in vast numbers flew about high over our | lily-beds, ranunculus, and other water heads and above the lofty trees, screech- weeds, till we reached the opposite shore, ing unpleasaotly in their homeward flight, where labors of a new nature met us, and or the heron, or some long-legged bird, for a time impeded our fair progress. would wing his way swiftly past us to the Here we had to unload our boat of everysea, but none of nature's pretty pets, with thing, and thus lightened drag it by main their gay and lovely plumage, ventured force up the embankment of the lake, and near us; and Demerara is noted for the then with gentle care let it down some beauty and variety of its birds. I sup- seven feet into the shallow creek below, pose they were too frightened, or thought and this done, restore each in its allotted we had some powder or a gun, or feared, place, our goods and chattels, tin kitchen, as well they might, the swift, unerring plantains, rice-bags, breviaries, and botarrow of the Indian.

iles. Whilst the process of re-packing Disappointed here, by way of compen- was going on, I observed close to the 'sation we were once or twice amused troolec-covered shelter of a black Afriat the antics of the little " sacawinki” can man, who had strangely settled there, of the monkey tribe, droll little things about the only specimen of his species they were, jumping and springing from far and near, an Indian youth quietly en. branch to bough, now gazing impudently, gaged in removing, with a tuft of grass, at us, then hiding their tiny faces, then blood-stain marks from his feet and legs. out again, forcibly suggesting, even coax. Thinking some misfortune had befallen ing us to a game of or some such bim, I inquired anxiously the cause. The ancient nursery fun; then they would man understanding me well, though not chatter as if they wish to say, “ Čatch me my words, straightway and silenily led if you can,” looking all the while as mon- me off some hundred yards or more, then keys are wont to look, so pitifully beseech. diving into the woods or entangled bush ing, perhaps begging us not to use the he brought me before the slaughtered re. bended bow, or shoot them with a leaden mains of an immense camudi snake, ball. Poor little creatures, we would not, some sixteen feet long and six inches in could not bit or harm or hurt them for diameter, with a bright coat of many colthe world, no, not even to obtain a pretty ors. Its head had been severed from its skin or well-stuffed specimen for the long body, still it twisted and turned when Stonyhurst Museum, though later on we even slightly touched, as if full conscious robbed, with some remorse we own, the of enemies around, while its little ones, mocking-bird of its long bagonest, eggs four or five in number, lay in still death and all, to add to the specimens of that beside their beheaded mother. Examin: valuable and well-cared collection, and ing the dead camudi and its slaughtered are prepared to make other such petty innocents, I observed scattered all about thefts for the sake of science or learning spinal and curved or rib bones of many in that far distant, well-beloved Alma camudi snakes, great and small, and then Mater.

I was made to understand that when capAnd now to resume. Hours of intense tured they were dragged to that spot to delight had passed away, ever to be re- undergo the severest penalty of the Indian membered, and the windings of the Tapa. law. The blood then on the man's feet cuma Creek, for such is the Indian name and legs was the poor camudi's life-blood, of this meandering stream, with its varied not his own, for the Indian had been the views and charming vistas, were fast fad. courageous executioner. ing from before us, leading us out into Leaving then the snake with its “long the brood sunlight and floating us on into lingering length” behind, I retraced my an expansive savannah or wide-spread but steps to the tent-boat; all was in order shallow lake, surrounded by mighty forest and the men ready to start away. So trees. There the tall greenheart grows, leaving the shade of an immense locustand the locust-tree, the crab or common tree, having first however collected some mahogany. The Moro ducalabali and of its fruits or pods, we again took our other Demerarian trees, much appreciated places, and the men their oars, and pad. at home for the beauty and hardness and dled off once more. Without treasuring durability of their woods, all in full leal, up our locust fruit, we broke into the as ever in these parts, and many in full pods, thus to form an intimate acquainflowering, or “beautiful in various dyes tance with their contents at once. This around me trees unnumbered rise.” fruit, eagerly sought after and relished so

Quickly our men plied their oars, push- well by boys, Indian and African, did not ing their way relentlessly through smiling at all come up to our expectation, or de.


