Billeder på siden

How regularly return to us the close and the beginning of the year! the spring and autumn, the seed-time and harvest ! and what a wonderful order exists in all those physical operations around us that we call Nature! Does any man doubt that morning will succeed the night, or night the day ? and may we not reasonably awake our senses to those latent, those less apparent but not less certain operations of the Divine Providence in the moral world, by which our souls are led onward from stage to stage, from trial to repose, from depression into cheerfulnes, from doubt to confidence, from Faith to Love? Oh let us never ques. tion that the order of things is at least as perfect in the moral, as in the apparent world. The plant that vegetates acts not of itself, and while we see it unfolding we acknowledge the power of God and the operation of His Will; so oh God! Creator, Preserver, Sanctifier, let us equally acknowledge Thy Divine Influence in the admission and enjoyment of every thought that aids the growth, or beautifies the character of the soul of man.

Dear Reader farewell! love my uncle the parson, and may the close of the year bring thee peace which surpasseth joy!


[blocks in formation]



Havana, October 21, 1844. I TOLD you in my last, that I was just starting for Don Santiago's estate, and in his company. Our conveyance was a two-wheeled vehi. cle, very much like our • gigs, although larger, and set upon leather straps, which make it quite easy over the uneven roads of the country. It was drawn by three horses harnessed abreast; the one on the right side guided by my friend from his seat next to me in the 'quitrin,' the middle one tackled in the shafts, and the left one for the calesero,' or driver, to mount. The calesero had on well-polished leather boots, buckled all the way from the feet to the knee, thence open and stiff to the hip; a straw hat about nine inches high, with a moderate brim, and handsome colored ribbon, a black cravat, and a livery with silver ornaments. His knee-buckles, his large heavy spurs, and the handle of his long whip, were of fine silver. After three hours' swift travel in the vicinity of the city, (where the turnpike roads, which are kept in fine condition at a great expense, by the careful attention of the Junto de Fomento, presented an easy path,) we gradually began to notice the uneven and broken way, which appeared to have received its improvement rather from continual travel than from any intended human agency. In some of these irregular avenues the soil, which is very soft and black, and rendered pliable by the heavy rains, would sink beneath the wheels of the quitrin,' while the heavy carts, with wheels seven feet in diameter, which we occasionally met on the way, cut deep and continuous trenches all along the road. My friend made me notice particularly that the peculiar ability of a calesero consisted in driving rapidly along the margin of these trenches, sometimes more than three feet deep, and extending several miles, without ever allowing the carriage-wheels to drop into them on either side. He likewise shows his skill in avoiding the stones, loose and fixed, which are scattered in the road. As I beheld the monstrous carts, loaded with two hogsheads of nearly two hundred gallons each, or eight boxes of sugar, constantly destroying by their large thin wheels the few repairs occasionally attempted, in addi. tion to the several obstacles that require the ever-vigilant eye of the driver to avoid collision or excessive jolting, I was convinced that no other mode of conveyance would be better adapted to the condition of things.

Travellers are very much disposed to find fault with whatever may differ from their preconceived notions, or the standard to which habit has fashioned their opinions. It often happens however, that farther consideration furnishes some very good reason for not adopting what, in other circumstances, would be the height of perfection. I will give you an instance. You may frequently have heard that manuring land is not practised in Cuba. In the staple production, sugar, the price of VOL. XXIV.


land is but an inferior item of the heavy capital to be invested ; and so long as the distance of the new lands from market does not make the transportation of cane by carts too inconvenient, it will be more advantageous to work the new soil and obtain its virgin growth, than to manure the old fields, where manual labor is the most expensive. The ready market for vegetables raised near the city of Havana, affords great encouragement to the farmer's assiduity; and you will accord. ingly perceive that the soil is subjected to a very elaborate and skilful system of cultivation. Some of the planters, who have no new lands near them, are unwilling to abandon the costly buildings required on their estates, and consequently give very particular attention to improving their lands by manuring and the use of the plough.

Our black calesero drove around numberless small and large stones, up and down hill, and along the trenches made by the carts, and more than once approached close upon the verge of a precipice, but without diminishing the rapidity of his motion. Occasionally he would meet an acquaintance of either color, to whom he bowed with a courtly smile. Although my friend Don Santiago did not usually stop for any meals on the road, to gratify my desire of seeing every thing, the calesero drove gallantly up to the tavern of “La Perfecta,' in the village of — Under the shelter of a wide shed, which ran round it, a number of horses were standing ; some tied to the posts, others with their riders on them, who, without dismounting from their large straw-saddles, were making purchases, or conversing with those standing about them. We were shown into a small room, a little more cleanly than the rest of the house, and in a short time were served with some very tough beef, strongly seasoned with garlic, some fried eggs, a bit of very salt ham, coffee with dirty sugar, and no milk. The tavern-keeper, who seemed delighted that he was able to supply us with such inviting fare, asked us at times how we liked the service, adding that it was lucky for us that we had come on Wednesday, because Sundays and Wednesdays were the days for killing. • But your beef is rather tough,' said Don Santiago. “And how could it be otherwise ?' he answered. In the first place, old oxen are the cheapest article to be found. They are the heaviest also, which is another advantage, as the duty is just the same on large as on small cattle. When the butcher happens to kill a twoyears'-old calf, he is sure to lose by it, as the duty disproportionably increases the cost.' Don Santiago also remarked to me, that as the treasury agents sold the privilege of killing to the highest bidder, without any particular regard to the wishes of the public, the only point they considered was the increase of the revenue, ihe provision for the benefit of the community being observed as mere matter of form; and that a petition was never made or expected to be made on the part of indivi. duals, who found it always more to their interest to endure abuses than to complain of them.

