• TABLE OF CONTENTS
HIDE
 Title Page
 Frontispiece
 Table of Contents
 Preface
 Part I. Sketches of African...
 Part II. Young Africa
 Part III. Customs and manners
 Part IV. Moruca; or, a few days...














Group Title: Sketches of African and Indian life in British Guiana,
Title: Sketches of African and Indian life in British Guiana
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Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00078285/00001
 Material Information
Title: Sketches of African and Indian life in British Guiana
Physical Description: 109 p. : 1 plate. ; 20 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Scoles, Ignatius
Publisher: The "Argosy" Press
Place of Publication: Demerara
Publication Date: 1885
Edition: [2d ed.]
 Subjects
Subject: Blacks -- Guyana   ( lcsh )
Indians of South America -- Guyana   ( lcsh )
Description and travel -- Guyana   ( lcsh )
Genre: non-fiction   ( marcgt )
 Notes
Statement of Responsibility: by the Very Revd Ignatius Scoles, V. G.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00078285
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: aleph - 001110866
oclc - 22482876
notis - AFK7414

Table of Contents
    Title Page
        Title Page
    Frontispiece
        Frontispiece
    Table of Contents
        Table of Contents
    Preface
        Preface
    Part I. Sketches of African life
        Page 1
        Page 2
        Page 3
        Page 4
        Page 5
        Page 6
        Page 7
        Page 8
        Page 9
        Page 10
        Page 11
        Page 12
        Page 13
        Page 14
        Page 15
        Page 16
        Page 17
        Page 18
        Page 19
        Page 20
        Page 21
        Page 22
        Page 23
    Part II. Young Africa
        Page 24
        Page 25
        Page 26
        Page 27
        Page 28
        Page 29
        Page 30
        Page 31
        Page 32
        Page 33
        Page 34
        Page 35
        Page 36
        Page 37
        Page 38
        Page 39
        Page 40
        Page 41
        Page 42
        Page 43
        Page 44
        Page 45
    Part III. Customs and manners
        Page 46
        Page 47
        Page 48
        Page 49
        Page 50
        Page 51
        Page 52
        Page 53
        Page 54
        Page 55
        Page 56
        Page 57
        Page 58
        Page 59
        Page 60
        Page 61
        Page 62
        Page 63
        Page 64
        Page 65
        Page 66
        Page 67
        Page 68
        Page 69
        Page 70
        Page 71
        Page 72
        Page 73
        Page 74
        Page 75
        Page 76
        Page 77
        Page 78
        Page 79
    Part IV. Moruca; or, a few days among the Indians
        Page 80
        Page 81
        Page 82
        Page 83
        Page 84
        Page 85
        Page 86
        Page 87
        Page 88
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        Page 97
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        Page 101
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        Page 103
        Page 104
        Page 105
        Page 106
        Page 107
        Page 108
        Page 109
Full Text




SKETCHES

OF


African and Indian


Life

IN


BRITISH GUIANA,


The Very Revd: Ignatius


Scoles, V.G.


1885.


THE ARGOSY" PRESS, DEMERARA.




































"Your affectionate Brother
THE GBaB-DIOeeB."
-Page 39.






















CONTENTS:
PAGE
Part I. Sketches of African Life ... ... ... I

,, II. Young Africa ... ... ... ... 24

,, III. Customs and Manners... ..... ... 46

,, IV. Moruca; or, A few days among the Indians. 8o




- 4


PREFACE-WORPS.

THE rapid sale of the first edition threw the little book
out of print a fortnight after its appearance,-hence this
second edition with four rough wood-cut sketches thrown
in extra.
The Author thanks the LOCAL PaESS for its kind en-
couragement and liberal praise-forsooth unmerited-and
the good Georgetown PUBLIC for its generous and ready
patronage, fully appreciated.
Many it seems have read the little book and smiled;
some few who have not read have said-" 0 me Fader, you
" hit too hard; fo' true;" while the writer without
remorse or fear, screens himself behind SHAKJESPEAE'
words, where two bold citizens speak out and say in de-
fence of ANTroY-
Me thinks there is much reaon in his sayings
"If thou consider rightly of the matter."


May, 1885.
















AFRICAN LIFE.



PART THE FIRST.

HE following rough sketch of African life is the
result of quiet personal observation extending
over many years of residence among the people.
I do not propose to enter on any elaborate analysis of the
excellencies and defects, the characteristic qualities, the
origin in the past or the destiny in the future, of the
African race. I am merely going to draw a simple picture
of them as they are in their own homes, and of those
marked peculiarities which have often been described, and
too often caricatured or misrepresented.
The Africans as a class of people are exceedingly simple
in their manner of acting and their mode of expression,
especially when their betters have not spoiled them by
their vicious ways or bad example.
They are invariably cheerful, good-natured, and often
merry, have a fair appreciation of dry humour, and are
fond of fun. They are hardly ever over-anxious or weighed
down with grief, while troubles, come as they must to all,
sit lghtly upon them.
They are moreover, though very passionate at times,







2 APRICAN LIE IN BRITISH GUIANA.

on the whole of a kind disposition, and though often ex-
ceedingly noisy and excited, so that they seem at first to
breathe fire and vengeance, they draw no blood, strike no
blows, threaten much, look excessively savage and then
all is over-no malice whatever remaining in their minds,
no rancour or vindictive feeling taking possession of their
hearts; ready to fight one moment, and at the next to
share their food together. In fact, and it rather redounds
to their credit than otherwise, they are in this respect
more like unto overgrown, querulous, excitable, children,
than full-grown powerful men.
Some stress, certainly, should be laid upon the fact
of the ready spirit of pardon the African possesses, or his
willingness not only freely to forgive, but also readily to
forget, for, while it contrasts wonderfully on the one
hand with the disposition of many of the wild native
tribes of America, on the other hand it puts to deep blush
self-sufficient people of European Christian nations, who
pray in the best of prayers for forgiveness, but seldom
themselves are very ready to forgive, reminding us of
SHAKSPEAlE'S words so beautifully put in PORTIA'S appeal
" We all do pray for mercy, and that same prayer should
teach us to render the deeds of mercy."
Again, our African friends though perhaps not always
very demonstrative, are faithful, affectionate, and warm-
hearted, and cherish the remembrance of their friends.
When, for instance, a poor Congo Catholic, 'once a slave,
old and infirm, will come some distance to welcome back a
priest after many years of absence, and will shake his
hand with evident emotion, and then, within the same
half minute, will, as a special favour, beg to shake de







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 3

hand again," it shows much genuine feeling and warmth
of heart.
In the appreciation of religion and its sacred truths the
Africans are not wanting, and when not blown about by
every wind of false doctrine, they become simple, sincere
and practical Christians, or, to use a common phrase, a
God-fearing and church-going people. Not long since, a
black boy, quite out of breath, ran up to a priest, and
stumbled out: "Fader, can boy ever be too big for to
serve GOD? ISAAC NEPTUNE and PRINCE SIMON both say
me too big for serve Mass." When young black boys get
such good thoughts in their heads, and ask such serious
questions, quaint as they may sound, it shows at least that
there is some good modelling clay from whence to mould
the solid Christian man.
The history of the African in these parts, and how he
gained a footing on the soil, or came to British Guiana, is
generally known, or if not, is quickly and easily told. In
the dark days of slavery, or as the black man drolly puts
it, "In de Old Testament time," white men of many na-
tions looked upon their fellow-creatures of the dark-skinned
race as mere living animals, or live labour instruments,
with bodies to be beaten, but no souls to be saved, and
teased them as if they were lineal descendants of the long-
tailed monkey tribe, living on hard nuts and sleeping up
high trees quite to the mind of Darwin and his brethren.
In these sad days, then, when the poor African was first
stolen from his people-then bought, then sold again-a
great slave traffic was carried on for a length of years between
the vast Desert Continent and South America, including
many of the West India Islands captured or claimed by the








4 AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.

European powers. Hither the poor Africans were brought
from many parts of their own dear land, or kidnapped upon
the shore, and stowed away like live stock or mere living
cargo in the wretched vessels bound from east to west.
Each West Indian planter, of sugar, coffee, cocoa, or of
cotton, had supplied to him the number of negro slaves he
required or stipulated or paid for, and the poor creatures,
who melted the saintly heart of a PETER CLAVER and other
zealous souls of his own heroic stamp, would find them-
selves consigned to the tender mercy and often most cruel
care of wicked and immoral masters, and hard-hearted and
not less wicked drivers, to end their days for the most part
in ignominious slavery and total religious ignorance.
Often indeed, as tradition tells us, the poor slave fared
right well, was happy, content, and cared for, so much so
that this question has been sometimes asked, and not so
summarily answered: Was not the African slave of old a
happier man than his free and lazy descendant of to-day ?
Without even entering into the question, or troubling
about the answer, this much we may say with truth-that
whatever happiness the poor slaves enjoyed in those days
was but accidental, and depended much upon the humani-
ty of the master, and still more upon the kindness of the
driver, and certainly was not the result of his fallen and
degraded state. Thus we see how the black men of Africa
got footing, and in part, possession of the soil, and became
in time a large portion of the population of British Guiana.
And now that slavery has passed away, and has become
a mere part of history, forming indeed a dark and dismal
blot on the historic page; now that the black English
subject can sing to his heart's content, "Rule Britannia








AFBICANL LIFE IN BRIrIMH GUIANA.


Britons never shall be slaves;" now that he is his own
master and depending on his own means, what has he
done to show his appreciation of the utter change of
events, or how has he corresponded to the blessings of
emancipation.
It may, and must be said, severe as the saying may
sound, that the poor African has done very little, nay,
next to nothing, in bettering his condition, or in advanc-
ing his social position in the land. He has not used his
liberty or freedom to the advantage of himself, or for the
benefit of others, or for the general good. With many
inducements, before him, with good laws to protect him,
a free government to encourage him, and many a white
man of means to assist and patronize him, to say nothing
of his own health and strength to back him, he has failed
to correspond to these advantages, but has remained very
much in a statu quo" condition.
And whence comes all this? It comes from his own
unwillingness to work, from his utter distaste for labour.
It comes simply from the fact that he will not submit to
be a labouring man in the ordinary sense of the word;
that is, he will not put in a week's honest work, for out of
six days he cannot, as a rule, be induced to labour more
than three days or four at most. We speak here especially
of the out-door country labouring class. True enough,
right well he works during those few days, making more
show, and doing much more work in one day than a Coolie
Indian will do, or can do in three, but this fact speaks not
in his favour, but rather against him, and confirms the
argument that he might do much, and gain much, and
prosper well if he could but put his shoulder to the wheel,








6 AFBICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.

or his hand to the plough, and not keep looking back.
And what becomes of the other three days, or balance of
the week ? They are spent in lazy lounging, or in listless
sleep. He has earned nearly three dollars for his three
days' work; his wife may or may not get some more,
but he is idle until his money is all gone, and hunger
comes again. Then he gets up, bestirs himself once more,
claims, or clamours for fresh work to do, or food to eat.
He does not, we must frankly own, leave his work and
go off, as the enlightened Englishman, the religious
Scotchman, or the merry-hearted Irishman will do, and
that for weeks together, on some drunken spree or bout.
Civilization has not as yet put so many kind temptations
in his way, nor as in most English towns, has she built
public-houses all round him, till he feels like frog in the
middle, and can't get out." His temptations here are not
to drink, thank God; at the present it is not his beset-
ting sin, or predominant passion, but laziness may be, and
it looks very like it. However, he may possibly say,
Audi alteram partem, and be tempted to push forward a
specious argument or so, contending that when Holy JOB
in his anguish cried out, Man is born to labour, as the
bird is made to fly," he did not mean to say man must be
ever suffering or at hard work, nor the poor bird always on
the wing. I, he may add as a free-born British subject,
have full right to arrange my own times of honest labour
and hard work; and he may push his argument further
still, and say, that he, unlike the rest of men, does not
want to be great or rich during his short transitory life
here below; he has no ambition to purchase lands and
thereon to raise high houses, or to possess shops and







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 7

prosper therein, like the good industrious Portuguese, or
even the poor pagan Chinese do, nor, like the Indian
Coolie, does he care for cattle, or for cows. Why should I,
he argues, work the whole week through, all hot and wea-
ry, to gain such things as these ? I, he says, am more
simple in my tastes and thoughts, more spiritual in my
desires; give me enough to eat and drink, and wherewith to
be clothed, and I am both content and happy, a free, un-
fettered British subject, born under an English flag, and
sitting under my neighbour's fig-tree, or lounging in the
sun. Or again, he may continue, why should I make my
short existence miserable here below to gain a few luxuries
of life, to have a house and then a bright brass knocker on
the door, and electric bells to boot, and within to be
surrounded with gold mouldings, curtains, choice pictures,
sofas, Turkey carpets, Indian mats, and a round table with
a thousand useless trinkets on it for servants to dust and
children to destroy. I am above all these things. Leave
me alone; don't tease me with such trifles. I am free,
and I wish to be unfettered.
Now, whatever be our dark friend's argument, or his
plea for interrupted liberty and love of holy poverty, if so
he dares to put it, or his noble scorn of the world's great
gifts and little trifles, or his preference of three days'
sluggish inactivity to three days' honest invigorating work,
quite certain it is that his arguments one and all, weak or
strong, wise or worldly, will gain no hearing, much less
favour, in this nineteenth century of everlasting push and
perpetual progress, of money making and money taking.
But more seriously our friend may say that after all said
and done, there is no encouragement for him to labour and








8 AFICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.

work his way up the social scale, or educate his children
well. He can never attain to the priesthood, the law is
locked against him, as a physician men would not trust
him with their precious lives or livers, and if he tried
literature, no one would read his books.
Here let us meet him with a flat denial. Propaganda
can point with pride to many an African priest, learned,
eloquent, and holy. Law can shew forth many an able
lawyer, and some black men perhaps as much qualified as
BLACKSTONE; while the medical profession has turned out
not a few, but many, clever and skilful doctors. But of
course, for all this, much long, patient study, and dogged
perseverance is required, and here is just where the difficulty
comes in, and where ambitious effort is so much needed.
Let, however, the African say what the great St. AUSTIN,
who some insist was an African himself, once said, in a
matter, it is true, of greater moment, "Why cannot I do
what others have done before me ?"
But there rests this one other point, deserving a mo-
ment's thought, and perhaps suggesting some excuse:-
May not this utter dislike to work be the outcome of those
long years of cruelly inflicted labour in the dark days of
slavery? or in other words, may not this laziness or in-
activity be a necessary reaction after many years of hard
endurance ? A generation and more has passed, it is true,
since the last slave was whipped or chained, and the hori-
zon is as dark as ever.* Perhaps in a third, or may be a
fourth, a clear light will shine forth and things become
marvellously changed, and bright days come, and an African
be the successor of our much-esteemed British Governor,
Slavery was abolished in 1834.







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.


or an African Catholic Bishop be appointed by the Pope,
or a Cardinal NEGRONATI appear among us in these parts as
Legate from His Holiness.
Before we study our African friend himself, or view his
person we must have a peep at his home, or a sketch of his
dwelling, see how, and of what it is built, and what earthly
treasures he has hid away therein.
Lord BACON made a hard hit at architecture when he
said that houses were made to dwell in, and not to be
looked at. The architect of course, retorts and says that
they can be made for both, and art and utility may go
hand in hand. However, BACON'S words fitly apply just
now, for the Africans' house is certainly built to live in,
and not to be looked at. This one thing, however, may
with truth be said in reference to their little buildings
that none of them offend in any one point any rule or
canon of architecture, nor, on the other hand, do they
run counter to any of the laws of true construction.
And this is saying for these small buildings what many
a London house of greater pretensions could not say for
itself.
The houses here are all built of wood, like to NOAH'S ark
of old, and, luckily for the inmates, considering the
heat, not pitched within. They are built of wood,
simply because there is neither stone, nor brick, nor lime
out here to build with. The framework of the buildings
is formed of the hard woods of the colony-Wallaba,
Green Heart, or Mora-though pitch pine for that pur-
pose is now finding a ready market. The frame of the
small edifice consists of squared uprights, some five to
seven feet apart, morticed into the sill below, and into the
B







AFMICAN LIFE INf BRITISH GMAIA1SA.


roof-plate above, standing about ten feet high. To this
an ordinary pitched roof is added. The sides of the
building are boarded round with white pine or American
lumber, the colony possessing no cheap, soft material
suitable for the purpose. The posts or uprights are visible
within, but not offensive to the eye. Where the means
allow of it, the whole of the building is shingled with
thin splitting from the Wallaba tree, a wood easily yield-
ing to the cleaving axe, and from its resinous properties
impervious to rain. The roof is likewise shingled; and
all this shingling work, be it said to the credit of che
craft, is done in a most masterly and workmanlike manner.
This style of work has, moreover, a pleasing effect, and
although the shingles are of a dark deep red when first
put on, in a very.short time they become reduced by the
sun's bleaching power to a pale ash colour.
The size of the houses, sometimes hardly exceeding ten
feet square, depends much upon the length of the little
family, but more upon the depth of the poor man's pocket.
Of window openings there are plenty; of panes of glass
there are none, for wooden shutters keep out the rain and
extra sun during the day, and shut off the exterior
darkness of the night, keeping out, or trying to do so, a
host of winged insects, mostly of the mosquito family,
who claim a night's lodging at the expense of all thin
skinned comers and delicate children. The doors of the
mansion are fairly framed, but most roughly finished,
made of the coarsest timber, all alive with evil or
angry-looking knots.
Some little love of ornamental art peeps out or
manifests itself in the carving of the barge-board, to use







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 11

an English-Gothic term, or that piece of slanting wood
covering the edge of the roof-boards at the gable-end.
This board is often well designed and ably executed or cut
out, though the design is never original, for the African
here, unlike the aboriginal Indian not far distant, is not a
designing character-take the expression which way you
will-and, as a rule, exhibits but little art or originality.
An Indian would carve his paddle, and scratch cunning
devices on his drinking-bowl, decorate his goblet, and the
Kensington Loan Museum would covet and catalogue
paddles, and drinking-bowl, goblets, and all, while the
African out here, would never dream of scratching a line
or making a curve, or colouring a straw.
These small African buildings, like their more favoured
rivals in town, stand or are stilted some two feet or more
above the mud floor on which they stand-thus preventing
them from being floated away when the rain floods come,
though often in the country the houses stand for days
isolated, on account of the waters all around them.
When the space below the house-call it basement-is
to be turned to use, the house is stilted much higher, thus
affording shelter to the pig and goat and feathered live
stock, and also furnishing useful storage room for
wash-tub and board, pestle and mortar, and other
useful domestic articles ; open however, on all
sides to the four winds of heaven, and open also
to the more serious objection of being a receptacle for all
manner of useful lumber and unwholesome rubbish, in the
shape of old bones, cracked bottles, plantain stalks, and
cocoanut husks, to say nothing of broken ware of all sorts
and sizes, of noble or ignoble usage.








AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.


Wooden steps lead us to the door,generally in the centre
of the building. No knocker is there, much less a bell;
besides, the door is always open, so in you go, and quickly
a black lady of cheerful countenance, of fair weight it
may be, and of ample form welcomes you; and quickly
too, run from her big basketful three or more of her
smiling little ones, all fresh and dripping from the soup-
bowl, ready to shake your hand, or show how much
they love you,-nolen8 volens.
You take a chair, if chair there be; if not, removing
some sharp fish-bones, for obvious reasons, from some
inverted box, you take a seat thereon, and intend to talk
and be amiable at once; but lo !-before you are quite
conscious that DuLCnA has soiled your hand with her
soup-stained fingers, you have been sent in spirit some
four thousand miles and more away, for straight before
you, a pictured screen has brought you face to face with
England's Prime Minister, or the Princess ALICE is all smil-
ing at you, or you are gazing in disgust at the fat ox that
gained the last cattle prize, and muttering to yourself,
" cruelty to animals;" and then a house all burning, or a
sinking ship, till the longitudinal and transverse sections
of an exploded boiler arrest your attention. And then the
last newly elected Member of Parliament is there; not, by
the bye, the one that should be elected, to help on and
study the interests of the Demerara Colony, to speak
eloquently about sugar duties and its planters, and to
please them much by pronouncing emphatically all beet-
root to be pernicious poison. Our colonial representative
is not there as yet; but other things there are, from the
last discovered piece of Roman pavement to the Itus-







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 13

treated London News' everlasting game of chess, where
white has the advantage, and checkmates in three moves.
All this is mixed up too with sundry other readings,
and pasted over, here and there, with the yellow oval
advertisements from off the-pale ale bottle, or pretty paper
circles from empty cotton reels.
Recovering from your distraction, or returning from
your distant wanderings, and being more or less ashamed
of your rudeness, you try to atone for it with her ladyship
who, with mouth and eyes wide open, has been gazing on
you all the time, and you politely ask her where she got
all these pretty pictures from, expatiating at the same
time on her great taste and love of art. "Me, massa,"
she answers; Missy gib them me when me went down
to Georgetown to wash she house out for she. To tell de
truth, missy gib me more, but rat eat him, and eat
piccany's prayer-book too, one time; rat he too bad,
massa." Being a bit of a linguist you understand her
well, and of course are much concerned about the book,
when little FUNGUS, catching up the last note, comes up
and says : Rat, bad rat, eat up me prayer-book Rat he
too bad for true !"
Now wiping your greasy fingers and begging fair
DULCINA to keep her little hands off your knees, and
double if possible her distance, you continue your personal
observation or house inspection. Should you be a bit
of a naturalist, it may amuse you or distract you once
again to follow with your eyes the long-legged marabunta
as he wings his way past you, and rather too close for your
liking. He is busy some five feet or more above your
head building three, four, or even more mud houses,








14 AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.

circular in form, like the dome of St. Paul's, wherein to
lodge his shortly-expected family. In and out he flies,
bringing each time a tiny daub of mud, the building-
material of his choice. Before however, he has quite
finished his dome, or sealed it up, he introduces a slender
green worm or more, to serve, it would seem, as larder for
the children when they become conscious of their blissful
existence, and when they feel the pangs of hunger! This
species of marabunta is often called the mason bee or fly,
on account of its building powers or propensities., You
must not disturb the marabunta in its work, for wasp-like,
and true wasp he is, he will sting you sharply, causing
much pain and perpetual remembrance, as the writer
of these words can verily testify. Indeed, with some the
sting brings fever. If tired of gazing above, cast your in-
quisitive eyes below, and there you may see a long
meandering line of little ants in Indian file moving quick-
ly towards the mangled carcass of a lately departed cock-
roach, and actively employed in disjointing his every limb
and carrying off tit-bits for their children's supper.
Or again, without much scrutiny, you, may perceive at
no very great distance from you a spider of gigantic size,
measuring from three to four inches or more from leg to
leg. Kill him not, even if you can, for he is to be en-
couraged and not destroyed. He is a useful domestic
scavenger and murderer of all intruding cockroaches and
the like ; besides he is not aggressive, and turns out of his
white silken bag at times two hundred picaninny spiders
or more, to carry on his useful trade later on in life.
These insect things may at first interest some Europeans,
while no doubt to many they are always considered unwel-
: . : : -,







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.


come visitors and horrid vermin; but after all said, that is
not the worst of it : snakes, even camudi snakes, have
been known to take refuge in these houses with full intent
to murder; while the centipedes of smaller build are by
no means exceptional or welcome visitors. But the good
stout landlady, while she draws the line at serpents and
centipedes, is large-hearted and extremely hospitable, and
her house is Liberty Hall" for bats and bees, butterflies
and birds, should they ambition to build or abide therein.
The sleeping apartment of those small dwellings is
divided off from the sitting-room or hall by the pictured
or canvas screen, and contains a bed spacious enough for
The Seven Sleepers" of Martyrology renown, or almost as
large as the big "Bed of Ware," for it fills up the whole
space, though probably the screen is made to shift or
budge a bit when night time comes, for the benefit of
the slumberers. The sitting-room is not devoid of furni-
ture, and generally possesses at least one pet piece in the
shape of a half-polished side-board. This a Curiosity
Museum might almost covet, for it contains an odd
variety of things, from the greasy bent candlestick to
REBECCA'S brass thimble, while there are also to be seen
cracked cups without saucers, glasses blue and red, in-
verted tumblers, of all sizes and divers thickness, var-
nished calabashes and painted crab-backs, slips of dried
orange-peel, wide-mouthed bottles containing green-heart
seeds, nuts and curious roots, all of much supposed
medical virtue. There too lies young POMPEY'S last
prize-book, all torn and tempting the rats. There her
ladyship's black pipe; while as far as the surface space
allows of, little ornaments of men and women in pot-ware,







1- AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.

such as grace the mantle-piece of the poor in England,
stand about quite unconscious that baby has knocked off
all their heads. So much for the well-furnished side-board
A large locked box below contains, stiffly starched, and
neatly folded, the entire wardrobe of the family, saving
what is just then and there upon their back and shoulders,
or hanging out to dry.
Water goglets, of Indian make and classic form stand
two or three together, on the window-sill or on the ground.
A stick or so of curious curve, or the supple Jack," or
an umbrella stick of ancient date, stands up in the corner.
A chair or an accommodating box is there, and not
infrequently an antiquated sofa without the stuffing,
having once seen better days in much bigger houses. And
the Tamarind rod is there, or its strap-like equivalent,
ever free from dust and cobweb! Furthermore the lady
of the house may have imprisoned in a tin cage a noisy
parrot, and if her fancy so inclines her, she may have
moreover, increased her family circle by the addition of a
little monkey, chained to prevent him doing as much
mischief as the baby. Poor REBECCA'S glass beads were
given to the copper-coloured Indian in part exchange for
master monkey. So much for the room and its contents.
Now making for the door, and descending with care
and caution the three or more unsteady wooden steps, all
strewn with empty cotton-reels and children's toys, and
rendered dangerous on account of mango-stones and
slippery plantain-skins, and rendered, by-the-bye, far
more dangerous still when her ladyship of some sixteen
stone joins company with you, you light with one foot
upon an inverted frying-pan, the other upon a brick







AFEICANq LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANRA.


while the living sixteen stone makes a decided impression
in the mud! and then, all freed from fear, you turn round
to survey the premises, or garden grounds,-generally
called yard." There is not much care or culture here;
the paling long since has paid the penalty of being wood,
and has partly been changed into fuel to keep the pot
a-boiling, while unscrupulous neighbours have stolen much
for similar purposes.
Pumpkin creepers may be seen straggling all about, bearing
at intervals their heavy fruit, and climbing up bush or broken
branches placed here and there to dry the clothes upon.
A few sugar-canes may group themselves in some odd
corner, nodding to the wind, and tempting strange boys to
come and taste, and try how sweet they are, for it is the only
cane that gives them any consolation in their younger days.
There, too, the bright green plantain luxuriously
flourishes, sending forth with such vigour its long split
silken leaves, quite gigantic in their size, waving them in
the wind or gracefully bending them at the slightest
breeze, while from each succulent stem a huge and heavy
bunch of finger-shaped fruit in profusion hangs.
Of tropical plants there are few to compare in general
beauty of foliage to the plantain and banana, producing
leaves so large and green and yet so delicate and graceful.*
These two plants, though of like genus, seem to
rejoice in the same specific difference we recognize between
the hard winter or baking pear and the soft summer jar-
gonelle. The banana has something of the flavour even of

A plantain leaf will measure ten feet in length and some eighteen
inches in width. A good bunch of plantains is as much as a man can
emlly carry-its value is from a shilling upwards.
C







18 AFRICAN LIF IN BRITISH GUIANA.

this latter fruit, while the other is rather in taste like a
raw potato, and like it too cries out loud for cooking. The
plantain consequently ranks as a dinner vegetable, the
banana as an after-dinner fruit. The plantain, moreover, is
the African's main support, the corn of this country where
wheaten corn will not grow.
But to return to our garden. Some cocoanut trees grow
there too, leaning all about, for unlike most of the palm-
tree tribe, they persistently refuse to grow upright.
Where industry is at work, many other things can be
made easily to flourish. For instance, cassava, from
whence bread and starch are made, yams, purple and
white, sweet potatoes all yellow,, and no relation what-
ever to the European potato, tanias, garden eggs, ochros,
black-eyed peas, &c.; but the African does not show his
industry that way, or make the most of the good things
God has given him;-so unlike in this respect is he to the
thrifty Frenchman who turns all things to good account,
and as the saying is, will make an excellent soup of a few
stones, provided you give him a little piece of meat and a
herb or so to flavour them with I
To procure, however, some of the more dainty plants
for dinner use, or flavour purpose, much trouble is taken
and wonderful preparations are made. Every empty box
or oil-can, every leaky saucepan, or broken pot, or spout-
less jug, or damaged vessel half hidden and of suspicious
origin, is preserved, and one and all they are brought
together, piled upon boards, and supported by barrels, close
to the steps filled with well-nourished earth, and then
planted with the pot-luxuries of African life. There grow
the red pepper and yellow pepper, tomatoes, parsley,







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 1I

thyme, celery, and sage, tufts of lemon grass for fever
purposes, cochineal plants for cooling poultices, aloes and
a host of little herbs, as fancy might demand or taste or
cookery require. Nor are bright and garden flowers neg-
lected: they too fix their delicate roots in many an empty
biscuit box, sardine or salmon tin, and the choice rose-bud
or pink is picked with much care from these and placed in
DAvI's button-hole when he takes his solemn walk on a
Sunday morning showing his teeth and prayer book and
thinking of his soul, or when he goes on Monday evening
to the dignity ball in town, thinking of something else.
We have done the house, sleeping rooms, steps, and all,
and the garden too, with the vegetables and dinner herbs,
pots and pans, and fancy flowers. But where is the
kitchen? for we have seen no trace of it, nay, not a
chimney pot in view. Answer: There is none. But little
DuLCINA had her fingers deep and dirty in a round cala-
bash of soup when so persistently she shook your hand and
soiled your clothes. Whence came that delicious soup?
Not indeed from a kitchen range or patent gas stove it is
true; for we have to inform our readers that out here all
ordinary cooking is done in the open air, and by means of
a simple coal-pot, manufactured, we are told, in Birming-
ham, and made and expressly exported for the out-door-
cooking race. The coal-pot in form is somewhat like a
huge squat iron egg-cup, having its base or stand open, to
allow free draught of air. A grating divides the cup from
this stand or base; fire wood or live charcoal is laid
upon the grating, and then comes the meat-pot or
fish-pan, then the food, and a little fanning does the rest.
Now, the fire fairly lighted, into the saucepan, like into







20 AFRICAN LFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.

MACBETn'S witches' cauldron, all manner of things are put.
First, the skinned plantains go toppling in; then follows,
by way more of flavouring than of food, a quarter of a
pound of salt fish, or it may be a piece of pork instead;
then red peppers are brought, and a voice doth say, Put
that in;" and an onion-put that in too; and though no
eye of weasel, or ear of bat, or such-like danties help to
season the African's pot, a good hot and wholesome dish is
turned out, more than enough to tempt a second Esau
should a birth-right question arise just then. The ad-
vantages of the coal-pot system, versus fire-place, range,
or patent stove, is that while the coal-pot takes but little
room, requires no fenders, seeks no hearth, and requires no
chimney, it can so readily be moved from place to place to
suit the wind, and even find entrance into the room to
avoid the rain.
The dinner from off the coal pot is not served up a la
Russe, though in one sense it may be considered so, for
one dish at a time is served, but that is because there is
but one dainty dish to serve. Plates and spoons are used
by the elders, while the youngsters do as their first little
brothers Cain and Abel did. Judging from the strength
of the men, the width of the woman, and the health of the
children, the food that supports them must be solid and
good as well as wholesome, both muscle-making and flesh-
producing. It is not niggardly given out, nor is it
sparingly stowed away.
One dish, particularly their own sapcialt$, ought not
to be passed over in utter silence. It is called "foo-foo."*
From whence the name comes no one can tell. It is thus
See frontispiece.







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 21

made: a mortar of very hard wood of ten inches wide,
generally of the green-heart timber, is procured, and
indeed forms a necessary article of domestic furniture;
into this mortar some three or four boiled plantains are
placed, and then, with a heavy stick some five feet long,
something like a cannon's ram-rod, these plantains are
pounded to a pudding-like consistency, the rod being
frequently wetted in a calabash of water to prevent its
sticking; for the foo-foo" mixture is of a very sticky
nature. It is of a yellow-ochre colour, much in appear-
ance like to the old fashioned pease-pudding. Foo-foo "
is much eaten and well relished by the African, and even
by those of fairer skin it is not always despised.
While wheaten bread is the ordinary bread, when bread
at all is eaten, the cassava bread very often in the country
takes its place. It is made from the gratings of the root
of the cassava plant, a pretty shrub of delicate and slender
growth. The bread is formed into round cakes of some
eighteen inches in diameter baked upon a large flat iron
plate under which the fire has been introduced. It claims
from its look, you would say, first or second cousinship
with our Lancashire oatmeal cakes. It is as crisp, and in
thickness is about the same; the taste, too, is not al-
together different from it. It finds its way on to the
tables of the great at times, and, when fresh and toasted
crisp and lightly battered, it eats well with cheese.
So much then for bread; and now for water. This is
the ordinary drink of the good African man, unadulterated
with either wina or whisky or any of those things which
in the present age help to make men mad, and spoil and
degrade the labouring classes of flourishing towns. The







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.


