BY RICHARD B. KIMBALL.
SANmT LEGE, Price, $1 Ib
UNDEECU Ia aS, 1 75
WAS HE SUCCESSFUL? 1 75
HENRY POWERS, Banker, 1 75
Rox Lwc OF STUDENT-LIPE, 1 75
LIFE IN SATO DOMNGO, (EUedX), 1 50
TO-DAY, 1 75
EMILuE-A Sequel to "Saint Leger. (Is press )
SMr. KIMBALi's books are remarkable for their happy eoem
bination of fancy and sentiment They possess a
perpetual charm to the reader; and, being
of the higher order of literature, are
growing more and more in-
dispensable to every
** AN .eganty printed, and bound and seant by *k
postage free, by
LIFE IN SANTO DOMINGO.
BY A SETTLER.
;C / 1 1
RICHARD B. KIMBALL,
AUTHOR OF "ST. LEGER," "CUBA AND THE CUBANS," &0.
G. W. Carleton & Co., Publishers.
LONDON: BENTLEY & SON.
Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1873, by
G. W. CARLETON & CO.,
In the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington.
POOLE & MACLAUCHLA1N,
PRUIMEE5 AIND BOOKBEWDEE8,
205-213 East 12th St.
BY THE AUTHOR OF ST. LEGER."
WE cannot advise any mere man or woman of
fashion, young or old, to take up this volume.
Neither the one nor the other will be interested
in it, for neither will have the taste to appreciate
its contents, unless perchance some such person,
in a moment of ennui, should be attracted by the
freshness of the descriptions and the novelty of the
scenes to run through its pages; as a reigning belle
sometimes stops to regard, with a mixture of envy
and admiration, the natural bloom which mantles
the cheek of a fine, unsophisticated country girl:
but this is exceptional.
There are those who will peruse this book with
pleasure and satisfaction. Whoever loves garden,
and grove, and shrub, and vine, finding enjoyment in
all the gifts of our kindly mother earth, will lay hold
of it with avidity. Such will be pleased to learn
4 INTRODUCTORY NOTICE.
what Nature-not the stern old parent of our North,
but Nature young and prodigal and Eden-like,
brings forth in the charmed circle of her tropical
home. These have taste and a fine appreciation,
and, we may hope, the opportunity to gratify both.
To another class still, this work will specially
commend itself; to that class-alas! its members
are numerous-who yearn after the happiness of a
home without means or the hope of means to acquire
one; who have become wearied and discouraged by
years of incessant effort and overwork, without
any prospect of breaking the fetters which bind
them to their destiny, and which are forged but
too securely. They will find a way of escape by
perusing this romantic, but truthful, narrative.
In the Tropics" is the twelve-month record of
a young man who for a number of years was a
clerk in a large mercantile establishment in this
city. Finding that without friends or capital it
was nearly, or, as it seemed to him, quite impossi-
ble ever to accomplish any thing on his own
account, and that he was becoming daily more
unfitted for any other occupation; warned too
by the misfortunes of an elder brother, he resolved
to quit the city, while health and vigor still re-
mained to him, and seek a home elsewhere. He
gives his reasons for deciding to go to Santo
Domingo, and this volume is the history of his
first twelvemonth's experience in that island,
being brought down to the 1st of January of the
The work is written with a simplicity ab-
solutely fascinating, reminding one of the finer
passages of Defoe. The record of his daily
routine on his little estanoia of forty acres
is so minute in detail, and so interesting by its
freshness, that we find ourselves unconsciously
sharing all the hopes and fears of the young
American farmer. We are anxious about the
success of every experiment, and rejoice at every
turn of good fortune which befalls him.
The descriptions of the persons our hero en-
counters are so vividly drawn that the reader
at once feels at home with them. Don Julio
6 INTRODUCTORY NOTICE.
Perez becomes our friend as well as the friend
of Senor Vecino." We embrace Don Delfino
again and again as we experience his fresh
acts of kindness, almost daily repeated. The
friendly services of Juan Garcia go straight to
our heart, especially if we take into account the
active benevolence of his "lily of a wife" (black
though she be), the officious, bustling, and gossip-
ing Anita. These worthy people seem to have
taken the innocent lamb of a stranger" under
their special protection, and well do they perform
To us, however, Tio Juanico is the picturesque
character of the scene. He is thus described:
His dark Indian face, with its gentle mouth
and sadly earnest eyes, was not uncomely, and his
shapely head, with its mass of jetty hair, was real-
ly noticeable in its fine proportions; but both his
back and breast had a peculiar and ungainly prom-
inence, amounting to deformity. Aside from this
he was a muscular, well-limbed man, in the
strength of his age, and, as I soon saw, as ready as
he was capable for hard work. His voice was
strikingly clear and musical, but it had the same
expression of patient sadness which looked out of
Juanico becomes the servant, friend, and faith-
ful man-Friday of the New Yorker, and makes
one of the most charming points in the volume. To
finish the picture, we have narrated with almost
ludicrous fidelity the story of the perfidious native
choppers who stole all our friend's satin-wood;
then an account of the "man Andres" and his
shrewd spouse, who were so sharp in the matter
of cocoa-nut sprouts; while the affair of the swind-
ling mason, who attempts to take advantage of the
Sefor's" necessities, goes to confirm the old adage,
that "human nature is pretty much the same the
But we must leave these fascinating scenes that
the reader may the more speedily enter on them.