We were thus far beginning to discuss matters of importance, when the inn-keeper having retired, Manuel, our black driver, in the uncouth accoutrement I have described, somewhat bespattered with mud, holding his whip in his left hand, and his hat in his right, entered our room, swinging like a sailor in order to avoid the embarrassment in walking caused by the large ears of his boots. • Child,' said he, addressing his master, who was certainly much older than himself, • I want to speak privately with the Child;' and he looked toward me. Don Santiago told him that I was a foreigner, and he might speak without reserve. I was so anxious to pick up any interesting matter regarding the coun. try, that I gladly availed myself of the opportunity, and remained in the room.

• The Child knows,' added Manuel, that ever since I came to this country, ever since I was a mere baby, I have been with your Bounty, and in the Child's family. Your Bounty is my father and my mother. I have nothing in the world beside. When I have my sorrows, to whom shall I tell them but the Child ? And if the Child reject me, what shall I do? Oh, my God!'

• But Manuel,' interrupted Don Santiago, 'what is the matter? what ails you ? have you been whipped ? have you been in want of any thing ? are you ill ? do you wish to have another master ?

• Another master ! continued Manuel ; it is well for the Child to suspect one of that wish after being so many years in the house ! Alas! what would the good old gentleman say, were he to rise from the hole, if he saw and heard the strange things that have happened in these days! The negro name, how it has gone down! And after passing all our life in the service of such good masters as the Child, no matter what we do, (because there are some bad slaves, who have acted improperly,) we are all doomed to lose the confidence we enjoyed. If I say, me, Manuel, the old calesero of the family of Cisueros, that I love my master, or his children ; if the Child is sick, and I inquire as I always have done, why I am only making believe.'

Don Santiago kindly reproved Manuel, wishing him to be more precise in his expostulation.

Very well, my master,' said Manuel ; • I know this is not a suitable place; but at home I could not speak, and my heart was so low, I could not wait.' *But, Manuel,' said Don Santiago, have I ever accused


?" No, answered Manuel, you have not. But I will tell you all, right away. You know how much I have tried to please the Nina.'* My business always has been to have the volante clean and ready. But if your Nina wished ine to go of errands, to help the cook on some holidays, let any one say if Manuel refused ; let any one say if he put a bad face to it, as would have done the caleseros of the Montalvos, the Charones, or the Herreras, or any of those great families, who are no better than the family of the Child. No such thing: always at hand, always to be found, always cheerful ; and now the Nina says I am surly ; I want to shake off her authority! •Well,' says I to myself, “the Nina is not pleased with me, but if I go tell my master, in these hard times for the black color, he will perhaps think bad of me. “Ah, Manuel ! have patience !' says I; and then I go and purchase a wax-candle with the same money the Child gave me

* BY 'Nina' the feminine of Child, MANUEL meant Don SANTIAGO's wife. A distinguished Span.. ish writer observe i to me, that the term •Child' was a delicate flattery, (since it iniplied youth,) invented by the negroes to avoid the more humiliating expression · Sumerced,' which siguifies • Your Bounty.

last week, and which I always spend in lottery tickets at the grocer's store at the corner,* and right before the image of the Virgin of Mount Carmelo, which I nailed in the room of the harness of the volante, I lighted it all day and night until it wasted away. I am a little ashamed to tell these things, because I know you gentlemen laugh at them. But pardon me; for the poor slave, when his heart is made so very small, has no help but to go to prayer. Then I thought things were going to right again; when yesterday morning, because the wheel of the volante went once over a stone, which certainly seldom happens, when I am mounted on the horse, the Nina said I did it on purpose; that I was as great a conspirator as any; and because I staid late at the street. door last night, playing on the tiple't as I have always done, your Nina said your Bounty ought to get me a place in the opera-house, and have one enemy less near her person. Alas, Child, I cannot help it ; I can no more bear it: the Child knows my heart.'

As the scene was becoming too pathetic for the place, Don Santiago urged Manuel to be consoled ; adding, that he would remind the lady of his good services, and do away any unfavorable impression she might have respecting him. Manuel appeared relieved, and walked to his horses, carefully balancing his body as he went along. We followed, jumped into the volante, and hurried from the tavern.

On arriving at the estate, we stopped at the dwelling-house, which, as the Don was not expected, was far from being properly prepared to receive us. He apologized, and explained that he preferred all the inconveniences, to giving previous notice of his coming. He calculated too much, perhaps, on the idea of taking his operarios, or workmen, by surprise; and observed to me that he once found all the white persons employed on his plantation gone to a ball, and the negroes left by them. selves; and that an estate was not unfrequently made the rendezvous of gamblers. We walked over to the square of buildings, which are generally placed in the centre of the plantation, and found them in the invariable respective order observed here; the mill and the boiling. house in the west part, the baggage-house still farther west, and the purging-house and drying-drawer in the north, so that the latter may receive the rays of the sun from morning till night.

During our short absence the house had been comfortably arranged. We found two or three black damsels just dressed in new and shining calico frocks, with silk shoes, worn slip-shod, red shawls, and hair arranged in very fine tresses, and very tight on the head. The table was set, our rooms neatly disposed, and our beds ready to receive us, should we feel disposed to take before dinner what the Spanish call the prebendary's or canonical nap. I preferred a small room where I found some old books covered with dust, which appeared not to have been disturbed for years. Don Santiago, divining my intention, ordered one of the black girls to dust them off; and sitting down, awaited what I should say of the assortment which I was determined to examine. I read aloud the title of the first pamphlet I laid my hand on: Expediente

* The negro spends nearly all the money he can get in this way. 1 A favorite negro instrument.

« ForrigeFortsæt »