African black man can read stronger lessons to the en-
lightened English, Scotch, and Irish man than can be read
in Exeter Hall by many a white man just then sober, may
be, but who once had been "the lamentable example" to
the contrary. Sugar and water is the black man's "coffee"
in the morning; later on he may invest a penny if he
chance to have one, and buy a cocoanut, and drink its pint
of cool and nourishing water. There are no bubbling wells
or sparkling springs, or running streams or rivers of clear
water in that part of the colony where men mostly do
congregate; for where the large rivers run in or make
their exit into the sea, the waters are brackish, while the
sluggish streams of water coming from the interior, and
running through dense bush and leafy forest, are in colour
like to the best French coffee. They are not indeed
disagreeable to the taste, but troublesome to the stomach.
In consequence of the earth's refusal to give us water, we
look up to Heaven and thankfully gather that which
during the rainy season falls down in bucketsful upon our
roofs, and collect or run it all into large tanks and vats
while the poor make the most of barrels and unused wash-
tubs. So precious is this gift from Heaven that, when the
dry season is near at hand, the tanks, vats and butts
are put under lock and key. This water-rain water as it
is-is all that could be desired, sparkling, tasteless,
pleasant, and most wholesome.
But we have been wandering wide; let us return to
our little house and grounds, or rather, having seen all
that is there, shaking hands with the stout lady and
delighting young FUNGUS with a penny, the 5rst he ever
handled, let us retrace our steps, or try to take a short cut,






APRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 23

keeping our feet as best we can upon turned-down cocoa-
nut husks, broken bricks, and slippery beer bottles. These
latter are supplied in plenty from the nearest manager's
house I-for the good stout lady washes for the manager, and
gets the bottles always empty for her perquisites. Trust-
ing then to these, we pick our way, all stumbling mid mud
and water in fear and trembling, until we reach the edge
of the trench, where new and appalling difficulties stare
us in the face. A slender piece of wood, four inches wide,
slippery and apparently unsound, conducts from one side
of the trench to the public road on the other. We mutter
to ourselves, "I am not a BLONDIN, of tight-rope renown;
I cannot dance across that slender pole; and if I were to
attempt it, and to fall, I am no WEBB for swimming or
equal even to the web-footed tribe," so turning away we
follow the bank, till a strong bridge of many planks offers
to conduct us safe to the other side ; so over we go, and
soon are on terra firm, or more properly and quite strictly
speaking, on terra cotta, for the road is formed of burnt
earth, and is of a bright red colour, contrasting and har-
monizing with the surrounding brilliant foliage, and
forming a hard, dry, and excellent road where velocipedes
and centipedes may run their race together; for rude,
destructive nature and modern scientific art, like Beauty
and the Beast," are to be found side by side out in these
semi-civilized parts.
















YOUNG AFRICA.


PART THE SECOND.

E described in our last number an African house
in British Guiana, and its various appurte-
nances, we must now say a little more about its
inmates. On your exit from the house you may turn to
the right or left as best you please; on the left you see a
dark policeman coming, delighted if he could only take
you up for thinking, as he fancies, you would like to
knock him down. This good man looks very savage at
times, and hates all little boys as all little boys necessarily
hate him, and often has some poor weak girl imprisoned
for a month for having assaulted and severely beaten him
in the quiet discharge of his duty, or may be, for stealing
his whistle. However, we shall not trouble the officer,"
as he is called, or, like him, look daggers at the boy, as if,
poor fellow, his pockets were ever filled with stolen fruit.
We will make friends with Africa's younger son and
accompany him to school, speak kindly to him, study his
manner of life and find out all about him, and moreover
hear what he has to say for himself. For in truth there is
much to be said in favour of the lad.








AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 25

Poor little fellow, formed of the same clay as his distant
European cousins, though much browned or blackened in
the baking, as facetious or wicked people might put it,
he possesses a little round head of his own, with a bright,
intelligent face to front it. His eyes are as black and bril-
liant as polished jet. His teeth are of the fairest Indian
ivory. His hair is by nature exceedingly short, crisp and
curly, or as learned men or book-making travellers would
call it, woolly. Picture-books of nursery renown often do
great injustice to his nose and underlip, cruelly flattening
the one, or grossly increasing the tendency to protrude, or
pouty thickness of the other. His little black feet with
yellowest brown soles (a fact that painters often forget or
seldom know) are bare. Happy boy! Without much
covering upon his head, he delights in a ring upon his
finger, if fortune favours him, be it made of beads or even
beef-bone. He is not shy, nor is he proud, ever ready to
shake hands with the Governor, or Prince GEORGE, should
they pass that way, or to return a nod or make a bow to
any honourable member of the High Court of Policy, who
might greet him with a smile, or in his mind wish to
court his friendship. No, he is not proud, for he has
actually been known to thank an old lady for throwing a
penny in his way to keep him out of hers. His one gar-
ment, or two garments, or three garments as the case may
be, are scanty, not flowing; clean, however, and decent, at
least, to do him full justice, were so on Sunday morning,
but as the week wears on, his garments they wear out,
and poor SOLOMON becomes a sight not fit indeed for the
Queen of Saba to come and see! For his clothes give
evident signs that sundry judicious patches here and
D







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.


there, would prevent that two evident colour contrast of
white and black between his sable skin and linen coat or
other covering. A contrast it is true artists rejoice in,
and tell us that, if it adds not actual beauty, at least it
gives force and character to the sketch. Be this as it may,
and tastes are allowed to differ here, boys must be boys, all
the wide world over, and the little African children are no
exception, and out here especially, are under the ordinary
delusion, of course, that clothes are made more to be torn
than worn.
The poor mother does her little best, and works her
needle right well, as close personal inspection doth fully
prove, but poor woman, her best endeavours are to little
purpose. Let loose from the thread-and-needle process
and far from the maternal gaze, our young urchin is fast
climbing up some rough stemmed cocoa-nut tree, securing
its heavy fruit, then quickly sliding down again, loosening
every stitch of his slender clothing, so lately patched, or
rending wide his poor body garments.
Dear little fellow, let us love him for his liveliness. In
due time and not without fear, all tattered and all torn
with bleeding toe, and knees well chafed, he returns to his
mother who does not seem to love him just then, or for an
hour's time to come, for sighing much, supperless and all
sore, the boy is sent off to bed that night, and though he
rises in the morning with marks of the tamarind rod, to
him invisible, though perchance still painful, the young
SOLOMON is not a sadder boy, much less a wiser or better
one. And now a slight sketch of his scholastic course and
his intellectual progress and development.
The school-bell has sounded, and off to school young







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 27

SOLOMON goes, or of course at times shirks, and runs away
as boys of big nations do ; however, to school as a rule he
runs, swinging to and fro his light burden of damaged
books, trying by an extra swing or knock to test the
strength of some weak garden-paling, or the patience of
some poor coolie, who, with part of a piano on his head,
cannot well run after him to avenge the insult. In the
package of his books, first comes his slate, all cracked of
course, then the copy-book, containing some fair writing
but with the usual percentage of boyish blots and blun-
ders; and then the dog-eared reading-book, and last of all
his catechism minus its paper cover, all tightly held by a
strap or string or necktie, or may be, with his father's last
broken brace.
In his pocket, mixed up with bread crumbs and broken
nutshells, and in close company with a marble, a bladeless
knife, a half-eaten mango (it would be cruel to say per-
haps stolen"), the usual inch and a quarter piece of slate-
pencil will be found. While his books are all swinging
from the one hand, the other hand is to his mind much
better engaged in clenching tight a piece of sugar-cane
some twelve inches long, secured' from a Portuguese
shop, in exchange for an empty bottle he has somehow or
other managed to appropriate to himself. Vigorously
with his white teeth he works away at his tough sugar,
and merrily he trips along over the rough loose angular
stones, all bare-footed, but never breaking one, much less
bruising his little feet, and at length arrives at school,
divides or hides his sugar-cane, fearing the counterpart
less sweet, says morning" to his master, opens his books,
and betakes himself to study, and if possessed of moderate







28 AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.

talent, works on successfully. He readily learns, nor is he,
be it well observed, one whit more wanting in natural
talent and ability than our English country lad; indeed,
to take the opinion of a School Inspector of a life-long
standing here and ot undoubted talent and experience,
it would seem as if for a time, up to twelve at least, the
little West Indian or Creole African has rather the
advantage over his fairer cousins in the East, but then it
seems there follow two years or more of mental stagnation,
and then things are somewhat clear again, though the
African youth or young man does not as a rule exhibit a
strong turn for logic, whatever powers in that line he
may by chance possess. But with the school-lad we are
dealing. Take him first at his sunms; quick enough his
figures find the right place on the slate, and as quickly
are they added up, substracted, multiplied, or turned into
rule of three; it is amusing to see a boy of near thirteen
years of age with a sum in proportion upon his slate, with
all the marks of deep thoughtfulness on his brow, now
looking to the ceiling for inspiration, then looking askance
at the walls, as if he saw his answer written there, then
staring at the floor, then working briskly on his slate;
then out and loudly shouted the answers comes, or he
quietly hands up his slate to the teacher, where all is cor-
rectly worked out and rightly done.
Writing, too, he picks up fairly and often forms for
himself a first-rate hand useful for commercial purposes
if ever he gets to business. But if he has a weak 'point
-and we must own he has one-it is perceptible in his
reading and pronunciation, but be it kindly remembered
his disadvantages here are great and many, for in the first







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 29

place he is not reading or speaking his own language, what-
ever that language may be, and secondly he is living and
is mixed up with all tribes and nations and people. The
English, the Portuguese, the East Indian, not to mention
French Islanders, Dutch of the Talky-Talky language, and
others of curious lingo, are all dinning into his ear. English
he hears from the Englishman, but very broken would-be
English from almost everybody else. But for all this, the
African is not tongue-tied or bashful in conversation.
While he despises all monosyllabic words, he is a great
hand at clearing the dictionary of the longest and biggest
sounding words he can find therein, twisting his tongue
curiously around them, and he feels an honest pride in
delivering himself as fluently, he thinks, as a MANNNG,
and as correctly as a NEWMAN possibly could do So much
for the three R's, though speaking 'tis true does not begin
with one. There remain yet two more. One is of vital im-
portance and far more necessary than all the other R's put
together, but too sacred to mix up with these rough
sketches. We allude to Religion. The other R. is of
painful importance, and most useful as giving impetus and
encouragement to all the others, and is mentioned even in
Scripture, we mean the rod. In the matter of taking
prizes and standard punishments our young hero is equal
to the occasion ; with cheerful face and sparkling eyes
he receives his rewards, however trivial they may
be, while, though no coward, with yells and howls,
pitiful face and pathetic appeal for mercy he ac-
cepts his corporal chastisement, and with much marked
profit too. For out in these parts our young SOLOMON has
to remember with sadness, it may be, the saying of a wiser







3U AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIAN

and greater SOLOMON than he in reference to the rod,--for
certain it is the rod is not spared here, but, on the con-
trary, is held in high esteem by the master at school, and
most carefully guarded by kind and loving parents at
home.* Nor is it likely during the present generation
at least, or is it at all desirable out here, whatever be the
foolish tendency elsewhere, that an implement of such
high Scriptural antiquity, of ancient classic renown, and
of such public utility as the rod-virga vulgaris !-should
ever find its way into our local museums, glass covered,
and on velvet laid, there to be neatly labelled and careful-
ly catalogued as Barbarous implement of by gone days,
used by our savage fore-fathers, to instil learning into the
school-boy and to secure order, obedience, and good
manners at home !"
The more ancient rods of corporal infliction were gener-
ally cut from the tamarind-tree, flourishing luxuriantly
and providentially in these parts, and corresponding in
use though surpassing in beauty the well known birch-
tree of old England; while the acid pods of the tamarind-
tree are eagerly sought after by boys, its stinging
switches whether used singly, or applied collectively like
the birch, are equally disliked by them. "Fetch down
the tamarind" is an expression not calculated to produce a
smile in the youthful face, and generally results either in
a loud cry for mercy, and a promise of instant reform, or a
quick dash out of the door, and no sign of return till the
storm seems quite blown over.

It must be somewhat regretted that the black parents are at times
much too severe with their younger children and let their punishments
ofteh run into excess or cruelty.







AFRICAN LIBE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 31

Before dismissing young AFrICANUS and his school at-
tainments, a word about his musical acquirements.
Musicians allow that he has a quick ear, and is an excel-
lent timist: he easily takes in an air, and as easily gives
it out again; his voice is not always melodious, though a
song sung in an African school-room is quite equal to, and
as pleasing as a song sung in an English school-room, and
as a rule is sung in better time. He is fond of instru-
mental music too, has a decided devotion to the big drum,
and if you try him with a penny wherewith to buy a tin
flute or whistle, he will make himself supremely happy
the whole day long and all other people within hearing
perfectly miserable. Soon he will learn a few popular
airs, and the town will relish them later, for when the
great Emancipation Anniversary holiday comes around,
then he will turn out with red cap, blue trowsers and a
coat of many colours to honour the occasion, link himself
on to a street band, if bandmaster he be not, and then play
to his heart's content, while ladies of sable hue will dance
along the streets to his merry tunes. Now come his
amusements. It may surprise many of our readers to
know that tops, marbles, kites, &c., all have their appointed
season hers, as in the distant mother country. At one
time a black boy's pocket will be crammed with marbles
or stones, at another time tops and top-strings will be
cropping out, or on a door-step you will find our boy busy
with split pieces of slender cane and gum berries fashion-
ing a hexagon kite of fair proportions, and turning out, on
the whole, a better bit of handicraft than an English boy
probably could do. He has pieces of bottle-glass beside
him to fasten cleverly to his strings so as to cut away his







3 AFBICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.

adversary's kite, and send it flying to the wind, for he is
proficient in his art. Before referring to cricket, for he
goes in for that too, we must notice another favourite
game, the game of boat, indulged in by the more juvenile
members of the community. When the tide has been very
high, and the waters from the rain have well swollen the
trenches, and the flood-gates in due time are opened,
causing much rapid flow of muddy water, small boys place
on the running stream thin sticks or little straws, call them
boats, then back their speed with all their might and main
against all competitors. A given mark, the passing of a
bridge is the winning point or goal. Then each in
mad excitement speaks to his little boat calls it encourag-
ing names, or clasps his hands, shakes or rattles his fingers
one against the other, works his feet and arms, and con-
torts every loose limb in his precious body, as if the win-
ning of his boat was more than life and death to him, or
as if his bright eternity depended on the race; and if it
so happen, as generally it does, his straw or stick, runs
foul against some debris floating in the stream or turns
aggravatingly to the land attracted by the shore, and mid
tall grass and weeds remain a fixture there, you would
indeed pity poor Neptune as you gaze upon his face in
utter anguish and in sad despair. You will pity him "for
true." Let the London Times write a leader or say what
it will about the excitement on an Oxford and Cambridge
boat-race day at Putney, Hammersmith, and Kew, it bears
no comparison to the little African's boat-race or straw
match, upon a rainy day in Demerara.
Considering that the mid-day temperature of our clime
stands at more than 100 in the open field, and that the







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIAA. 33

bright year round, it must be a matter of surprise to
many that the game of cricket should ever have gained a
footing on the soil, much more have found general favour
here. Yet so it is, and that among all classes and all
colours, rich or poor, young or old. The European resi-
dents have their evening games and their periodical
matches, sending to London for the best of bats and balls
and embellished mugs to honour each other with. They
carry their emulation to the extent of writing polite letters
to the West Indian Islands inviting their very best
Elevens to come and play, beating them at times fear-
fully, but treating them always royally. So again those
who have never seen an English Oval or perhaps have
never heard of Lord's send also to the Barbaconne or
somewhere else for choice balls, wickets, pads, and all the
necessary cricket paraphernalia, and during the game have
their scores posted up, and in the local newspapers all
printed down, and sad for the Editor of that paper if he
has laid a duck's egg at the door of any one who has at
least scored one. But we are trespassing on other fields
not running the risk of getting hits or hard raps from
London balls.
Young Africa then must have his cricket game, because
the white man has his. His scanty means, however, make
him very independent of London balls, bats and wickets:
an old parafin tin, all bruised battered and just man-
aging to stand, does excellent duty as both bales and
wicket. The red leather ball resigns the honour to some
old rags tightly twisted and fairly rounded, or at a great
push an oblong mango-stone supplies its place. The bat







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISl GUIANA.


of course is all in strict keeping, being often the but-end
of a leafless cocoanut branch, if perchance a piece of wood
has not been fashioned into the conventional, bat-like
form, and surely what more do you want? The noble and
scientific game of cricket is carried on with evident
satisfaction to the players, and immense amusement to the
lookers on. It happens often the lively scene of action is
close to a wide muddy trench into which the ball goes as
often splashing in as not, but in goes the fielder too, en-
joying his bath, securing the ball, and scarce wetting his
clothes, for he has scarcely any clothes to wet! There
cannot we confess be much interest to solid and sober
minds to hear of a time-honoured game like cricket,
spoilt and turned into a mere caricature by the poor African
boys in these Western parts, but the fact is significant,
and helps to show, as there are many other things of the
like nature helping to prove, that the African has an in-
ordinate love of imitation, and.must do as the white man
does, because he thinks it good and the proper thing to
do. But who can quite blame him here? The great
mistake however, is, that he overdoes it and imitates
without rhyme or reason, and is led to copy the
faults and follies of the white man, rather than imitate
his more solid virtues, when these latter chance to mani-
fest themselves. Take for an example an uneducated
African man, when his toilet is complete, and he is pro-
menading on a Sunday evening all dressed in his Sunday's
best, and he will hit off to a T the polished gentleman or
the well dressed London swell.
No ordinary British labourer, or even common country
actor, whatever his power of mimicry might be, could equal







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 35

our African friend or approach his power of imitation when
out for a gentle stroll on a fine Sunday afternoon. See
him as he walks along, now showing his full fair height,
then assuming a graceful and dignified bend, then all
erect again, or stopping and turning round on his high heel
and fixing his dark critical eye upon some house in course
of building, (not really noticing the building at all,) or
with lips compressed, viewing some slender tree from top
to toe, as if he could not just then for his very life
recall to memory its botanic name. See him on that
sunny afternoon with all his carefully kept wardrobe,
spread over his broad and well-built back and shoulders,
in the one hand he holds tight clenched two white kid
gloves, finger tips and wrist alone appearing, while in the
other hand a cane is seen, now dangling from his fore-
finger, then gently used to side away a dead leaf, a straw,
a broken twig that lies upon his honoured footpath.
An eye-glass graces his dark black eye, fairly stagger-
ing the plebeian passer by, if perchance he condescended to
cast one look towards him, or patronise him by his most
searching and most penetrating glance. And then the
eye-gear falls down the length of its long black silken
thread, and dangles to and fro till soon required again to
give extra expression to his jet black countenance.
His coat, paid for by shilling instalments, is of broad,
shoddy cloth of the finest texture, and of the most
fashionable cut; it is surmounted with a velvet collar, and
in the orthodox button-hole a tiny rose buds forth, sup-
ported by two green leaves neatly spread. His hat is of
Paris silk, and the brim of extra Paris bend, all brushed
with exquisite skill and care.







