« AnteriorContinuar »
humanity and the rational lenity mixed up by the planters with the strict laws for the government of the negroes which the necessities of the case rendered altogether unavoidable.
Our merry guide now brings us to the second of his volumes, at the commencement of which he could boast of having acted and suffered as much as it was possible for a man of his time of life to encounter, even in the dangerous profession of the navy. He had seen bad weather and heavy seas in several quarters of the globe-he had tumbled about under a close-reefed main-topsail, on the long seas in the Bay of Biscay-he'had been kicked about in a seventy-four, off the Cape of Good Hope, as if she had been a cork - he had been hove hither and thither, by the short jumble of the North Sea, about Heligoland, and the shoals lying off the mouth of the Elbe, when every thing over head was black as thunder, and all beneath as white as snow-he had' enjoyed the luxury of being torn in pieces by a north-wester, which compelled his ship to lie-to for ten days at a stretch, under storm stay-sails, off the coast of Yankeeland, with a clear, deep, cold, blue sky above, without a cloud, where the sun shone brightly the whole time by day, and a glorious harvest moon by night, as if they were smiling in derision upon the riven and strained ship, as she reeled to and fro like a wounded Titan; at one time buried in the trough of the sea, at another cast upwards towards the heavens, by the throes of the tormented waters, from the troubled bosom of the bounding and roaring ocean, amidst hun. dreds of miniature rainbows, (ay, rainbows by night as well as by day,) in a hissing storm of white, foaming, seething spray, torn from the curling and rolling bright green crests of the mountainous billows. And Cringle has had more than one narrow squeak for it in the neighbourhood of the “ still vexed Bermoothes," besides various other small affairs; but such another tumblification never had he experienced—not as to danger, for there was none except to the spars and rigging, but as to discomfort-as he did in that short, cross, splashing, and boiling sea, off Morant Point.
In the succeeding observations of Tom Cringle on these Southern States, it is perfectly manifest that he is an enemy to colonial revolutions, for he regards it as an evil hour when the spirit of European liberalism was introduced into the countries on the Atlantic shores of South America, as well as on its western coast; these territories were thriving and increasing in population and wealth-they would have continued in this fortunate career, were it not for the pestilent breath of the liberalism to which he has already adverted.
The duties which Cringle had now to fulfill enabled him to see a great deal of society on shore, and his sketches are very lively of the manners and customs of society in these regions. The next place at which he sojourned was the island of Cuba, which forms the site of a whole chapter of scenes very graphically described by our log-keeper: The cruises of the ship Wave and the adventures which she met with, or rather in which the party on board, including Tom Cringle, were engaged, were various sometimes giving rise to a comedy, still more frequently to a gloomy, tragedy, filled with incidents worthy of the deepest sympathy, and terminating in catastrophes of the most appalling nature.
At Hayti, for example, no sooner did Cringle and his friends land than they were accosted by an English sailor, who appeared to be greatly agitated, and begged they would come to see, and bring with them a prayer book, for two captains, who were condemned to be shot the very next day. Upon inquiry they found the story to be perfectly well founded, for they ascertained that the two unfortunates in question were, one of them, a Guernsey man, and the other a man of colour, a native of St. Vincent's, whom the president had promoted to the command of two Haytian ships that had been employed in carrying coffee to England; but on their last return voyage, they had introduced a quantity of base Birmingham coin into the Republie; which fact having been proved on their trial, they had been convicted of treason against the state, condemned, and were now under sentence of death; and the government being purely military, they were to be shot next morning. A boat was immedịately sent on board, the messenger returned with a prayerbook ; and Cringle with his brother officer prepared to visit the miserable men; they proceeded towards the prison. Following the sailor, who was the mate of one of the ships, they arrived before the door of the place where the unfortunate men were confined, and were speedily admitted; but the building had none of the appurtenances of a prison. There were neither long galleries, nor strong ironbound and clamped doors, to pass through; nor jailors with rusty keys jingling; nor fetters clanking; for the visitors had not made two steps past the black grenadiers who guarded the door, when a sergeant showed them into a long ill-lighted room, about thirty feet by twelve-in truth, it was more like a gallery than a room--with the windowsinto the street open, and no precautions taken, apparently at least, to prevent the escape of the condemned. There was a small rickety old card-table, covered with tattered green cloth, standing in the middle of the floor, which was composed of dirty unpolished pitch pine planks, and on this table glimmered two brown wax candles, in old-fashioned brass candlesticks. Forming a sort of line across the floor, stood four black soldiers, with their muskets at their shoulders, while beyond them sat, in old-fashioned arm-chairs, three figures, whose appearance never can be forgot. Cringle and his benevolent colleagues gave the unfortunate men all the consolation in their power, and on the day appointed for the execution, went to witness it. Cringle in his account of the scene, gives a graphic description of the procession in which it began, and the succeeding events. First, according to him, a whole regiment