[ocr errors]

light'or tempt us in the least. The eating a shop for the benefit of the wayfarer, the of an old unclean worsted sock (and the Indian, and themselves. word unclean should be underlined), Kindly indeed did these good people steeped in sugar and allowed to dry, gives welcome the priest, killing, if not the some idea of this sweet West Indian fatted calf," at least runding after the delicacy.

plumpest duck, pulling up the best roots, “The shades of night were falling thus to lay a dainty repast before us. fast,” as the poet puts it, and soon all Then would they bring their little ones nature's beauties, and there were many before us, to kiss our hand and receive there, were wrapped in its dark mantle. a priestly blessing. Dear little ones of We therefore lit our lamp, dealt out sup. God, how their bright eyes gleamed with per portions to our men, refreshing them delight, and their fair faces siniled all over with some coffee and some water mixed with infant joy, as they looked at the shinwith rum. At lines some wild Indians ing cross or medal pressed into their tiny in their narow skiff shot by, or we could hands, running off at once to show the view them on the leafy bank, grouped brass treasure to every member of the together cooking their last caught fish, or household. munching at their fruit; imperturbable Our object in visiting the Portuguese people, no shower of little biscuits or of along the river banks was to tell them hard nuts provoked them, but they picked that on a fixed day on our return, if wild them up and, like monkeys, looked at beasts had not devoured us or hungry them, then cracked or swallowed thein Indians eaten us both up, we would say without a smile or a thought of thanks, mass in a certain place called Caledopoor children of the wild woods and nia, and would then attend as best we waters. When supper was finished and could to their spiritual wants, and that night prayers said, and the rosary well they must promptly do their part by responded to, we composed ourselves to spreading the news to all around. And rest as best we could, while our poor In. these tidings of great joy did travel far dians kept rowing on, but when the tide and fast, bringing contentment and conturned, they wisely shipped their oars and solation to many good Catholic souls in slept or rested on till the turning of the those outlandish parts. The correspon. next tide favored them again. The dis. dence to our call was quite equal to our tant howling of the red monkey of the expectation, as later on we witnessed. wood, distinctly heard, did not disturb or The river was gradually widening out make us sleep less. Croaking frogs or as it was nearing or emptying itself into crapauds did their best to waken us, but the sea, though not so much as rivers genfailed in the attempt, for we were tired. erally do, and after a long and hot and

As soon as the beams of the bright somewhat tedious voyage, we found ouro morning sun “put the darkness to fight selves at the mouth of the Pomoroon, and and the stars one by one,” we arose and in the jaws of the boisterous ocean, or shook off all sleep and drowsiness, and Caribbean Sea. It is almost always rough having attended to soine higher duties, and unpleasant at this point, and this putting away our breviaries, we attended roughness we had to encounter before we next to the temporal wants of our hungry could find an entrance into the mouth of men, not neglecting our own. Coffee we the Moruca, unless we had taken a long, boiled, and then cakes and cassava we circuitous route through many narrow, distributed, and what fruit remained winding watercourses, intercepted with passed round.

fallen trees or branches, rendering it nec. By this time, and even before the break essary to unload our boat more often than of day, we had entered the great Pomo. we felt inclined to do. So we preferred roon River, a river of very considerablc of the two evils to encounter the troubled width in places here and there along its waters than delay our course, imperil our shores. We ran in our boat and clam. frail bark, or try too much our patience. bered up the slippery bank to visit some After a vigorous row of some three of the good Portuguese people who had hours or more, and having shipped many settled there, and who, by dint of hard a wave, and with a calabash bailed then work and wonderful perseverance, had all out again, we found ourselves not cer. cleared parts of the forest or wild bush, tainly the dryer, but all safe and sound at and converted thein into provision the boca, or mouth, of the Moruca. The grounds, and moreover constructed fit sun was fast hurrying on in its downward dwelliny-places for themselves and fami- course, and well-nigh" had pillowed its lies, and evend harun up here and there chin upon an orient wave,” when caring