36 AFRICAINIFE I BRITISH GUIANA.

His boots are as bright as his dark black eyes, and both
(his boots we mean ) are of patent polished leather. His
slender necktie and stiff starched collar rival the envied
whiteness of his ivory teeth. A chain! of massive metal
hangs from his close-fitting waistcoat bearing at the one
end a locket, brass nuggets, a watch key, and the like, and
nothing at the other! nor does he allow these envied
treasures to be obscured by the lappets of his coat; and he
encourages much his useless metal watch-key to tell the
truest lie that lieth in its power to tell.
Rings on his fingers count from two to four; and then
well dressed from top to toe and all things neatly fitting
and some things partly paid for, the good man is supremely
happy on that Sunday afternoon, in spite of the dull pros-
pect of rolling barrels, digging trenches, or cutting cane
on the Monday morning. Our description is an accurate
one so far as it goes, but the class of which we are speaking
is after all only a very small fraction of the community.
By way of smoothing down feathers if there should any of
them ruffled be, let this one thing be said to his credit,
that he at least is not like the rest of his fellow-men, in
that he works more than thrice in the week, puts by some
money, and by his own honest toil makes a fashionable
gentleman of himself, when occasion allows him to bring
himself forward, as on our bright Sunday afternoon.
Besides all this, he has advanced commerce in the town,
bought many things and even paid for some, and has as
mentioned above, the power of doing what no awkward
Englishman could do, viz., of taking off to full perfection
the Paris dandy or the London swell, while in heart and
soul he is far less, mischievous and much more simple-







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.


minded than European dawdlers. These last kind words
should, like charity, cover a multitude of sins in our
description of him. His many days of industry make
amends surely for one cool afternoon of childish vanity.
However, in spite of the attempt at an amende honorable,
we are bound to make our sketch more perfect even at the
risk of havingalittle more honest amusement at his expense.
His works, as imitative works, we have allowed to .be perfect
in their way, but his words are not equal to his works.
There is much weakness there. If the language of his
tongue was equal to the whiteness of his teeth, then there
would be eloquence indeed; but just there he fails. He fails
however, not from the want of words, oh! no, but from the
want of knowing where to put those words, and what those
words do mean, and also how to pronounce the words he
chooses, and thus unconsciously abuses, or with his British
liberty alters them to suit his fancy. For when he speaks,
(and silence him if you can), it becomes a matter of
wholesale robbery and downright murder; for SAM JOHNSON
and poor WALKER are robbed of every long, learned, or
outlandish word they had with such care collected, while
the Queen's best English is murdered in cold blood without
any pity, sorrow or remorse.
Nay, the beauty of it is that there exists not even a vague
suspicion that such crimes are being committed; in fact,
when a sentence has been made up of words as big as suet
pieces in a ploughboy's pudding, it is repeated over and
over again, as if equalling in sound and surpassing in sense
any phrase ever uttered by the most eloquent man in the
Imperial Parliament.
It is amusing in the highest degree to be an unobserved








38 AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.

witness, or better still a silent listener (for this manner
of man likes to be heard), it is amusing to hear him ven-
tilating his thoughts by conversing with his friend, say, on
that bright Sunday afternoon when his clothes give an
extra importance to his person, and add force and dignity
to his words. Thus he accosts his friend while removing
the cigar from his lips, and balancing it beautifully be-
tween thumb and finger: Mr. JOHN NOVEMBER (Jack he
would not use even on a week-day, much less drop the Mr.
or handle to the name), Mr. NOVEMBER, it gives you and
I collectively controllable facility (for felicity) to en-
counter ourselves together this Sabbath evening and
undertake unmistakable friendship discourse together. I
venture, Mr. NOVEMBER, to attribute to you and myself
the fortunatus and convenient encounter to-day. Is
LUCRECIA ALEXANDRINA your daughter recovering the
strength of her consequition (constitution !)" After a few
more questions, all wrapped up in long unintelligible
words, our friend warns Mr. NOVEMBER not to be lated"
on the morrow, but quickly one time" perform the im-
portant commissions entrusted to him, emphatically re-
minding him that prochristianization is the tief (thief)
of time;" then with a self-satisfied smile he shakes hands
with his companion and both depart in silence, our friend
evidently feeling that his superiority shone out bril-
liantly in the last display of knowledge and of learning,
as shown forth in that grand old proverb he had so dis-
tinctly uttered and so correctly delivered himself of.
If our friend fails somewhat in his speech and uses his
British liberty to the disadvantage of many a long latiniz-
ed word, so too he seems free and unfettered in his letter-







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 39

writing, indulging at times in a delicious simplicity. For
instance, a few months ago a poor black man writing to
the Catholic Bishop of these parts upon matters no doubt
of grave importance signed himself thus: "Your affec-
tionate brother the grave-digger!" Poor fellow, seeing so
much "dust to dust" made him take la liberty of thinking
of fraternity just then and egalitg later on to be.
But to return to the imitative genius of the African.
While his imitation has, or may have done him some little
good, at times it has been productive of a great deal of
harm, both moral and religious. Among other things the
following may help to prove this. Let loose from slavery,
the marriage law lay for a time very light and loosely
upon him but when at length the beauty and moral ne-
cessity of true Christian marriage dawned upon him, and
he was made to see that it was good for himself as well as
for the white man, he determined that he too would mar-
ry. But seeing that when his fairer companions, or rather
patrons, were going to be married, there was much adorn-
ment, fuss, and stir made, and loads of money spent, and
thinking all that must be right, he would delay his bright
wedding-day till he could make some stir and have some
money thus to do the right thing, and as he would think,
right well.
* If the white man had carriages and horses with flowers
in the window and flunkeys at the door, he must have
something very like it. If the white man's bride had a
dozen fair maidens all decked in silks and satins and bits
of lace, circling about her, he too must have his fair share,
all dressed in white and looking to English eyes much like
unto photographic negatives.







AFRICAN MIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.


If for the one the bells must be rung and music sung,
there must be ringing and singing for him too. If a huge
cake like to the pictures of the Tower of Babel is made for
the white man, he must have his cake all frosted and some-
thing like to a modem whited sepulchre in the East,
though it cost him the value of his wages for a week. If
champagne wine and cooling drinks are the things for
others, he in duty bound must have the same expensive
drink as they have had. In a word, he must have what
his richer friends in another stage of life have, quite inde-
pendently of his present means or future prospects, and if
he cannot have such things at once, he must delay his
wedding to the Greek Kalends, it may be, to the jeopar-
dizing of his soul and to the scandal of others and to the
grief of his pastor. While on the other hand, if he does
procure all the marriage things above mentioned, he pro-
bably will cripple his resources for many a long day, and
before the marriage week is over will find the wolf not far
distant from the door. Why can he not do things quietly
and simply.
Tradition tells us how, once upon a time in days of yore,
JEREMIAH BONE claimed in marriage the bright black hand of
IDA BROWN, and longed to lead her to the altar, and when
at length the blessed day did come, he led her all trem-
bling to the rails, while his manly bosom was filled with
honest pride. And when they had mutually exchanged each
other for better or for worse, through hailstorms of Indian
rice, and showers of lovely petals, leaves and flowers, and
the wild applause of the gazing multitude, he brought her
all tearful to the sumptuous wedding-feast. There all
things went on well midst graceful smiles and happy words







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 41

and speeches, kind, but unintelligible, cooling drinks,
choice wines, and champagne, of the best, flowed like the
mountain torrent. All cheerful was the sound that evening,
and merry and late was the dance that night. But when
the dull next morning came, and all friends had cleared
away, clearing away with them every scrap of nutritious
food; larder, cellar, pockets, purse (for the parson had taken
the last farthing for his fee)-all, all were empty, and
provokingly so. But IDA, the envied bride and heroine of
our story, was equal to the sad occasion, the solemn words
of the previous day no doubt tingling in her ears, For
better, for worse." So seeing all around her the empty
champagne bottles standing against the wall like mocking
ghosts, she waited and fasted till the sun went down, and
then putting a shawl about her head, she stole out and sold
those bottles one by one, and bought bread that night for
dismal JEREMIAH'S supper!
And now for another sketch and we have done. We have
seen the good stout mother, her house and grounds, and
SOLOMON the boy. We have strolled out and studied him
at his lessons, under the rod, and accompanied him at his
games. The dandy man we have made the most of, and
have pitied the fair IDA and hungry JEREMIAH. Let us in
conclusion have a look at little AFRICANA. Bring her forward
where she shows her forwardness a bit, or rather where a
little weak point or so manifests itself. First in her favour
we can say that as a young domestic being she is good,
cheerful, and obedient, looks after her little black sister,
BLANCHE, plays with her doll, pats her kitten, and can do a
little crochet work besides; can grate cassava for the starch;
peel the plantains, and fan the fire or gather sticks to keep








42 AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.


the pot a boiling. Her mother, like poor mothers the
wide world over, keeps her constantly from school, delighted
somewhat that a festered toe or inflamed eye gives her fair
excuse for keeping her at home. Hence the child's learning
on the whole is not extensive, She is also much employed
in fetching water, cleaning the ware, and taking back the
washing, but her great work is the catering for the house.
In this she delights exceedingly. Her dress is always
modest, and like her brother's coat, is clean on Sundays.
She delights in beads around her neck of amber colour,
and has a tiny ring upon her finger, her ears are pierced,
and at times she wears a bracelet on her wrist, a present
from her godmother. She wears her hair in a fashion hard
to describe and hideous to behold, for what little wool
nature has blessed her with, her mother makes the most of
and by dint of painful pulling out, stretching, and tight
twisting, forms little locks of a rat-tail length hanging
about her head, or like young horns, sticking up here and
there and all about, numbering in all from six to eight.
Her respected mother wears her woolly hair exactly in the
same fashion, though of course on a larger scale, and both,
mother and PRINCESS, rejoice in this droll, queer custom.
From the name of the daughter by-the-bye we are not to
suppose that she is of the royal blood descent, for the Afri-
cans are fond of big and aristocratic names and were much
more so formerly, when for instance WELLINGTON was not
enough for the baptismal name, the handle Duke must be
prefixed; Lord NELSON, Prince GEORGE, and so on, were
the style of name they very much rejoiced in and insisted
upon in days gone by.
Young PRINCESS, for we must return to her, wears often








AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 43

on her royal feet, boots, not necessarily however stockings,
though these softer articles do please her much. While
materfamilias is busy washing the clothes (and washing
becomes quite a trade when so many dress in white),
while then, the washing and starching (and starch in a
vengeance they do) or ironing or hanging out is going on,
young PRINCESS with an empty calabash and handful of
money is sent scampering off to do the marketing. So,
dancing away, as little girls will dance, often quite pretty
in that performance, she finds herself after a word or so on
the road with Miss ALEXANDRINA DELPHINA GOODLUCK, of
her own age and complexion, .at the Portuguese provision
shop, where all things from a pearl shirt button to a bis-
cuit barrel can be bought, and here her royal highness
becomes quite naughty, and all her gentle qualities dis-
appear. She pushes forward on the greasy counter her
empty calabash and at once cries out all breathless : Gill*
rice, gill salt-fish, gill pork, two gill plantain, gill Irish
potato, gill sugar, two gill lard," &c., and if ANTONIO the
shop boy is not at his post at once and in quick atten-
dance, the important orders are repeated again in two
keys higher, for Miss PRINCES is master of the position
and she knows it, she has money in her hand, good cur-
rent coin of the realm, and within a stone's throw
stands another Portuguese shop served by MANUEL all
smiling, and ANTONIO is painfully alive to all these facts
and waits upon his disagreeable little customer without
delay. So he begins to pour into the calabash the gill's
worth of rice, PRINCESS watching every grain, as if count-
Gill, a penny; cent, halfpenny; but nothing for a cent is bought or
sold.







44 AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.

ing them and ready to cry out not enough; then come
the plantains, two out of the four are tossed back again as
not good enough, and the patient AIToNIo changes them
for others not a bit bigger or better; than there is much
contention about the pennyworth of salt-fish, the child
turns it over and over again, smells it, sneers at it, and
then pronounces it as too thin and cut too near the tail.
This too the Job-like Portuguese adroitly changes, PIN-
CESS not gaining by the transaction. The gill's worth of
Irish potatoes, which by-the-bye, come from Bermuda, pass
without a grumble, for PRINCESS is not from the Emerald
Isle and is not a good potato judge.
Last of all there is much ado about a gill's worth of
salt-butter patted into a broken tea-cup. PRINCESS makes
a royal protest that it is not enough for the penny paid,
stamps her soft black feet upon the hard black floor, and in-
sists upon having more. So the Portuguese with cucumber
coolness takes it back, adds nothing to it but pats it into a
different form, and then hands it back to the young lady,
who by this time seems content that she had brought the
shrewd ANTONIO to a sense of duty and uprightness. Bus-
iness done and money paid, then follows" injury to in-
sult," for the child quite coolly asks a gift, using for the
first time the word please, and says in a subdued voice:
"Please Mr. ANTONIO give me a biscuit" and without
a word, a round biscuit or part of one is handed
to her, her own sweet perquisite to be. Wise Portu-
guese youth! he knows his business well, and is a
credit to his master. Then PRINCESS goes tripping
home all happy with her biscuit and testifying to the
sweetness of the sugar many times till she fears domes-








AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 45

tic trouble and has visions of the cane without the sugar.
Poor little PRINCESS, a handful of pennies had quite for
the moment spoilt her and made her rude, let us forgive
her. Riches has ruined many," and she poor child had
nearly ninepence in her hand! Our poor little catering-
girl is trotted out just here as much to show the petty
shop wants of the poorer class of African people as to ex-
hibit the impertinence or manners of young AFRICANA.
And here we put down the pen and abruptly shut up
the sketch-book for the present, leaving untold for brevi-
ty's sake many an ancient custom or curious saying illus-
trative of the character of our African friends, for where
there is humour in a people there must be quaintness in
their sayings and of course music in the sound.

















CUSTOMS AND MANNERS.


PART THE THIRD.

N a previous chapter some little effort was made
to bring out the character of the good African
residents in British Guiana, by simply sketching
them as they stood before us, or as by chance we come
across them-neither on the one hand concealing their
many excellent points, nor on the other hiding their few
but less enviable ones; and all this quite irrespective of
age, or sex, or occupation; confining however our re-
marks for the most part to those of the lower, or poorer
class of Creolized Africans.
At one time we were seen in close and happy company
with Africa's younger son, witnessing his boyish ways
abroad, or childish tricks at home, giving him however,
full credit for his intellectual powers and proficiency at
school; now entering into his pleasures and pastimes,
then pitying him in his pains and punishments.
At another time we would set off with the little black
catering girl as she went dancing off so merrily to market,
and while criticising her strange manners, would-by the
bye-quite forget our own, by peeping inquisitively into
her calabash to see what rare groceries she had put there-







AFBRICA LIFE IN BRISISH GUIANA.


in, or making her tell how she had spent all she money"
for the benefit of she family; or again with evident plea-
sure we would visit sans ceremoonie, and without card in
hand the stout good-natured mother in her little wooden
house, and stumbling up her broken steps and nigh tum-
bling over her empty wash-tubs, we would light-upon her
big basket full of little ones, all happy and all smiling-
then having shaken hands with all round, we would for
information sake scrutinize her every household object
from the brass bodkin on the broken box, to the monster
bedstead behind the pictured screen-then picking a hot
pepper or a scented leaf as we passed along her garden, we
would go off, having seen the school boy and the police-
man too, to view or interview the African labouring man
now stretching full length upon the ground, listless and
lazy and unwilling to work till his plantains were all fin-
ished, and money no longer deh", or much later on when
things had mended somewhat we would come across him,
on some bright Sunday afternoon, all dressed up within
an inch of his precious life, switching his slender cane,
and propounding all the while his strange parables to his
bewildered friends.
Our object now, in the few following pages, is to bring
before our readers, and in mere sample form, some of the
curious customs, strange habits, and local superstitions of
our African friends, leaving their funny sayings and an-
cient proverbs for another time, for all these things, while
they illustrate our subject, cast much light upon the char-
acter of the people and help to make our sketches, one
shade at least, less incomplete; so without further delay
or useless preface words, we now will introduce our readers







48 AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.

straight away to one of their strange customs, and one which,
while amusing in its way, is certainly characteristic of the
poor African woman in these parts. It is, the very com-
mon custom they have of talking or chatting to themselves
as they go moving along the very middle of the street
quite careless and unconcerned as to whether or not their
family secrets and domestic troubles are listened to, or
overheard by others, or caring one whit who the passers-by
may be. Thus you will hear one good Lady speaking in
broken English, all about Massa broken pie-dish" and
how "picknie come to mash* he !"; or again how she
sister JUDITH when she went to doctor shop, for have she
tooth pull out, the mulatto man mash up de fence, and stole
de fowl, and how she fret up too bad; and then after a mo-
ment of quiet reflection you will hear her dilating on de
wickedness of de human race" leaving the bad tief in the
good hand of God, hoping the world may soon come to an
end "for people live too bad-tief too much -too much,
for true." Again if our poor friend is in a more merry
mood and has lost neither fowl. nor teeth, much less her
tongue, she will without the slightest intention of being
rude, for African women are not by nature rude, much less
are they impudent,- she will criticise in her own simple
way, and from her own point of view (and be it said often
reasonably enough) the costume or dress of others, say for
instance, the very high heel boots of her much fairer
European sisters, as they go past her, tripping by so
merrily and decked so gaily, with a false flower on one
The word' mash' is almost universally used by the creole population
to denote anything destroyed or much damaged; hence they do not hesi-
tate to say, me fell down and mash up me clothes. He mash me kite.
She mash up me prayer book.








AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 49

shoulder and none upon the other, and she wonders much
how "Missy no fall to de ground and mash up she foot
and break she head when she stand on rock stone, heel too
high, Missy shoe heel too high," and she will go on utter-
ing and muttering the honest truth till some other outrg
fashion strikes and astonishes her simple mind, or till
something else in the streets attracts her attention bring-
ing fresh thoughts to her head, and droll or funny words
to her lips.
It may seem a little rude, and let us honestly confess it
is so, but certainly it is more than a little amusing quietly
to follow within fair hearing distance, one of Africa's
simple daughters telling out her petty wants and griev-
ances or expressing aloud every quaint thought as it comes
uppermost in her mind, changing each moment the topic
of talk as fresh distractions will crowd in upon her
mind. Now you will hear her talk all about DIANA and her
wedding-day, and how nice she looked in Church with she
feathered fan and fresh white flowers-how all looked, as
their expression has it" too sweet for true,"and then after
a moment's pause, reflecting on her own less happy or
unlucky lot, softly and sadly you would hear her singing
some fragment of a picked up song ending in these pathe-
tic words-" When me poor girl am dead and gone and de
green grass growing ober me"-or a moment or so later,
when thinking of her poor orphan state and her corporal
wants she would sing out again Fader dead, moder dead,
got no one to give I bread"; and thus she will go on, now
chatting, now singing, now quarrelling within herself, un-
consciously amusing you so much, till some tattered and
shoeless lady friend stops her on the road and enters into
G







50 AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.

polite discourse with her; but you must then reluctantly
pass on musing at much you had heard and seen, and trying
to remember some of it for the benefit of your friends.
Another droll custom the African women rejoice in out
here, is that of carrying and most cleverly balancing on
their heads things of all sorts and sizes, whether pieces of
furniture or articles of food, while their hands remain quiet
and unoccupied, or swinging by their side. A black
woman goes to market, buys with her penny a piece of
pumpkin, or a purple yam, places it instinctively upon the
top of her head and off speedily she goes to cook and eat
it; or, it may be, she has one of those tall black ordinary
wine bottles, to be replenished with oil or vinegar, milk or
medicine; full or empty, corked or otherwise, that tall
black bottle stands erect upon her head beautifully poised,
as, gracefully and noiselessly, she moves along the road like
unto some acrobat's daughter practising for a night's per-
formance at some poor country circus.
And so are carried many things as just remarked, things
of strange forms, of little or large dimensions, from a tin
candlestick to a washing tub, from a bar of blue soap to an
ounce of brown sugar; indeed the writer can testify how
once he saw with sorrow, a poor friendless mother with a
coffin on her head bearing her own dead baby to the burial
ground.
At times during the clothes washing process (and wash-
ing is a great institution out here, where so many men and
women dress in white), at such times, then, of busy washing,
the head is made to render most valuable service and be-
comes a most useful table substitute, for, as each precious
article of clothing is washed, rinsed, and cruelly wrung,







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 51

and then twisted into the smallest serpentine or cork screw
form, according as the manner of all civilized washers so
to do, it is placed or piled up upon the head of the washer,
till the weight and accumulation of sodden goods make it
necessary for her to relieve her useful head-piece by shak-
ing out her clothes and laying them out upon the grassy
ground to dry. It may be further added that so liberally
is cassava starch made to enter into the newly washed cloth-
ing that certain articles when dry, become of a tin-like
texture and stand about like little tent-shaped houses.
But in reference to the head, who will, after what has
been said above, have the courage to assert that women do
not use their heads or at least African women do not-
for have they not amply shown or proved to demonstration
that they 'use them for the benefit of the living, if not for
the support of the dead! It may however here be justly
remarked en passant that the constant habit of carrying
and balancing things upon the head, has had probably
much to do in giving to the African female form that
graceful uprightness of figure it undoubtedly possesses,
contrasting most favourably with the rounded backs, high
shoulders and awkward bearing, too often observable among
the pale skinned race of more favoured nations or ladies in
more fashionable circles. The women of Egypt and the
East are wonderfully erect or straight, no doubt, because
they are, and ever have been, carriers of water.
As we have touched on graceful form and artistic
figures, we may further add that the majority of African
women are well made, and fairly, though not finely pro-
portioned, for there are certain details of such things,
as lips upper and lower, nose and nostrils, about which







52 AFRCAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.

artists and other connoisseurs hold their own prejudiced
though decided opinion, and are moreover inclined to
indulge in unkind or cruel criticism. Again as African
women are neither vulgar in their gait nor ungainly in
their manners, so at times they are truly graceful in their
movements, and in the many gesticulations they love so
much to indulge in, especially when engaged in very
lively conversation, or when they have become suddenly
a little excited at the approach of some big band, or
the running over of some little baby. But now for
fear of being taxed with undue partiality towards our
good dark African friends, let us for a change revert to
some of their few failings and weaker points. Modest in
her dress and polite in her manner, the African woman is
not always under perfect religious control in her speech,
like indeed to so many of her lively sex in all other parts
of this wicked world. True the poor African has only
broken English at her command, but certain it is she
makes the most of the broken pieces, flinging theri at
you right and left in most offensive or hurtful form, when
her monkey is fairly up, or when her ire or indignation
has been fairly roused; then her language becomes every
bit as saucy, and quite as savage, as that of any of the
wicked, wily, and unwashed ones in the nooks and
miserable covers of our model European cities But as
remarked many pages past, an African's indignation and hot
anger soon cools down without as a rule leaving behind it
the ordinary residue of vindictive feeling or the wicked
desire of seeking revenge.
Speaking here of the naughty language of the African
ladies, reminds one of a very peculiar and unexpected







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 53

kind of abuse in not infrequent usage among the African
gentlemen of the lower orders; for they too, like their lov-
ing wives and graceful daughters (and like each and every
one of us besides) have their tongues and their tempers
too.
For instance, a couple of black men on whose noble
brow a casual smudge or smear of printer's ink would
dause but little colour contrast, will enter into an angry
and noisy dispute all about nothing, or at most it might
be about some mislaid tool or injured bradawl; angry and
ugly words are freely and rapidly exchanged while from
blows and bloodshed they wisely enough abstain, on ac-
count of the strange antipathy they have of being hit or
hurt. When however the stronger of the two disputants
has well nigh exhausted his vocabulary of unsavoury
sounding words, and many times sent his opponent to
that place where evil spirits everlastingly do dwell, as a
last resource or as a last hard hit, he calls his jet black
counterpart a nigger qualifying the term with a wicked
adjective of his own unhappy choice, far more expressive
than either parliamentary or polite: now, the other not
content with the obvious answer or retort and you are
another," flings back the sarcastic word of reproach with
its qualifying adjective in double quick time and we may
say in double force like a ball in an active game of lawn-
tennis, till at length when both parties are well tired with
mutual abuse, the noisy-quarrel (all about nothing)
comes to an end.
That a white man in his foolish anger should so far utterly
forget himself as to call his dear dark brother, a NIGGER"
is, if not excusable (and how could it possibly be so) at least








AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.


just conceivable; but that two men of darkest sable hue
should call each other in hot anger "NIGGER" is oddly
strange and must ever sound strangely ridiculous.
It can only be accounted for by supposing that our
poorer African Brethren are not all proficient Latin or
Classic scholars, and consequently do not in their minds
associate the word nigger with the word black but simply
look upon the term nigger as an unwholesome word,'
meaning all that is low and detestable; reminding us for
the moment of the story of the servant girl, who bore in
Job-like patience many cutting and unkind epithets from
her peevish mistress, till, when called an individual she
could stand it no longer but resented the odious expres-
sion with hot tears in her eyes and loud stamps with her
feet, and gave instant notice to quit the premises !
From street abuse we are led on to say a few words
about street cries and street criers, though in Demerara,
there are not many street criers, or much to cry about.
The street criers out here, are not the decided street
nuisances they are elsewhere, as in many of the busy
towns in England where, like, forsooth, in some parts of
London, the smoky air is filled with now shrill, now loud,
now dull and discordant sounds, from early morn, to dead
of night, from the slow lugubrious sound of-sweep sweep,
an hour or more before shaving time, to the lively sound
of all hot, all hot, hot peas and potatoes all hot, an hour
after night prayer or bed time.
The cries here are few and far between, while bells are
made to do their duty. A little tinkling sound, tells of the
bread-man and his covered cart, a bigger bell unmistaka-
bly rung, tells at times not of muffins or crumpets, but of








AFRICAN LIFE IN I3RITIS GUIANA. 55

real live turtle in the market such as would craze a London
alderman to think of-to be sold in pieces (that is the
turtle) at eight pence per pound; or the bell sound some-
times only notifies a big jew-fish just caught and cut up
and ready for the market; a much bigger bell, as if bor-
rowed between trains from the railway-station man, tells
us, and all around, that our neighbour is selling off by
auction once again, his dining table and all his upstairs
and downstairs "well kept furniture," for according to the
rules and customs of our land, if a man goes to England
on six months' leave, to import a wife or on any other such
arduous or serious duty, or even should he make up his
mind to remove over the wide river, or may be, only to a
few streets off, he sells all he has, either to have the plea-
sure of again buying his furniture, or to raise a little
money to help himself homeward or his new wife outward.
All are invited, and friends at least, are expected to attend
the vendue" as it is called; while enticing advertisements
in the local papers tell of a cold luncheon, champagne, and
delicious and cooling drinks prepared for visitors; and
then, when all are cheerful, the auction begins in earnest,
and many things are sold, some for old songs, some things
remain,--the champagne never!
But to return to our African street criers, few things are
hawked about, nor are hucksters' carts in general use, for
most things are carried on the serviceable head-piece so
lately described. Cassava bread, scale fish, ochroes, tannias,
beans, peas and other vegetables and edibles form the chief
supply.
No chimney sweep inflicts his dismal and unearthly sound
upon your ears, to disturb you at your morning devotions








APBICAN LIFE IN fRITISH GUIANA.


or to tempt your razor to make a slip, for there are no
chimneys here for him to scramble up or tumble down,-a
zinc tube carries off the little wood smoke made by those
who possess an apology for a kitchen. No sound of Irish
potatoes or boiled peas all hot between ten .and twelve at
night time to prevent your sleeping; for merchants, man.
agers and others are fast asleep by that time, dreaming of
sugar or dry goods or of something else.
Again our cries out here are distinctly uttered, and in-
telligible enough, and furthermore are most polite:-nice
scale fish ladies, nice peppers ladies, nice ochroes ladies;
everything nice and all for the ladies, even nice hot sauce
for the ladies! But curious to remark, if a real white lady
requiring something, says 'woman with the hot pepper
come,' the notice is unheeded, for the crier is offended and
must be called a lady too. Formerly when the African
element here was stronger or less mixed, the street cries
were more original and droll than nowadays, hence among
other curious cries a quaint old one has died away, and
though quoted by the writer in a previous article seems to
claim a more fitting place just here; it ran thus:
Nice cassava bread ladies,
Nice cassava bread;
He who want me call me,
He who no want me no call me,
He who shame to call me, give me
The wink, wink, wink.
The polite addition of the word Lady, whilst it at once
points to our high state of civilization, renders the meaning
of a cry at times vague or puzzling, as the following
amusing incident may help to illustrate.
An Englishman some years ago on his first arrival in







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 57

Demerara, heard as he walked up a street the following
cry, loudly and distinctly uttered:
Nice black eye ladies
Nice black eye ladies
Who buy my nice black eye ladies."
The Englishman started, and of course shuddered at the
sound, and called at'once upon an old Colonist close by, and
with extenuated face and saddened countenance indignantly
enquired how was it, that the Anti-Slavery Emancipation
laws were so utterly disregarded out here, right under the
British flag, and that detestable slavery still flourished in
the English Colonies ? How is it possible that human
creatures could be in the market for sale, even "nice
black eye ladies," what a national shame, what a foul
blot on England's fair name! "But ladies are not for
sale" cried out the old Colonist indignantly and some-
what taken aback at the bold unexpected assertion.
" But they are," replied the other impetuously, I with
my own ears heard the cry, and saw with my own eyes the
crier, heard him cry these words; Nice black eye ladies,
who buy my nice black eye ladies,' though it is true he had
no ladies in a cart, but only a wooden tray with a cloth
laid losely over it." "Listen" said the old Colonist re-
covering quite, and immensely amused, as the bright
twinkling of the eye did unmistakably tell, listen to me
a moment please, be seated, recover breath my friend.
Nice black eyes have nothing to do with ladies, but refer
to dark or black specks upon some peas the poor man has
in his tray under his cloth for sale; what the black man
meant to say, was simply this; nice black eyed peas for
ladies to buy, he did not intend to cry out, that he had
live ladies with black eyes for sale."
H







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.


So the raw newcomer looked up again, and a smile
gradually crept over his bewildered countenance, and he
said he would not go home by next mail at least, but
would remain and make himself happy in the colony, and
he soon learnt that all shoeless females and penniless
persons of the feminine gender were ladies, and every
black man, coatless and bootless was a gentleman, with a
Mr. to his name when spoken to or addressed; and an
Esquire in full upon the envelope when written to, unless
indeed, you wished to insult him, or forfeit his friendship,
or be thought yourself, ungentlemanly.
With these few scanty words on street cries and criers,
we pass on to notify a few more curious ways and strange
customs of our good African friends-some of them more
to be wondered at than admired-others childish in the
extreme-some superstitious, while others like the unfortu-
nate practice of obeahism, positively wicked and degrading.
Among the simple though foolish practices, let us by
way of sample, single out the following:-a donkey driver-
boy all thirsty, having pulled up his little cart at the
corner of the street, pays his penny and buys his bottle
of maubie,-a refreshing and wholesome drink made from
the bark of a tree. The boy, instead of at once quenching
his thirst with the maubie drink, runs straight to his
donkey, and holds the bottle not to the mouth of the
beast as if to share its contents, but to its nostrils, awaiting
till the patient animal has breathed into the bottle's
mouth, and then, and not till then, does the donkey boy
with evident contentment of mind pour the maubie drink
down his own throat. Upon asking the meaning of this
strange ceremony, and why the bottle was put first to the







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.


donkey's nose, the explanation quickly furnished, and
given without a smile was, that the donkey by breathing
into the maubie bottle would give a long breath to the
maubie drinker; for donkeys are considered to have
long breaths themselves and moreover are accredited the
power of imparting that long breath to others by breathing
into the vessel to be drunk from.
Some of the foolish customs out here must have come
originally from England or perhaps it may be vice versa. For
instance, you will in your walks out here as frequently come
across the ugly rusty horse shoe, tightly nailed against the
door or out-buildings of the poorer sort of people as in
England, Wales, or Scotland, where the iron shoe is sup-
posed to bring good luck; while out here it is accounted a
sovereign remedy against the attack of hogs, and moreover
has the power of keeping off the evil machination of
witchcraft or witches.
The poor African people, like the poor uneducated class
of other nations, are full of vain fears and foolish fancies;
and in proportion to their ignorance, so are they naturally
superstitiously inclined.
They have a great dread of graveyards during the night,
and fear much after dusk being near old tombs, or ancient
tomb-stones, scattered as these are on all sides, in the house
garden or in the adjoining paddock, on the roadside or in
the plantation; for in days gone by, men buried their
dead friends just where they bury their dead horses now
-that is, just where they liked-whether among their
roses or among the thorns, at the foot of a mango tree
or the head of a walk, or in the midst of the tall para
grass hard by.








AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.