of the president's guards advanced; it was followed by a battalion of the infantry of the line, this batallion being succeeded by a bevy of priests, clad in white, which contrasted conspicuously with their brown and black faces. After them marched two firing parties of twelve men each, drafted indiscriminately, as it would appear, from the whole garrison; for the grenadier cap was there intermingled with the glazed shako of the battalion company, and the light moriori of the dismounted dragoon. Then came the prisoners. The elder culprit, respectably clothed in white shirt, waistcoat, and trowsers, and blue coat, with an Indian silk yellow handkerchief bound round his head. His lips were compressed together with an unnatural firmness, and his features were sharpened like those of a corpse. His complexion was ashy blue. His eyes were half shut, but every now and then he opened them wide, and gave a startling rapid glance about him, and occasionally he staggered in his gait. As he approached the place of execution, his eyelids fell; his under-jaw dropped, his arms hung dangling by his side like empty sleeves; still he walked on, mechanically keeping time, like an automaton, to the measured tread of the soldiery. His fellow-sufferer followed him. His eye was bright; his complexion healthy, his step firm. The procession moved on. The troops formed into three sides of a square, the remaining one being the earthen mound, that constituted the rampart of the place. A halt was called. The two firing parties advanced to the sound of muffled drums, and having arrived at the crest of the glacis, right over the counterscarp, they halted on what, in a more regular fortification, would have been termed the covered way. The prisoners, perfectly unfettered, advanced between them, stepped down with a firm step into the ditch, led each by a grenadier. In the centre of it they turned and kneeled, neither of their eyes being hound. A priest advanced, and seemed to pray with the brown man fervently; another offered spiritual consolation to the Englishman, who seemed now to have rallied his torpid faculties, but he waved him away impatiently, and taking a book from his bosom, seemed to repeat a prayer from it with great fervour. The priests left the miserable men, and all was still as death for a minute. A low solitary tap of the drum, the firing parties came to the recover, and presently taking the time from the sword of the staff-officer who had spoken, came down to the present, and fired a rattling, straggling volley. The brown man sprang up into the air three or four feet, and fell dead; he had been shot through the heart; but the white man was only wounded, and had fallen, writhing, and struggling, and shrieking, to the ground. I heard him distinctly call out, as the reserve of six men stepped into the ditch, " Dans la téte, dans la tête.”. One of the grenadiers advanced, and, putting his musket close to his face, fired. The ball splashed into his skull, through the left eye, setting fire to his hair and clothes, and the handkerchief bound round his head, and making the brains and
blood flash up all over his face, and the person of the soldier who, had given him the coup de grace.
The Wave left Hayti, and sailed for Santa Martha, 'where Cringle had the opportunity of witnessing a striking natural phenomenon, calculated to be produced by the neighbourhood of what he calls, the stupendous prong of the Cordilleras. This consisted of the cold air which rushes down every night towards morning, and blowing with intense violence, is capable almost of sinking a ship unless it is firmly anchored under the lee of the beach. At Panama, which Cringle visited on business, he was received very kindly by the family to whom he had letters of recommendation. He gives a curious description of the members of this family from Don Hom-' brecillo himself, the man of the house to the last link of the numerous body of kinfolk who had been assembled within its precincts, but he especially points our attention to the maternal aunt of the host who was on the verge of eighty-five years of age, and unfortunately had survived all her faculties. She was remarkable for a droll custom of eating all her meals walking, and it was her practice to move round the dinner-table in this her dotage, and to commit pranks, that made Cringle laugh, and even in despite of the feelings of pity and self-humiliation that arose in his bosom at the sight of such miserable imbecility in a fellow-creature. Thus keeping on the wing as he has described her, it was her practice to cruise about behind the chairs, occasionally snatching pieces of food from before the guests, so slyly, that the first intimation of her intention was the appearance of her yellow shrivelled birdlike claw in a plate.