[ocr errors]


for our love of nature's wonders with its open-sided dwelling, where all might hang wild and varied charms, it lent us just their hammocks, cook, and take shelter time enough to admire a scene before us for the night. Pagan Indians, according beautiful in the extreme, and rendered to their way, seemed hardly to recognize more beautiful still by the glowing splen- our presence; while hungry, half-starved dor cast upon it by its own bright, now dogs certainly did and fiercely eyed us, golden, now ruby-colored rays, now gild half smelling the good things we had in ing or tipping in gold each leaf and line, our boat, ready to snatch or claim even a now deep tinging all around by its crim- lion's share. The little children ran away, son purple or varied-colored light, making till a few sweet biscuits dispelled their even the unrippled waters blush where infant fears, and made them soon our it chanced to smile upon them.

bosom friends, and the dogs were in good It would be difficult to find a spot more time propitiated by sundry fragments of inspiring to the poet, more puzzling to

our food. the painter, or more enchanting to the Soon were we busy cooking, and — sad enthusiastic traveller, than this wild ro- to be forced to own our human weakness mantic entrance into the Moruca.

we sell at once upon that roast-beef tin Its beauty consists not so much in the so prized, and ate it up for hunger sake, luxuriant foliage, or in the profusion of forgetting all about old England and the vines and flowery creepers, though these Italian We cooked potatoes, were not wanting there; but rather in such as never were cooked before or the fantastic growth of the tall trees, so since, at least so we thought, forgetting interlaced or interwoven with each other, we had brought a good, cheap, wholesome and again in the curious appearances of sauce with us in the shape of hunger. their bigh uplifted roots. These roots, This work over, and carefully packing or natural tree-supports, have an utter up both our knives and forks and two tin abhorrence to hide themselves in the soil, spoons, for which we paid one penny each, Like unto children with new shoes or and other such valuable wares, and securboots, they must needs be seen by all, ing all useful remnants from the greedy standing, these roots, as if on tiptoe on dogs and little voracious ants, we took a the dark water-edge, ready either to slip stroll along the river bank, coming across in or to take a plunge, or make a jump or some of the good Indians of St. Rosa's spring across; while some of the higher Mission, who promised to meet us later branches of these strange, absent-minded at the Sunday's mass. Returning to the trees, as if forgetting their high calling, logie before dark, we swung our ham. dip down and degrade themselves to the mocks and prepared to sleep and rest. rank of common roots, and grow as such. “ But oh, I passed a miserable night, The sea and tidal waves no doubt have far worse indeed than Clarence,” for he robbed these trees of their landed prop. had but an ugly dream, or nightmare, but erty, or much of their earthly inheritance; with me it seemed as if cvery stinging but still, not incommoded by the loss, mosquito of the colony was for my many they rather rejoice in it, and thrive all the sins let loose upon me, while sand-Nies better in their amphibious mode of life. innumerable had no pity or compassion,

Nature has wondrous wild ways of its teasing and tormenting me most cruelly, own out here, but few there are to note as if in very truth they themselves had down or admire its wanton freaks and once been angels ! curious fancies.

Twisting and turning, rocking and rollThe waters of the Moruca are darkering, I longed for the change of the tide or and much deeper than either of the creeks the brisk washing of the midnight waters. we had passed through; besides, it is Twelve o'clock did come at last, as if much broader, for it claims a right of be. some four or five hours late, and I felt as ing called a river. We had not long I turned out of my hammock on the gritty rowed up its current before we turned ground below, like unto one who by the sharply to the left, finding an entrance into boly and wholesome thought of others had a shallow Indian port of six feet wide, been prayed out of or released from the and there, as evening was coming on, we pains of purgatory: determined to take supper, and hang our The men were soon at their posts and hammocks and rest a while, till the next we in our places, so off we rowed in the washing of the waters at midnight fa- midnight darkness with our lanterns lit vored our onward progress. We landed, before us, feeling sure tliat the morning's and soon found ourselves under the cove sun would light up a new prospect before ering of an Indian logie, or large thatched, I us, and land us safe among our Indian