Again, African people, big and little, are as frightened
about ghosts, spirits, hobgoblins, and all that very inter-
esting class of invisible beings, as country servant girls
or foolish nursery maids at home. And now that we have
got so far, it is high time to introduce our readers to the
renowned or far-famed ghost of our colony, and hand up
his card with JUMBI written on it.
Now Jumbi be it known is a great power out here,
and we may almost add, a sort of public pet, for so many
things have been given or dedicated to him, and on so
many things such as trees, flowers, seeds, berries and birds
his name like a trade mark or sign appears.
Although out here our thin card-board houses, with
their wooden walls not much thicker than our writing
desks or dining tables I devoid too of all dark corners,
chimney breasts, double-doors, ancient hangings, and the
like, and furthermore mostly of modern build, would
seem to be proof against all ghostly intrusion, still in spite
of all these jumbi disadvantages, we have some romance
left on our rich mud shores, for certain houses in Town
and lonesome manses in the Country are pointed out, and
pointed at, as veritable haunted houses; for;-
O'er all there hangs the shadow of a fear,
A sense of mystery the spirit daunted,
And said as plain as whisper in the ear,
The place is haunted."
Few, it may be, but genuine haunted houses we have I
enjoying all the special privileges, rights, titles, and im-
munities of haunted dwellings! where mysterious sights
are seen, blue lights, lurid and ghastly forms, where
strange sounds and unearthly noises are heard, wheree








AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.


mosquito-curtains shake, and thin doors bang, and
where the weaker sex grow pale and speechless for
a time, and then, all nervous, beg of their fretful
husbands, in spite of his many rat-traps, to quit at once
the place and seek nocturnal peace and quietness some-
where else.
But Jumbi has other privileges besides the possession
of houses. He is a favourite as said above, and has
his garden dinners, and his wedding feasts in these tropical
parts. And first, a word about his dinner-parties. The
poor ignorant people fearing at times that Jumbi is not
well pleased with them for something done, or is annoyed
at something neglected to be done, try to appease
his ghostship by spreading out, now and again, upon
the grassy ground, a repast of boiled rice and cooked
fowl, most scrupulously avoiding the admixture of
the slightest particle of salt,-children and children
alone, are allowed to be guests at this sumptuous garden
spread, and are told by their deluded parents that
Jumbi-ghost is all the while in their very midst, silently
and invisibly partaking of the savoury fowl and unsalted
rice.
The coolies to appease their departed spirits, often
times out here, are seen sprinkling rum about the
graves of their dead; but as a rule the coolie prefers
to use his rum more-to excite the living than to pacify
the dead !
Our Jumbi-ghost, besides his silent dinner parties, has as
mentioned above his wedding feasts, and these are of
a noisy nature. There is a fine quick-growing tree in
these parts known by the learned as the Hura crepitans








62 AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.

and called by the unlearned the sand-box tree.* Now
when its impatient seed vessels, being of the size and
general form of a Spanish onion, but flattened and
deeply furrowed-or perhaps better described, as more like
to a large well-shaped tomato-though of a hard and horny
texture;-now when these seed-vessels burst with a loud
sharp explosive sound, sending their many seeds of
waistcoat-button form all rattling among the branches and
rolling on the ground, then young Africa, or older Africa,
if passing by that way and hearing the noisy sound, cries
out, "Ah ah Jumbi wedding-day-Jumbi go married;"
and Jumbi and his mysterious family have, be it remarked,
many weddings during the season; and should your easy-
chair, or hammock, be in close proximity to some prolific
sand-box tree, and you are suddenly disturbed in your day
dreams or nightly slumbers, you are not quite in the
humour or at all inclined to impart a nuptial blessing on
Jumbi ghost or his marriage feast.f
The sand-box tree has another curious name of its own;
it is also called Monkey dinner bell tree; whether the
noisy habit alluded to, arouses and calls the monkey to
his dinner, in the shape of the many button-like seeds
scattered on the ground, or whether the noise is only a
Possibly, and we throw it out as a mere suggestion, the sand-boxes of
the Hura Orepitans were used in former times to contain sand for blot-
ting up purposes before the invention or introduction of blotting paper.-
Sand to this day is used in many places and in public offices on the conti-
nent for such purposes. The seed vessels of the sand box tree, which
do not burst asunder,-if picked and cured in time, are just the size, and
shape, and construction for the suggested use.
[Since this footnote appeared in the first edition, an old colonist' who
remembers when the nuts were used as sand boxes, has publicly verified
this conjecture.]
f By some, these explosive feasts are called Lizard Weddings.







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 63

general summons to Master Monkey to attend to his
corporal wants, is a question for the learned to decide.
The flat nutty seeds however be it remarked, are a
dangerous cathartic and have at times destroyed young
children, who indulged in the too free eating thereof;
moreover we are told these seeds are used by the wicked
obeah-man in making up his deadly compounds to destroy
the victims of his wickedness.
Leaving the sand-box Jumbi tree, we pass on to consider
the eccentric habits of the silk-cotton tree (Eriodendron
awfractuosus) and the strange African traditions and
superstitions connected with it. This tree is of stately
growth and gigantic height, with far extending rcots and
flying buttress-like supports at base. It is said by some
to bloom but once every three years, and pretty and
elegant are its silken blossoms, whether triennial or not.
The tree however has strange untree-like habits or
propensities of its own, for in spite of its immense size and
outstretching roots and quasi buttress supports, at dead of
night when mortals in slumber are bound" it walks
about, crosses and recrosses wide and deep rivers, but is
always active and sharp enough to find its way back to its
place, before the break of day, and moreover manages to
escape detection in its nightly walk or nocturnal wander-
ings !-so say the common African people together with
many of their somewhat fairer descendants. This tree also is
sometimes known as Jumbi tree ; often it is called the
devil's tree. One thing is clear, and that is, you must not
trouble that tree ;" and another thing is more certain still,
and that is the difficulty there exists in finding men who will
dare cut down that tree or otherwise destroy it, be the







64 AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.

labourers required for the work, black men, or men of a more
coffee colour; for they all say, the executioner will not long
survive the cutting of the tree.* Hence while trees around
have yielded to the axe, and become furniture wood or fire
fuel, the silk-cotton tree has been left proudly standing, a
monument, it is true, to African fear and local superstition.
It is at the foot of this strange tree that the obeah-man often
makes up his detestable obeah-bags.
But 'tis time to finish with Jumbi and his trees,-to
make no reflection on his cap! which by-the-bye is the
lowly toad-stool of Cryptogamian class and fungus form,
raised to a high dignity, and called Jumbi cap; nor must
we forget to look serious when we think or speak of Jumbi
bird all neatly dressed in black, and blest with one white
spot of perfect contrast.
The visits of this black bird are alarming and of course
unwelcome, for when he flutters around inhabitable
dwellings, it is sad omen that one among the living will
quickly be numbered among the dead. Ravens elsewhere,
and some say owls, are supposed to be birds of the same
bad, or evil omen.
We may laugh or smile at African superstitions here,
and in other matters too, but if we do stoop down to pick
up stones to cast at the poor Africans for their childish folly
or superstitions, let us not be the first to throw them or fling
them hard; for, are there not stout hearts among usathome,
or even here, who possibly with a prayer book in the pocket,
have a mortal dread of sitting down to dinner thirteen at a

The same superstition about this tree exists in some of the West
India islands, Jamaica and St. Vincent among others. Had the silk
cotton tree been a profitable wood, useful and fit for furniture, probably
Europeans would have done away with the superstition long ago I







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.


time-who are miserably unhappy till some 'one of the thir-
teen sacrifices his meal, pro bono publico, and begs to retire,
(ill of course!) or till the unlucky number has been changed
to fourteen, by insisting upon the butler or some poor boy
sitting down to do justice to the good things prepared?
Leaving then all jumbi folly, and smiling at our own, we
fain would wish our poor Africans of the West had confined
themselves to their mere childish superstitions here; but
some of them, sad to say, have gone much further and
trangressed far deeper, and degraded themselves through
their wicked attachments to Obeahism,or the obeah-man and
his dark witchcraft,-to say nothing of his frightful frauds.
For a length of years, the wicked deeds of the obeah-men
have disgraced our western Colony, and though it must
be owned, that good strong and stringent laws were made
-and at times fairly enforced-they have not been suffi-
cient to repress the evil, or stamp it out, much less eradicate
it from the land; for up and down the country, and in quiet
nooks and covers of the town, the obeah-man still flourishes
and carries on his wicked practices, mixes his medicines
. -to use the mildest term-and fills his filthy bags with bits
of bone, dried human blood, teeth and toads, cats' ears,
and claws, to enchant and bewitch some, and to drain
the pockets of many who certainly deserve to lose much
. more than they ever possessed, as just punishment for
their wretched folly. Let us hope for better things, and
for the time, when these things may be looked upon as
childish fictions of the past,--though they are at present
disgraceful facts.
And now we must begin to bring our few rough sketches
to a close, reminding our readers once again, that they







66 AriCAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIAi~A.

are not intended to be caricatures, 'nor are they in any way
meant to offend or wound the susceptibilities of those
playfully portrayed therein. They have been written at
the request of some at home, and for the special benefit
of others living there, who, it must be stated (and all
colonists will readily endorse or admit the statement)
know but very little about our magnificent Province" out
here, and from the little knowledge they do possess, are
inclined too often, to form very erroneous notions or to
arrive at very strange or wrong conclusions.
In the first place, few people in England, and it seems a
rude thing to write it down in so many words, know where-
about Demerara lies, or at any rate its exact position on
the globe; few would be able quickly or at a given moment
to spot it out upon the map, even with a guinea bet to
back them; nay more, were the question suddenly put to
the students of most of the high schools up and down the
country, and they were asked to state at once the exact
position of the great sugar colony of British Guiana, and
further told that silver prizes or ignoble plucking would
depend upon the prompt or speedy answer, there would
be much plucking and probably but few prizes, even
allowing to each a second guess. Nor is this really to be so
much wondered at, remembering as many do, that not so
long ago, grave British Statesmen and Honourable (and of
course) leaned members of the Imperial Parliament
described British Guiana as an Island, and further more
allowed this erroneous statement to get full official entry
in their big blue books at home.
So much then for the knowledge or rather want of
amoglpdge, db our geographical position on this earth:







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 67

and if no offence is taken, we might as well here clearly
state that British Guiana, divided into or comprising three
large provinces viz :--Demerara, Berbice and Essequibo,
lies on the North East mud-shore of South America, with
Dutch Guiana on the south, Venezuela to the North, and
interminable bush or vast forests to the West.
Again--as to how we live, and upon what we live, what
work we do, in what language we converse, or to what
state of civilization we have reached, all this is sealed
matter to our distant European friends.
In fact, the uneducated classes both in town and country,
have most strange ideas about us in these foreign parts,
and fall at times into mistakes quite delicious, or at least,
certainly most amusing. For instance a common Lon-
doner with his disagreeable Cockney twang, quite happy
in his self-sufficiency, meets up with a black man-an
African -say in Piccadilly or in the Strand, or if you
will in Cripplegate, and having, after one good searching
glance, well satisfied himself that the black man's colour
is genuine, and every bit his own, and that he belonged
not to the Christy-Minstrel gang, he next begins to wonder
from what public show-van he has managed to escape-
how many cold missioners he has killed, cooked or eaten
raw, in his own wild land, and how poor man, he feels
just now, in crisp hat, hard boots, and all the softer clothing
that comes between. But should it so happen that by
some strange chance, he is brought into close contact and
happy company with that jet black man, and the dark
eyed stranger opens his mouth and ventures to speak aloud,
he is at first surprised at the pearly whiteness of his teeth,
and then becomes perfectly dumbfounded at hearing his







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.


own English tongue, freely and fairly spoken, (and be it
said to the Londoner's great confusion) every aspirate duly
respected and correctly pronounced. His surprise indeed
increases ten-fold as the sable gentleman without indulg-
ing in a yell, or some unearthly war-cry, quietly and most
politely asks a few reasonable questions, or enquires, in the
first place, whether the passing tram-cars would take him
to the British Museum and secondly at what time that
institution closes its gates-or which was the quickest way
of getting to the Houses of Parliament, and whether
GLADSTOIE or some dry-stick! would be talking there that
night. All puzzled and perplexed, our London worthy
stares with his mouth wide open, and with his nose more
celestial than ever, and begins to think or flatters himself
that he has, as good luck would have it, stumbled across
the eldest son of Lobengula, or of some dark Zulu King, or
heir apparent to an ivory throne, with a royal qrown
awaiting him at home, or at the left luggage office at
Charing Cross, or somewhere else in Bond Street it
may be-on public view; when all the time, it so turns
out, our ignorant cockney friend is but face to face with
some good-humoured, well mannered, and fairly educated
African ship's steward from British Guiana, familiarly
known among his friends by the name of SAiUEL SOBERS,
" taking a walk,"-as all travelling, irrespective of man-
ner, mode or distance, is called in these parts, and taking a
good look round London, waiting till his vessel consigned
to Messrs. Drygoodsini, Insolventini & Co. requires his
active ship-service and speedy return to Demerara.
Again, as to the many things we have in our British,
Guiana Colony, to make us healthy, happy and content,







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 69

and thus cheer us up in this life, our friends at home are in
most blissful ignorance.
They think possibly, that the white man out here, wears
clothes, simply because it is his habit, that the black man
wears next to nothing, on account of warm climate, that the
former eats beef and bread, the latter feeds on beans and ber-
ries. And if it so happen as frequently it does, that our
colonist gets leave of absence, and runs home for a while
to visit his town-relations, and country cousins, and by
way of informing, instructing and interesting them, tells
all, or at least many things about the bright sunny colony
he has just returned from, he would scarcely be understood
by some, and would certainly be disbelieved by others,
were he for instance to tell them, that all our months out
here were summer months, that few of our days were
dog days, that all our trees and many of them of grand
and stately growth, were evergreen and ever flowering,
and moreover producing fruits not once but twice a year,
and many of these fruits were fair to the eye and often most
sweet to the taste, and that none of them save one (as of
old) were forbidden fruit !*; that though our days were
warm we had cool evenings, and refreshing breezes, and
nights quite calm and comfortable; that birds of gay
plumage, and butterflies all bright, yellow, buff and blue,
do fly and flit about at day time, while fire-flies all brilliant
play their pretty game of stars upon the grass at night-
they would simply smile at him, and bid him keep his
pretty poetry to himself, or put it into rhyme or verse and

There is a large shaddock sort of fruit known by the people as
" theforbidde fruit"-though certainly, much too tough ever to have
tempted Eve.







70 AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.

write it in his sister's last album prize. But were he
boldly to announce in good round prosaic English without
a touch of poetry to taint his story, that in British Guiana
we had steam boats, railroads and road trams, halfpenny
postage, sixpenny telegrams, and telephonic communica-
tions; that we have printing presses, numbering a score
or more, photographic studios, gas works, and fire-
brigades, and rifle ranges, brass bands and billiard boards,
bicycles, and tricycles, saving banks, law courts, clubs
and museums, philharmonic halls, hotels, besides a
host of other things, all pointing to a very high state of
social progress and healthy civilization, to say nothing
about minor creature comforts, in the shape of imported
tins of meat and fowl, fish and fruit, and the refreshing
fact of ice at one cent a pound! guaranteed to each and
all of us by our paternal, local government;-were he then
to tell of all these our worldly blessings, they would simply
think he was saying much more than his prayers,
or was carrying the joke a bit too far, quite regardless of
the honest truth.
But if our patient advocate went on in spite of unkind
looks or sceptic smiles, and stated positively, that at morn-
ing time when we took our first frugal meal, and drank of
the best of West Indian coffee-all sweetened with Deme-
rara Crystals, we had between our fingers, neatly folded,
well printed, and punctually delivered, a daily newspaper
with telegrams and advertisements, home and foreign
news, local facts, official speeches, mail movements, mis-
demeanours, murders, marriages, and the like, and that
on each Saturday morning we had a weekly paper,
printed with the best of type, all done on blushing paper







AFPICAN LIFE IN BRITISf GUIANA. 71

full of interesting facts, and tempered with modem fun,
and that these worthy newspapers (as is the vocation of all
newspapers so to do) keep each other in good working
order, kindly correcting without cost, each other's spell-
ing, and the like, but doing, it must be owned, far more
useful service than even that-viz., whipping big-wigs at
home for not caring about us, or understanding at once
our sugar difficulties out here, or seeing at a glance
that we all depend upon sugar, rum, and molasses, as
children do on bread, milk, and butter; if then all these
many facts were broadly stated without a smile, our preju-
diced friends would be fairly puzzled, and as said above
would give but little credit to the statement. Again, if our
persevering friend and worthy advocate of our Colony's cause
descended to other particulars, and in spite of hard rub-,
bings and unkind snubbings went on and told plain out,
that we have in these wild tropic parts, as some may like
to call them, real live gentlemen and fashionable ladies
too, that our much respected Governor does wear clothes,
tall hat and leather boots, and that our live gentlemen
have stiff collars, starched shirts, embellished with golden
studs, and that these do play at cricket with the best of
English balls, while fair ladies, of tennis lawn renown,
look on with opera glasses, counting as best they can the
npany scores, coldly praising a brother for his hard hitting,
and warmly praising another for doing far less but who
later on, it would seem, expected to be nearer and dearer
than either brother or mother !-If then all these things are
told to our prejudiced friends at home they will not
allow themselves to be persuaded, much less convinced,
that such a blissful state of things can possibly exist so








