanters, while a whole lot of African drums and flutes, and sometimes a good gun, hung from the rafters: and it would have gladdened an Irishman's heart to have seen the adjoining piggeries. Before one of the houses an old woman was taking care of a dozen black infants, little, naked, glossy, black guinea pigs, with party-coloured beads tied round their loins, each squatted like a little Indian pagod in the middle of a large wooden bowl, to keep it off the damp ground. While he was pursuing his ramble, a large conchshell was blown at the overseer's house, and the different gangs turned in to dinner; they came along, dancing and shouting, and playing tricks on each other in the little paths, in all the happy anticipation of a good. dinner, and a hour and a half to eat it in, the men well clad in Osnaburg frocks and trowsers, and the women in baize petticoats and Osnaburg shifts, with a neat printed calico short gown over all. And these are slaves," thought Cringle, " and this is West Indian bondage! Oh, that some of my wellmeaning anti-slavery friends were here, to judge from the evidence of their own senses !

it! The remainder of the first volume is devoted to a great variety of most interesting narratives, which are given under the heads of The Chase of the Smuggler;" “ The Cuba Fishermen ;" * The Vomito Prieto, or Black Vomit of South America ;” and “More Scenes in Jamaica.” It would appear, that the unhappy author was attacked whilst sojourning in Jamaica with the black vomit, and in conformity with his usual jovial spirit which had the happy faculty of converting even misfortunes into sources of merriment, sets about proving that it is worth one's while to suffer all the horrors of the disease in order to experience all the luxuries of a recovery. The language in which he exults under these feelings betrays the warmth of his enthusiasm on the occasion.

Oh the delight, the blessedness of the langour of recovery, when one finds himself in a large airy room, with a dreamy indistinct recollection of great past suffering, endured in a small miserable vessel within the tropics, where you have been roasted one moment by the vertical rays of the sun, and the next annealed hissing hot by the salt sea spray ;-in a broad Juxurious bed, some cool sunny morning, with the fresh sea-breeze whistling through the open windows that look into the piazza, and rustling the folds of the clean wiregauze musquito net that serves you for bed-curtains; while beyond you look forth into the sequestered courtyard, overshadowed by one vast umbrageous kennip-tree, that makes every thing look green and cool and fresh beneath, and whose branches the rushing wind is rasping cheerily on the shingles of the roof—and oh, how passing sweet is the lullaby from the humming of numberless glancing bright-hued flies, of all sorts and sizes, sparkling among the green leaves like chips of a prism, and the fitful whirring of the fairyflitting humming-bird, now here, now there, like winged gems, or living " atoms of the rainbow,” round which their tiny wings, moving too quickly to be visible, form little halos-and the palm-tree at the house-corner is shaking its long hard leaves, making a sound for all the world like the pattering of rain; and the orange-tree top, with ripe fruit, and green fruit, and white blossoms, is waving to and fro flush with the window-sill, dashing the fragrant odour into your room at every whish; and the double jessamine is twining up the pawpaw (whose fruit, if rubbed on a bull's hide, immediately converts it into a tender beef-steak) and absolutely stifling you with sweet perfume; and then the sangaree-old Madeira, two parts of water, no more, and nutmeg--and not a taste out of a thimble, but a rummerful of it, my boy, that would drown your first-born at his christening, if he slipped into it, and no stinting in the use of this ocean; on the contrary, the tidy old brown nurse, or mayhap a buxom young one, at your bed-side, with ever and anon a lettle more panada," (d-n panada, I had forgotten that!) “and den some more sangaree; it will do massa good, trenthen hím tomack”—and --but I am out of breath, and must lie to for a brief space.

The readers of the Monthly Review will be struck with the correspondence which exists between Tom Cringle's description of the Negro houses in Jamaica, and the account which we gave in our number for September from Mrs. Carmichael's volumes on the West Indies, of the domiciles of the slaves in St. Vincent. The evidence, indeed, which reaches us from time to time, and which rests on the authority of impartial witnesses, is all in favour of the

« AnteriorContinuar »