people, or bring us to the long looked-for come is lingering on; " Adam” and

promised land.” And so it was as the “ Eve” have long since gone to Paradise, sun arose in its usual splendor and warmth, and the green grass is growing over them; dispelling a slight fog or heavy dew. Up “ Princess" is without a shoe to her royal high upon the sand-hill of Santa Rosa heel or a stocking to her foot; while we beheld first the tall missionary cross, “ Prince” would thank you for a penny or and then the church with its detached would quarrel for a pin. Such naines as belfry to the right, then the presbytery in these are far too common in town and the background.

country. Our arrival was quickly made known The next day a very respectable conby the brisk, loud ringing of the big bell. gregation assembled for mass, after which “'The padre is come,” they would say, they were told the order of the week, and “and we needs must go clad in our Sun. when to come to their religious duties. day's best to meet him, and then assist At the end of this mass seven little Inat the holy mass, and bring at once our dians were presented for baptism, all sickly babies to be baptized.” The altar having their god-parents present; five of things we wanted most were quickly car. the babies were of the Arawack tribe, two ried up from the boat by our good men. of the Warau tribe. One of these Warau One of us about half past six began to babies was fairly frightened at the prepmake the altar ready and prepare to vest arations going on, and ran up the side of for mass, and soon, after much loud ring. its mother in true rat-like fashion. It ing at the bell, the faithful were seen toil. was as much as we could do to tame it ing up the hill to assist thereat. It was down for the more essential parts at the quite an unexpected satisfaction to find sacrament. how well the Spanish-Indian boys could Some long hours of this morning and answer and serve at mass; so well, in some other hours beside were spent in deed, that even Baldeschi would find but working the brushes and applying the little to complain of; save perhaps that bright colors brought with us in orna. they served in the dual number, or that menting or decorating the church, espe. their four little copper-colored feet were cially the chancel arch, the flat surfaces bare. All this good teaching or manners around it, and the spandrils above. On was due to the indefatigable labors of a one side the instruments and einblems of long-tried catechist, residing there for the passion were depicted in as lively many years.

colors as the subject would allow of, and When mass and prayers were over we on the other side emblems of the blessed mingled with the people, and at once re. sacrament, the sacred heart, etc., were joiced the hearts of young and old by a painted, while a profusion of conventional judicious if not generous distribution of and mystical leaves and flowers — lilies, medals, crucifixes, and pious prints; for roses, passion-lowers — helped to enrich they who came first desired the first gift the work, or relieve or tone down the or little offerings, and well pleased they barshness or whiteness of the light- . were with those simple pious presents. painted walls and posts.

In questioning the children about their In the afternoon of that same day we names and ages, and how much good borrowed a canoe some eighteen feet long catechism they knew, it was refreshing to and two feet wide, balancing in it our see how they all rejoiced in most Chris. precious bodies as best we could, swiftly tian names Isidore, Ignatius, Anastasia, inaking our way along the watercourses Apollonia, Francis, Agnes, Jerome, and till we came in sight of some of the settle. Maria, the queen of names; such names ments of our good people. Here we as these sell sweetly upon our ears, and balted and paid each in turn a visit, in. the reason of it all is quickly explained, quiring and finding out all about them, for they call their children after the saint and encouraging them to send their chil. on whose feast-day they were born. What dren to the school to learn, if not “alge. a pleasing contrast to the pagan custom bra” or the other R's, at least catechism of English estate-owners or Dutch slave. and the other prayers. One little boy, to holders in days not so very long gone by! secure the benefit of a liberal education, For as a proof let me say " November”is would swim across the river in the morn. still alive; old “October” quite dead and ing on his way to school, and repeat the gone; but lately only “Goodluck” passed healthy plunge to gain his home at evenaway; good “ Neptune,” with his hair and tide. teeth so white, and his face and hands so The dwelling places of the Indians are black, has gone to his reward; “Wel. I large, lofty, and commodious places, and