72 AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.

many miles from any British shore, or under a tropical sun.
If however, we cannot persuade our friends elsewhere, to
believe in all the good things we have out here, they
should not, if they are possessed of any spark or
sense of gratitude, cut us up, or run us down,
or say or think unkind things about our colony;
for let them remember, as they ever should, that we out
here, contribute so much to their own health and happi-
ness by providing and manufacturing for them the very
sweets of life,-for, let them with everlasting thanks bear
in mind that Demerara from its mud shores sends forth its
crystal sugars, that Demerara sweetens to their taste their
every cup of tea and coffee, adds sugar to their dinner-
tarts and children's puddings, contributes more than one
third of saccharine matter to every pot of jam they make,
scatters in plenty and in pretty form, sweetmeats and
sugar pluns to their smiling little ones.
When then our friends abroad think of all the pleasure
we impart they should not run us down and give us pain-
or take our sugar and leave us nothing but the cane.
Again, our English as well as our foreign friends
are under the stereotyped impression or strange
conviction that yellow fever kills or cuts off, some-
thing like one third our number almost every other
season, or when it makes its dire appearance in our midst;
and that the two surviving thirds are busy for an interval
or so, planting up their fields, or cutting down their canes,
waiting in pious patience till their time comes to fall
victims to the plague !
Again we are told that our Managers, or those who
superintend our cane pieces and sugar factories, aided







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 73

by their overseers, lead most painful and precarious lives
out here, that on the other hand the happy proprietors of
the soil live like Nabobs in another land, neither bearing
the burden of the day nor the heat thereof,-reaping often
where they have never sown.
Again they insist that serpents and centipedes do
frequently bite us during the day, while mosquitoes
scarcely allow us any rest at night. Such is the sad
health-picture they draw of our bright colony and of our
unhappy or uncomfortable existence in it.
Now, in the first place, be it said with truth, Deme-
rara is not a sickly place at all, nor does it possess an
unhealthy climate, it is not "the white man's grave" nor
are our burial grounds co-extensive with our cane-pieces!
True it is, a little more than three years ago (but, be it
remembered, after a lapse of many summers), yellow fever
did put in an appearance, and a few handfuls died per
month for some four or five months together. Those who
were then carried off, were for the most part recent comers
to the Colony, and in several instances we regret to state,
young men fresh and full-blooded, who with far more
youthful pluck than wordly prudence went out sporting
under a burning sun and returned of course the worse for
their day's fun, and in sad consequence fell victims to
the fever.
The writer as a Catholic Priest may here state (and the
statement has a practical bearing on the subject) that
during ten years'residence in Georgetown, he has not been
called to, or had the chance of attending, more than five
cases of yellow fever, and of that number only one died,-
a comparatively recent dweller in the Colony; moreover







74 AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.

he may further state that for six years consecutive, he
never even heard of a single case of yellow fever occurring,
save one, and about that one case, the doctors differed much.
A priest has many sick calls both day and night, and he
is made to feel the health-state of the Town, though
willing and ever ready as occasions come, to do his
priestly duty. While very few were dying in Demerara of
the fever, scared relatives elsewhere, and at home, were
speculating about those who might be left behind, and
when the short sad season had passed away, kind letters
came from other lands congratulating us that "the
green grass was not growing over us," or our grave stones
ordered or our sepulchral crosses designed or carved So
much then for yellow fever and its mild ravages amongst
us.
Again, as to being constantly bitten by snakes and
serpents during the day, as some suppose; let it be some
consolation to our friends at home, and to those particularly
who are thinking of bettering themselves by coming out
here, to know, that most of our Georgetown snakes and
pretty serpents are neatly coiled in glass cases or
tightly corked in wide-mouthed bottles all filled with
high wines and placed well labelled upon our
Museum shelves :-while others caught with diffi-
culty, and cured with care, are sent elsewhere to
be exposed to public view, vide Edinburgh Exhibition.
The writer did once see a snake in Georgetown
and without exaggeration it was as thick at least as
his little finger! and its long length measured near fifteen
inches! and quickly that frightened serpent made its way
across a narrow trench to avoid some boys, far more trou-







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 75

blesome be it remarked, than all the town snakes we
rejoice in. The snake in question did not get into a big
corked or wide mouthed bottle but went a little further,
and fared no doubt far worse.
And thirdly, as to the mosquitoes which some queer
folks at home expect to find catalogued among four-footed
beasts, and to be seen for sixpence, at the Zoological
Gardens, Regent's Park, while others think of them as a
sad infliction and just punishment for our many sins, and
equal to, or worse than king Pharoah's plague of flies;
now,-as for these poor little gnats or midges, their cruel
attacks upon mankind in these parts have like many other
things been wonderfully exaggerated.
To an old colonist, or to one, say of three or four years
standing, the sting of the mosquito is hardly worthy of a
passing thought, though to a new-comer with his fresh
European blood, the mosquito's sting is certainly trouble-
some enough, and the backs of his hands may possibly
become after his first fortnight here, in appearance like
unto, or may suggest the idea of, a well-filled pauper grave-
yard, where bumps and oblong lumps and nothing else
appear! However, the rising soon goes down, leaving
a little pleasant itching pain, to try his patience.
After all said and done, mosquitoes in spite of their
little bites and musical buzz are preferable visitors
to the English summer flies, soiling every thing
they touch, and teasing all around, and certainly to
be preferred to the worrying winter flea, and we may
add, a perfect luxury to that unsavoury round-backed
insect with name, in polite society at least, unmen-
tionable !








76 AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.

In many country places however where the bush abounds
and frequently along the banks of our wide West
Indian rivers, mosquitoes of a rough uneducated looking
sort, become at certain seasons, a perfect pest, teasing and
torturing- all alike, whether they be black Africans, or
red Indians, fresh Europeans, or case hardened colonists.
Leaving stinging mosquitoes, we turn next to Estates'
Managers! for as the expression goes they too have been
called out of their name." In the first place the manager
not only manages to live, but he lives right well, and
well deserves his living, and all and every bit his pay,
for his present pains and for his' past perseverance in
struggling to his honoured post, after many years it may
be of hot overseeing and possibly some few years of being
coolly overlooked. !
Their friends one and all, give them the best of names
for genial kindness and generous hospitality,-ever ready
to give you a 'pick you up' at day time, and a shake down
at night.
Like the rest of poor mortals here below, the manager
has his troubles and his trials too; and what is sometimes
worst of all, he is, or may be, at the mercy of some rich
proprietors at home,-all keen after cane juice profits, and
ever expecting greater gains after every grinding, in
spite of hard times, or unpropitious weather, or the free
ways or freaks of nature which will not double its efforts
to increase each crop to please proprietors ;-men, and may
we say it! who with their pockets full of money and their
hard heads full of sugar, are ever dreaming of empty
hogsheads to be filled,-shipped-consigned- and sold-
and last of all (ignoble end of Demerara crystals 1) stirred








AFBICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 77

up in an old maid's tea-cup whilst she talks and indulges
in all the scandal of the town !
These cane sugar proprietors it seems have been sorely
tried of late, suffering from day dreams, or from night-mare
visions of vast plains of German Beetroot all neatly fenced
in with useless sugar canes imported as mere ship ballast
from our shores,-insulting sight enough to make them
one and all cry out in very anguish, or in deep bitterness
of soul: Oh I could weep my spirit from mine eyes"!
Poor West Indian Proprietor, the case is hard indeed
-though the root of all your evil is evident enough, for
it is nothing more-it is nothing less than Beetroot a fast
growing evil you will say, deep rooted, and far spreading
and one that should be eradicated at once, or exterminated
from every inch of European soil, or sternly dealt with by
the Law, or British Parliament, or by our gracious Queen
in Council, and brought to a deep sense of duty, or made
subject to the cane
Poor Proprietors of our land take heart and seek com-
fort if you can in Tom Hood's kind Christian words,
and :-
Kiss the rod, and be resigned
Beneath the stroke and even find
Some Sugar in the Cane."
But our rich and honoured friends care not for some
sugar in the Cane, they insist that sugar should be found
nowhere else, not in rags much less in roots, hence their
present difficulties and, probably, by the bye, the future
ruin of our flourishing colony.
Sympathizing then with the Proprietor or pitying the
sorrows of the poor old man for his days seem dwindling
to the shortest span," we pass on to Overseers, for they








78 AFBICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.

are last not least on the list of good things to be defended.
The Overseer like his more immediate superior or
manager not only manages to exist, but even to live re-
spectably upon the land, for, as a rule he dines each day
at the manager's table and that tact contributes among
other things to his living. The Overseer dwells not, it is
true, under the Manager's roof, but under another, generally
speaking quite as high and every bit as water-tight; and
there under his peaceful shelter when the dark hours come
he may read, if such be his envied taste, or he may play
at draughts, dominoes and the like, or he may, should he
prefer it, simply chat away or indulge in chess; but if dis-
inclined to read, and too tired to play, he can swing and
sing, whistle and smoke to his heart's content in his
red-Indian hammock, till gentle sleep stops his swinging and
his singing too, and sends him off in happy thoughts to
dreamland.
Besides all this the kindly disposed class of Managers-
and they all belong of course to that class-will frequently
or at least at times, invite their overseers to spend the
evening with the family, where Mrs. Manager will dis-
course excellent music on the best of Broadwoods or hold
you all enchanted with a song; or her happy husband
may try his fingers upon a fiddle or his lips upon a flute;
or the overseers themselves, who may be gifted men that
way, may contribute their fair share to the entertainment;
and thus the evening passes away so pleasantly, re-
freshed with tea and toast and small talk, till at a most
reasonable hour, all retire quite soberly to rest, looking
forward to the morrow when most of them will be aback."
And now we ask ourselves the question, which probably







AFRICAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 79

our kind readers have impatiently and with every reason
asked before,-whence the meaning of this so long digres-
sion ; why have we left the main-line or allowed ourselves
to be shunted off, even, when very many pages past, we
were fairly at the terminus ?-or to put it another way,
why have we shut up our rough sketch book of African life
with its black figures and sable forms, and got all scribbling
on the cover, white faces and English fashions ?
Our only excuse or answer is, we wish to avail ourselves
of so fair an opportunity of conveying a little useful infor-
mation to some, and of making a few kind cuts at others
and these our good friends at home, for their "Inconceiv-
able ignorance" about us out here, and for the scanty
knowledge they possess of our ways, and manners, and the
many means we have to help us to be happy, healthy and
content; and furthermore we want to beg of them when
they do think of us and taste our sugar (our rum we do
not recommend) to cease in Christian Charity from think-
ing evil of our Colony or running down its climate, or
saying unkind things about us, but to remember England's
time-honoured motto,
"Honi soit qui mal y pense."
















MORUCA;

or,

A few days among the Indians.

PART THE FOURTH.
UR little tent boat being prepared, Indian paddle-
men procured, and all necessary and many useful
things provided, we stepped into our places
ready to work our way into the interior, there to adminis-
ter to the spiritual wants of the simple children of the
woods.
Just before starting, however, we fook the wise pre-
caution of running over once more our memorandum list
to assure ourselves that nothing of real importance had
been omitted in our packing process, that the lucifer
matches had not been forgotten, or misplaced, or exposed
Sto damp, that a sufficient supply of salt was there, that
our Breviares were in our pockets, and that the keys of
the canister were in safe keeping.
Being well satisfied that all was right and ready, we
seated ourselves under some three yards of coarse brown
canvas, bade our men push off from the land and betake
themselves to rowing.
Our crew consisted of seven young Indians of the woods,
men low in stature, but of a strong, broad build, with
I








INDI LIFE IN BRUTISH GUINA. 81

muscular arms. Their countenances were smooth and
placid, all of a dull copper colour.
What strikes one so much in looking at these aboriginal
natives of the forest, is the total absence of anything like
expression or character stamped on their countenance;
neither pleasure nor sorrow, neither surprise, anger, nor
impatience, nor any other passion is depicted there; no
thought seemed to flit or flash across their mind, no grief
or trouble seemed to distress or agitate them, or leave one
single tracemark on their brow. They were the quiet
possessors of human life, and capable of much labour and
endurance, and that seemed saying about all. DARwIN no'
doubt, or his sceptic friends, would have tried to have
drawn mischievous conclusions from their inanimate looks,
and vacant stares, and in their anxiety to extend far and
wide their family connections, might probably have linked
them on to creatures of a lower grade. These hard
remarks do not apply of course to every aboriginal Indian,
for sometimes their looks belie them. Our seven Indian
paddlemen more favoured than their brethren of the bush,
wore on their heads some sort of covering, and rejoiced
moreover in wearing apparel, not of the latest or most
fashionable London or Paris cut, but answering well all
good purposes.
Our passengers were easily counted, consisting of two
priests of the Society of Jesus, drawn to these parts from
very different quarters, one from the Roman Province, the
other from London.
Our cargo consisted of a supply of provisions of a simple
sort; rice, in abundance, some much prized potatoes (the
gift of a good Irish captain), plantains, cassava bread, hard


r








82 INDIAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.

biscuit, salt-fish, coffee, sugar, and red peppers. These
formed our chief supply; but we had luxuries on board,
consisting of water-cocoanuts, limes, and a few oranges,
and some sardines, not to forget a well cared-for tin of
roast beef, to be eaten on some Italian feast-day, in honour
of old England. We also took with us some little cakes,
nuts, and coloured sweetmeats for the small native chil-
dren. Besides all these commodities, carefully had we
sequestered in a corner of our boat under close personal
inspection, some bottles of very indifferent rum, good
enough for the intended purpose, together with many rag-
ged leaves of the tobacco plant, with clay pipes to match.
All these things were for the use and special bene-
fit of our copper-coloured crew. Poor fellows, they well
deserved whatever they received in that shape, exposed
as they were to the sun's hot rays by day, to the heavy
rainfalls and to the dampness of the dewy nights; besides
all that, they had much hard pulling to go through and
many other manual labours to endure.
Among our treasures on board, as might naturally be
expected, was a canister containing a portable altar, vest-
ments, and sacred vessels; in a word, everything neces-
sary for Mass and for the due administration of the Sacra-
ments. A fair sized bundle of beads, crosses, and bright
medals found its way into this canister, besides some reli-
gious prints. These pictures are much prized by our
good Indians, and when they hang or stick them with a
thorn the right way up, not on walls (for walls they have
none), but upon the posts of their dwelling, they add
much to the religious aspect of the place. A few paint
brshes, with some bright colours, insisted on a free pass-








INDIAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 83

age in our boat, and were not refused. A clock, a lamp,
a portable tin kitchen, measuring at least, nine inches
square and of much more inconvenience than ever worth,
made up the rest of our precious cargo.
So much then for our crew, our black-gowned passen-
gers, and our well selected store of the good and useful
things of this world.
A word now about our voyage, and in the first place
whither are we steering ? We are going to make a pas-
toral visit of a few days to some Indians of the Arawack
tribe, or some Spanish speaking Indians living round about
the Moruca River, at the Jesuit Mission of St. Rosa, some
thirty miles or more south of the broad Orinoco, running into
the Carribean Sea.
These good Indians, some many years ago, on account
of the never-ceasing troubles and perpetual disturbances
in Venezuela, fled from that territory and sought refuge,
if not protection, in the now much disputed borderland of
British Guiana. There they live unmolested and un-
known, keeping to the ancient traditions of their people, and
adhering strictly to the principle of their holy religion.
With their strong-built wooden Church in their midst,
and tle high mission cross towering over its roof, belfry,
and buildings, they spend their days and hours in peace,
Happiness, and health, cultivating some few acres of good
productive soil. There they plant the cassava root, the
buck or Indian yam, sweet potatoes, plantains, and hot
peppers, and besides they grow sufficient coffee and sugar
for their daily wants. Fruit trees flourish there as well
as the cocoa-nut palm, West Indian pines, castor oil, and
cotton.








Mt INDIAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.