He noticed in Panama also, the following periodical custom. As the night shut in, after a noisy prelude on all the old pots in the different steeples throughout the city, there is a dead pause; presently the great bell of the cathedral tolls slowly, once or twice, at which every person stops from his employment, whatever that may be, or wherever he may be, uncovers himself, and says a short prayer--all hands remaining still and silent for a minute or more, when the great bell tolls again, and once more every thing rolls on as usual.
Cringle returned to Jamaica, where he found orders directed to him to quit the Wave, and repair on board the Firebrand as second lieutenant. Many curious particulars are related by him, with respect to society in Jamaica, particularly in Kingston, where the tendency to merriment assumed a character which approximated very closely to the extravagance of playful children. At a bachelor's dinner, consisting of guests well acquainted with each other, it is often the practice for each to assume a nick-name, and the amusement of this nominal masquerade contributes very much, we are told, to the consolation which the inhabitants so much require, in consequence of the uncongenial influence of an unhealthy climate. Cringle attended one of these entertainments, at which he found a highly respectable merchant, who, by common consent, bore the
name of the Duke of Tuscany, on account of a prominent tooth, or tusk, in the front of his mouth; another of the guests was brought to his attention under the amusing name of Old Steady in the West, because he never kept his head still
. In giving an account of the remaining guests, Cringle is perfectly ignorant as to whether the names which he took down were genuine or not; at all events he presents us with a very striking group of West Indian feeders, who may be taken as so many specimens of their class in Jamaica, and about whom, of necessity, some interest must be entertained amongst us.
• First, there was Mr. Seco, a very neat gentlemanlike little man, perfectly well bred, and full of French phrases. Then came Mr. Eschylus Stave, a tall, raw-boned, well-informed personage; a bit of a quiz on occasion, but withal a pleasant fellow. Mr. Isaac Shingle, mine host, a sal. low, sharp, hatchet-faced, small homo, but warmhearted and kind, as I often experienced during my sojourn in the west, only sometimes a little peppery
Then came Mr. Jacob Bumble, a sleek fat. pated Scotchman. Next I was introduced to Mr. Alonzo Smoothpate, a very handsome fellow, with an uncommon share of natural good-breeding and politeness. Again I clapper-clawed, according to the fashion of the country, a violent shake of the paw, being the Jamaica finfeftment to acquaintanceship, with Mr. Percales, whom I took for a foreign Jew somehow or other at first, from his uncommon name, until I heard him speak, and perceived he was an Englishman ; indeed, his fresh complexion, very neat person, and gentlemanlike deportment, when I had time to reflect, would of themselves have disconnected him from all kindred with the sons of Levi. Then came a long, dark-complexioned, curly-pated slip of a lad, with white teeth, and high strongly marked features, considerably pitted with the small-pox. He seemed the great promoter of fun and wickedness in the party, and was familiarly addressed as the Don, although I believe his real name was Mr. Lucifer Longtram. Then there was Mr. Aspen Tremble, a fresh-looking, pleasant, well-informed man, but withal a little nervous, his cheeks quivering when he spoke like shapes of calf's-foot jelly; after him came an exceedingly polite old gentleman, wearing hair-powder and a queue, yclept Nicodemus; and a very devil of a little chap, of the name of Rubiochico, a great ally in wickedness with Master Longtram ; the last in this eventful history being a staid, sedatelooking, elderly-young man, of the name of Onyx Steady, an extensive foreign merchant, with a species of dry caustic readiness about him that was dangerous enough.—We sat down, Isaac Shingle doing the honours, confronted by Eschylus Stave, and all was right, and smooth, and pleasant, and in no way different from a party of well-bred men in England.' - pp. 335, 336.
These, and many such merry scenes, are described by Cringle under the head of Tropical High-Jinks.
We now come to the last chapter, the last of the log, where Tom Cringle, to our consternation, is determined to bid us farewell; but before surrendering his pen, as a parting tribute, in token of gratitude for hospitality and kindness, he once more roams to Kingston.