[ocr errors]

freely ventilated, for there are no walls to and the basis, as some will tell us, of encompass them. A few straight palm- almost every dark-colored dinner sauce. tree poles, with a high-pitched roof The cassareep finds in town a ready marthatched with troolee palm leaves in a ket, and travels far and wide. Cassava, most artistic and masterly manner, cover- too, is sold in town, not quite so publicly ing an area, say of forty feet long by as it was some few years ago, when little twenty feet wide, make up these mansions negro girls, with the bread upon their. of the woods. Anyhow, they are not, as heads, would have in their mouths, or on many would very erroneously suppose, their lips, these strange utterances: Indian huts or hovels. In some of the

Nice Cassava bread, ladies, more respectable abodes, if not in most

Nice Cassava bread; of them, a small apartment of some eight He who want me call me, or ten feet square is divided off by soine He who no want me no call me; leaf or wicker-work walls from the rest He shame to call me give me the of the dwelling, where papa or mamma,

Wink, wink, wink. or broken-legged brother, or snake-bitten. Not quite a London cry, it must be owned, cousin and little sick sister might rest and or rendered in the queen's best English, be cared for; and this sanctum contains, but quite as intelligible as most of the moreover, the family chest, some poor old street cries of that huge, distant city. battered box, where the scanty wardrobe But to return to the Indians and their of the household is kept together, with a limited industries. They make among few glass beads and other such priceless other things a peculiar sort of matted treasures.

basketwork from the splittings of a palm, The rest of the family or household staining some of the slender pieces black, swung their hammocks from pole to pole, and interweaving them in their work, prosnugly sleeping there during the long ducing thereby surface designs as chaste night, and lazily lounging in them too and true to art as Owen Jones, Ruskin, many hours during the hot day. The hammock for the Indians is chair faithful as if by instinct to the great true

or the elder Pugin would well wish to see, and table, sofa, bed, smoking saloon, and art-principle of decorating construction all.

without constructing decoration, and conAnd what do these simple people do sequently producing ornaments truthful under their ample troolee-covered sheds in art and pleasing to the eye. while the men are busy hunting down the game, or capturing the fish, or collecting

'Tis just congruity of parts combined fruit, birds, and gums? In most of the

Must please the taste and satisfy the mind. dwellings of the Indians you will observe in the style alluded to the Indians make a long hollow tree, or more often it may a sort of basket called “peghalls,” “ mata. be an ancient canoe or corial no longer pees," "sieves," "strainers,” and many sea-worthy, but most useful there, for it is other articles peculiar to their own domesinto this that they grate the cassava root, tic wants. Some again spin the cotton and in it too they squeeze its juice after from the cotton-tree that grows hard by, the grating process is ended. This cas- manufacturing it into hammocks of all sava grating, when alınost dry, is spread sorts and sizes. Others carried on a little upon large iron disks, under which a fire trade referred to above in collecting is made, and quickly the cassava cake is macaws, parrots, paroquets, and other cooked and ready for consumption. This birds of richest plumage, taming them, bread is their “staff of life, while “life teaching them to speak, and then bringitseli” is made from the fermented juice ing them into town to sell, or exchange of the same cassava root, and many are for a gun, it may be, or a knife, some inebriated with the drink thereof. It is yards of colored cotton, some bright but. called parwarri, and corresponds in great tons, or some glass beads. Monkeys, measure to the beer or ale of the English. too, are brought to town, sold, and re

duced to utter slavery, but kindly treated, From this cassava juice, however, some even by little black boys, as if they had a thing, of a much better quality is pro sort of sellow-feeling. duced than the nasty parwarri drink, for We passed from house to house gatherwhen boiled down to the consistency ing information as we went along, and of treacle, and in color much resembling interesting ourselves with the good peoit, it becomes the far-famed cassareep, ple young and old, and pleasing the little the preserving element of the pepper-pot, ones with pious lectures, or soothing their


[ocr errors]


« VorigeDoorgaan »