These good people, moreover, do'a little trade in aro-
matic and varnish-making gums, searching the dense for-
est for them and sending them to town as occasion lends,
where they find a ready market.
Some there are expert in capturing the bright-plumed
birds, such as macaws, parrots, paroquets, and other
pretty specimens of the feathered tribes. These poor
little captives are sent to town, bartered or bought, then
sold again, spending, poor things, the rest of their lives in
perpetual imprisonment. Noisy and unwelcome next door
neighbours they become to quiet-going folks. Besides
these larger and living birds, they bring the dried
feathered skins of smaller ones, such as the humming bird,
with its bright glittering mantle, or the cotingas of gay-
est plumage; and these too they sell to passers-by as best
they can. They bring teeth and tusks of savage beasts,
bright metal-looking beetle wings, all strung on a string,
and other strange natural curiosities of the wood. And
thus the Indians make out an honest livelihood, free from
many anxious cares and wordly troubles. But our men
are waiting in the boat, ready to dip their oars and com-
mence their rowing. Let us not keep them waiting
longer.
The word of command was given, and away they
went like so many machines well wound up, looking,
neither to the right nor to the left, indulging in
no smiles, exchanging no words. True, there was not
much to see to the right nor to the left, or much just then
to speak about, for the first part of our journey was
signally uninteresting. Two straight-cut mud-banks of
an estate's canal confined the muddy water. On the one








INDIAN IFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 85

side was the canepiece, all waving and flourishing with
green sugar-canes, on the other, waste or uncultivated
land was all we could observe. Some time was lost, and
much patience too expended, in extricating ourselves
from some half-dozen square-built punts unceremoniously
disputing with us the whole width of the muddy stream;
beside some time was wasted in pulling up hurdles rather
firmly fixed across our water-path, for reasons better
known to others than to ourselves.
But soon all our petty troubles came to a happy ending,
and the scene became, as if by magic, marvellously
changed. Delightful views and vistas and fairy visions
were before us now, such as travellers rarely witness,
say what they may about the Trossachs, and other hack-
neyed though pretty European spots. Our little boat had
glided swiftly and smoothly into an arcade of wondrous
beauty. Tropical trees, tall, thin, and elegant of growth,
shot up on either side of the forest stream, while trees
of lower and more irregular growth and of foliage more
luxuriant, bent gracefully forward over the dark deep
waters in Gothic arch-like form, while parasites and
flowering creepers of varied hues clustered or hung about
in rich profusion, some in careless festoon fashion, or, as
if in loving pity and compassion for some decayed and
fallen or ancient monarch of the forest, mantling it all
over with a new garment of richest verdure.
There too the orchid family felt quite at home, fresh
and ever flowering, trespassing on every sturdy branch or
stem or ancient stump. Begonias were there, with their
soft, dark velvet leaves, such as Kew or Chatsworth
might well be proud of, and there too grew, half-hiding







86 INDIAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.

itself as if in disgrace, that curious specimen of the wild
arum, with bright blood-coloured spots upon its leaves,
as if guilty of some dark deed or wicked crime.
And what lent so much to the strange artistic beauty of
the picture spread out before us, and in itself formed one
of the strangest features, were the numerous long string
and rope-like pendant hangings from the lofty trees above.
Some of these rope-hangings, cable-like in size, hung
from a height of eighty feet or more, and as some of these
ropes or cables, call them what you will, trailed downwards
and touched the mother earth below, they asserted at
once an independence of their own, struck out vigorous
roots and shoots from their downward heads, and then
reversed wouldd seem their growth, and grew to all ap-
pearance upwards, and in time swelled out to the size of
slender trees. Some of these long pendants were playful,
nay, malicious in their downward growth, clinging to some
poor young tree or struggling sapling, and squeezing it
to the very death by twisting round it in cruel corkscrew
fashion, forming at the time, it maybe, a pretty fantastic
object in the wood for travellers to point at and admire,
or perhaps providing now and then, if a woodcutter passed
that way or was wandering there in quest of gums, a
crooked twisted walking-stick for some curious-minded
man, to covet.
As just hinted above, the waters of the creek are dark
-they are dark indeed, of a true coffee colour, but like
unto the qualities of real good coffee are as clear as well
could be,-so bright and clear that every green leaf or
tender leaflet, every flower or fern, or root or twisted twig,
or broken branch, is strongly reflected there as in the







INDIAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 87

brightest boudoir mirror. So charming was the effect,
and yet so puzzling too, and so hard it was to distinguish
between the leaf or flower or fern and its reflected coun-
terpart; in a word, to draw the line between earth and
water, recalling to one's mind the words of Pope :-
Grove nods to grove, each alley has a brother,
And half the garden but reflects the other.
Among other of nature's beauties in this paradise of
artistic pleasure, grew the Victoria Regia lily, so courted
on its first introduction to England some thirty years ago,
when placed in the waters of Kew, where, as its name
doth verily import, our Gracious Majesty the Queen
stood godmother for it, and when thousands ran from
London town and its vast suburbs to see it, marvel and
admire. In Kew gardens not many of these beautiful
aquatic flowers "are born to blush unseen," whereas out
here the poet's words are better verified,-profusely grow-
ing unobserved, and often never seen at all, losing their
fragrance I know not where.
The specimens at Kew are, if memory fails me not,
larger than those out here, but wanting in that bright
freshness, natural to plants in their native earth or
element.
Besides this majestic queen of water lilies, our watery
way was overgrown in places with another species, much
smaller and of peculiar habits, for, as if jealous of its
queenly rival, this lily expanded its pure white petals
only at dead of night, emitting a perfume pleasant
enough at a distance, but in its essence too strong for
Rimmel, Trueict, or their trade.
During the day-time, we did boyish violence to several







88 INDIAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.

of its young buds, and were surprised to find in almost
every one we forced open, two large beetles of sable
hue. How they got there, or what they did, and how
they stood their strange confinement, was our puzzle,
though perhaps naturalists have written in a book some
five pages or more, telling us the why, the how and all
about it, for aught we poor missioners may know.
Flowers and trees, orchids and curious creepers, blood-
stained leaves, strange roots, and hanging ropes, have
charmed and interested us much, but one thing has, with
reason, disappointed us, and we marvelled at it; it was the
total absence of the feathered tribe, for we heard no song,
no warbling, no merry chirping, nor did the bell-bird ring
out a tune, or toll its bell, nor the mocking birds, so
numerous, favour us with their deceptive notes, or even
the humming-bird flit by ever then so merrily." Green
parrots in vast numbers flew about, high over our heads
and above the lofty trees, screeching unpleasantly in their
homeward flight, or the heron, or some long-legged bird,
would wing his way swiftly past us to the sea, but none of
nature's pretty pets, with their gay and lovely plumage,
ventured near us; and Demerara is noted for the beauty
and variety of its birds. I suppose they were too fright-
ened, or thought we had some powder or a gun, or feared,
as well they might, the swift unerring arrow of the Indian.
Disappointed here, by way of compensation, we were
once or twice amused at the antics of the little saca-
winkis" of the monkey tribe; droll little things they were,
jumping and springing from branch to bough, now gazing
impudently at us, then hiding their tiny faces, then out
again, forcibly suggesting, even coaxing us to a game of








INDIAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 89

peep-bo or some such ancient nursery fun; then they
would chatter as if they wished to say, Catch me if you
can," looking all the while as monkeys are wont to look,
so pitifully beseeching, perhaps. begging us not to use the
bended bow, or shoot them with a leaden ball. Poor
little creatures, we would not, could not, hit or harm or
hurt them for the world, no, not even to obtain a pretty
skin or well-stuffed specimen for the Stonyhurst Museum,
though later on we robbed, with some remorse we own,
the mocking-bird of its long bag nest, eggs and all, to add
to the specimens of that valuable and well-cared collection,
and are prepared to make other such petty thefts for the
sake of science or learning, in that far distant, well-beloved
Alma Mater.
And now to resume. Hours of intense delight had
passed away, ever to be remembered, and the windings of
the Tapacuma Creek, for such is the Indian name of this
meandering stream, with its varied views and charming
vistas, were fast fading from before us, leading us out
into the broad sunlight, and floating us on into an expan-
sive savannah or wide-spread but shallow lake, surrounded
by mighty forest trees. There the tall greenheart grows,
and the locust tree, the crab or common mahogany. The
Mora, Ducalabali, and other Demerarian trees, much appre-
ciated at home for the beauty, hardness and durability
of their woods, all in full leaf, as ever in these parts, and
many in full flowering or
Beautiful in various dyes
Around me trees unnumbered rise."
Quickly our men plied their oars, pushing their way
relentlessly, through smiling lily-beds, ranunculuses, and








90 INDIAN IFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.

other water weeds, till we reached the opposite shore,
where labours of a new nature met us, and for a time im-
peded our fair progress. Here we had to unload our boat
of everything, and thus lightened drag it by main force
up the embankment of the lake, and then with gentle
care let it down some seven feet into the shallow creek
below, and this done, restore each in its allotted place, our
goods and chattles, tin kitchen, plantains, rice bags
Breviaries, and bottles. Whilst the process of re-packing
was going on, I observed close to the troolee-covered
shelter of a black African man, who had strangely settled
there, about the only specimen of his species, far and near,
an Indian youth quietly engaged in removing with a tuft
of grass, blood stain marks from his feet and legs. Think-
ing some misfortune had befallen him I inquired anxiously
the cause. The man understanding me well, though not
my words straightway and silently led me off some hun-
dred yards or more, then diving into the woods or en-
tangled bush he brought me before the slaughtered remains
of an immense Camudi snake, some sixteen feet long and
six inches in diameter, with a bright coat of many colours.
Its head had been severed from its long body, still it
twisted and turned whenever slightly touched, as if full
conscious of enemies around, while its little ones, four or
five in number, lay in still death beside their beheaded
mother. Examining the dead Camudi and its slaughtered
innocents, I observed scattered all about, spinal and curved
or rib-bones of many Camudi snakes, great and small, and
then I was made to understand that when captured they
were dragged to that spot to undergo the severest penalty
of the Indian Law. The blood then on the man's feet







INDIAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 91

and legs was the poor Camudi's life blood, not his own
for the Indian had been the courageous executioner.
Leaving then the snake with its "long lingering length"
behind, I retraced my steps to the tent boat: all was in
order and the boat ready to start away. So leaving the
shades of an immense locust-tree, having first however
collected some of its fruits or pods, we again took our
places, and the men their oars, and paddled off once more.
Without .treasuring up our locust fruit, we broke into the
pods, thus to form an intimate acquaintance with their
contents at once. This fruit, eagerly sought after and
relisIed so well by boys, Indians and Africans, did not at
all come up to our expectation, or delight or tempt us in
the least. The eating of an old unclean worsted sock (and
the word unclean should be underlined), steeped in sugar
and allowed to dry, gives some idea of this sweet West
Indian delicacy!
"The shades of night were falling fast," as the poet puts
it, and soon all nature's beauties, and there were many
there, were wrapped in its dark mantle. We therefore lit
our lamp, dealt out supper portions to our men, refreshing
them with some coffee and some water mixed with rum.
At times some wild Indians in their narrow skiff shot by,
or we could view them on the leafy bank, grouped together
cooking their last caught fish, or munching at their fruit.
Imperturbable people! no shower of little biscuits or of hard
nuts provoked them, but they picked them up, and like
monkeys, looked at them, then cracked or swallowed them
without a smile or thought of thanks; poor children of the
wild woods and waters! When supper was finished and
night prayers said, and the Rosary well responded to, we







k IDIhIM LIFE IN BRITISH GUIA.

composed ourselves to rest as best we could, while our
poor Indians kept rowing on, but when the tide turned,
they wisely shipped their oars and slept or rested till the
turning of the next tide favoured them again. The dis-
tant howling of the red monkey of the woods, distinctly
heard, did not disturb or make us sleep the less. Croaking
frogs or crapauds" did their best to waken us, but failed
in the attempt, for we were tired.
As soon as the beams of the bright morning.sun, put
the darkness to flight and the stars one by one," we arose
and shook off all sleep and drowsiness, and having attended
to some higher duties, putting away our breviaries we
attended next to the temporal wants of our hungry men,
not neglecting our own. Coffee we boiled, and then cakes
and cassava we distributed, and what fruit remained we
passed round among them.
By this time, and even before the break of day, we had
entered the great Pomeroon River, a river of very con-
siderable width in places. Here and there along its shores
we ran in our boat, and clambered up the slippery bank to
visit some of the good Portuguese people who had settled
there, and who, by dint of hard work and wonderful perse-
verance had cleared parts of the forest or wild bush, and
converted them into provision grounds, and moreover
constructed fit dwelling places for themselves and families,
and even had run up here and there a shop for the benefit
of the wayfarer, the Indian, and themselves.
Kindly indeed did these good people welcome the priest,
killing, if not the "fatted calf," at least running after the
plumpest duck, pulling up the best roots, thus to lay a
dainty repast before tas.







INDIN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 98

Then would they bring their little ones before us, to
kiss our hand and receive a priestly blessing. Dear little
ones of God, how their bright eyes gleamed with delight,
and their fair faces smiled all over with infant joy, as they
looked at the shining cross or medal pressed into their.
tiny hands, running off at once to show the brass treasure
to every member of the household.
Our object in visiting the Portuguese along the river
banks was to tell them that on a fixed day on our return, if
wild beasts had not devoured us or hungry Indians eaten
us both up, we would say Mass in a certain place called
" Caledonia," and would then attend as best we could to
their spiritual wants, and that they must promptly do
their part by spreading the news to all around. And
these tidings of great joy did travel far and fast, bringing
contentment and consolation to many good Catholic souls in
those outlandish parts. The correspondence to our call was
quite equal to our expectations, as later on we witnessed.
The river was gradually widening out as it was nearing
or emptying itself into the sea, though not so much as
rivers generally do, and after a long and hot and some-
what tedious voyage, we found ourselves at the mouth of
the Pomeroon, and in the jaws of the boisterous ocean, or
Carribean sea. It is almost always rough and unpleasant
at this point, and this roughness we had to encounter
before we could find an entrance into the mouth of the
Moruca, unless we had taken a long circuitous route
though many narrow, winding watercourses, intercepted
with fallen trees or branches, rendering it necessary to
unload our boat more often then we felt inclined to do.
So we preferred of the two evils to encounter the troubled






94 INDIAN IFE-IN BBITISH GUIANA.

waters than delay our course, imperil our frail bark, or try
too much our patience.
After a vigorous row of some three hours or more, and
having shipped many a wave, and with a calabash bailed
them all out again, we found ourselves not certainly the
drier, but all safe and sound at the Boca or mouth of the
Moruca. The sun was fast hurrying on in its downward
course, and well-nigh "had pillowed its chin upon an
orient wave," when caring for our love of nature's wonders
with its wild and varied charms, it lent us just time
enough to admire a scene before us beautiful in the ex-
treme, and rendered more beautiful still by the glowing
splendour cast upon it by its own bright, now golden, now
ruby-coloured rays, now gilding or tipping in gold each
leaf and line, now deep tinging all around by its crimson,
purple or varied coloured light, making even the unrip-
pled waters blush where it chanced to smile upon them.
It would be difficult to find a spot more inspiring to the
poet, more puzzling to the painter, or more enchanting to
the enthusiastic traveller, than the wild romantic entrance
into the Moruca.
Its beauty consists not so much in the luxuriant foliage,
or in the profusion of vines and flowery creepers, though
,these were not wanting there; but rather in the fantastic
growth of the tall trees, so interlaced or interwoven with
each other, and again in the curious appearances of their
high uplifted roots. These roots, or natural tree-support-
ers, have an utter abhorrence to hide themselves in the
soil; like unto children with new shoes or boots-they
must needs be seen by all, standing, these roots, as if on
tiptoe on the dark water-edge, ready enough to slip in or








INDIAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA. 95

to take a plunge, or make a jump or spring across; while
some of the higher branches of these strange, absent-
minded trees, as if forgetting their high calling, dip down
and degrade themselves to the rank of common roots, and
grow as such. The sea and tidal waves no doubt have
robbed these trees of their landed property, or much of
their earthly inheritance; but still, not incommoded by
the loss, they rather rejoice in it, and thrive all the better
in their amphibious mode of life.
Nature has wondrous wild ways of its own out here, but
few there are to note down, or admire its wanton freaks
and curious fancies.
The waters of the Moruca are darker and much deeper
than either of the creeks we had passed through; besides,
it is much broader, for it claims a right of being called a
river. We had not long rowed up its current before we
turned sharply to the left, finding an entrance into a shal-
low Indian port of six feet wide, and there, as evening was
coming on, we determined to take supper, and hang our
hammocks and rest awhile till the next washing of the
waters at midnight favoured our onward progress. We
landed, and soon found ourselves under the covering
of an Indian Logie," or large thatched open-sided
dwelling, where all might hang their hammocks, cook,
*and take shelter for the night. Pagan Indians, ac-
cording to their way, seem hardly to .recognize our
presence; while hungry, half-starved dogs certainly did
and fiercely eyed us, half smelling the good things we
had in our boat, ready to snatch or claim even a lion's
share. The little children ran away, till a few sweet
biscuits dispelled their infant fears, and made them soon







INDIAN LIFE IN BRITISH GUIANA.


our bosom friends, and the dogs were in good time pro-
pitiated by sundry fragments of our food.
Soon were we busy cooking, and-sad to be forced to
own our human weakness-we fell at once upon that tin
of roast beef so highly prized, and eat it up for hunger
sake, forgetting all about Old England and the Italian
feast day. We cooked potatoes, such as were never
cooked before or since, at least, so we thought, forgetting
we had brought a good, cheap, wholesome sauce with us
in the shape of hunger.
This work over, and carefully packing up both our
knives and forks and two tin spoons, for which we paid
one penny each, and other such valuable wares, and
securing all useful remnants from the greedy dogs, and
little voracious ants, we took a stroll along the river bank,
coming across some of the good Indians of St. Rosa's
Mission, who promised to meet us later at the Sunday's
Mass. Returning to the logie before dark, we swung our
hammock and prepared to sleep and rest.
But oh, I passed a miserable night," far worse indeed
than Clarence, for he had but an ugly dream, or night-
mare, but with me it seemed as if every stinging mosquito
of the colony was for my many sins let loose upon me,
while sand-flies innumerable had no pity or compassion,
teasing and tormenting me most cruelly, as if in very
truth they themselves had once been angels!
Twisting and turning, rocking and rolling, I longed for
the change of the tide, or the brisk washing of the mid-
night waters. Twelve o'clock did come at last, as if some
four or five hours late, and I felt as I turned out of my
hammock on to the gritty ground below, like unto one who




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