Before we do, however, we earnestly solicit the at-
tention of every reflecting person to this single
paragraph. Writes the young "settler:"
8 INTRODUCTORY NOTICE.
The most manly worker I have seen in this
country are white men. Under the warm sun of
the tropics, white working men and machinery
will yet open the grandest field of civilization ever
A sermon, a lecture, a treatise are bound up in
these two sentences. Let the thoughtful reader
weigh them well.
It is proper to observe, that we received the
manuscript for this volume from an esteemed
friend in Santo Domingo City. To us has
belonged only the agreeable task of making some
trifling revisions for the press, which the absence
of the author prevented being done in person.
How I came to leave Xew York.-Why I went to Santo Domingo.-The
voyage.-Arrival at the town.-Am introduced to Don Leonardo Delmonte.-
A hospitable reception.-Resolve to strike for the interior.-An unexpected
greeting.-An old settler.-What he advises.-Start on foot for Palenque.-
Visit to Don Julio Perez.-What comes of it-I purchase a small farm and
take possession.................................................Page 18
First night on my farm.-Happy surprise in the morning.-A singular arri-
val.-Resolve to turn it to account.-Engage the services of Juan and Anita
Garcia.-Tent-making.-Juan assists.-Preparations for supper by Anita.
-My new avenue.-Orange and lime groves.-An unnecessary fright-
Faithfulness of Juan.-The spring grove.-My garden.-What it contains.
-How we fenced it.-American plough and other implements.-Astonish-
ment of the natives.-The old cabin.-What I did in one month...... 82
A call from Don Julio Perez.-Transplanting vegetables.-Juan's curiosity.-
Cutting logwood.-My success in clearing.-Another visit from Don Julio.
-Agreeable result.-Washington's birthday.-How I celebrate it-Anita's
breakfast for Don Julio and myself.-My Buena Vista--Mysterious confer-
ence between Juan and Anita.-Preparations for an orange grove.-Juan's
amazement-Success of my garden........ .....................
Fruits and flowers.-Charms of tropical life.-A visit from Juan's cousins.-
What they wanted.-A strange "baptism."-Preparations for grafting.-
Startled by the appearance of a crowd around my tent.-The convita."
-My "neighbors and well-wishers."-Grafting performed in presence of a
large company.-Pronounced a miracle."-The great feast-My address.-
How responded to.-Josd Ravela.-We resolve to make a road to Palenque.
-Don Julio's surprise.-He promises assistance.-The road finished.-
Ignorance, not industry, debasing...............................Page 76
Ploughing-match at Don Julio's.-Stupid native.-Unrnty oxen.-An un-
looked-for assistant.-Don Delfino de Castro.-Achieve a great victory.-
Compliments and congratulations.-Return to Buena Vista.-Important
changes.-An "Eden of tranquillity."-A guest for the night-He proposes
to remain longer.-Camp cooking and coffee-making.-Compact with Don
Delfino.-What we do together.-His man Isidro.-Beautiful appearance
of my orange avenue.-Plentiful showers.-Fragrant blossoms.-Crowning
triumph of my garden........ .................................... 98
Fresh encouragement.-Site for a new house.-The Mango Avenue.-A
trifling incident"-A rustic gate.-A shipwrecked sailor.-What in search
of-Visit from Captain Ramirez of the "Alice."-Satisfactory solution of a
puzzling question.-A market for my vegetables.-Don Julio.-Ambitious
projects.-Picturesque scenes.-Twenty-two kinds of fruits on my home-
stead.-An alluring picture.-An important addition to my revenue.-I
hire two native woodmen.-The "New Field."-Grateful acknowledg-
Rapid growth of vegetation.-No labor equal to white labor.-What machinery
will do in the tropics.-National breads of the Island.-Description of
the casava and the arapa.-Indian fashion of baking.-Yuca and yams.-
Delightful visit from Delfino.-He discovers a new treasure.-A spirited
discussion.-Resolve to maintain my "humble independence."-Delflno
proposes an October banquet-Where to come off.-Am greatly surprised.-
Visit to the wood-cutters.-Delfino's anger.-An unhappy discovery.-How
the difficulty is arranged.-Mahogany.-Satin-wood.-A new cottage
resolved on.-How it was planned.................................Page 148
My palenca.-Active preparations.-Kindness of Delfno and Don Julia-
Manuel, the carpenter.-Description of my new cottage.-A sudden appari-
tion.-Tio Juanico.-Sanchez, the lime-burner.-Juanico's history.-Engage
him to work for me.-His mysterious disappearance.-Is he faithless?-
Abrupt return.-Juanico wounded.-His distress.-What I do for him.-
Cost of building.-The sea-breeze.--Fourth of July, how we celebrate it.-
The grand feast.-Yuca and yautiiia.-My corn crop.-Abounding wealth
of vegetables....................... ........................... 167
A drawback not altogether surprising--A warning to new-comers.-How I
paid for my experience.-Piantain walk.-Different varieties of bananas.-
MyPlatanal.-Industry of Juanico.-His brilliant strategy-Felix Tisada.
-Exhibit my improvements.-Amazement of the Dominican.-A proposal.
-I take advantage of it-Overwork myself.-Awake feverish and in pain.
-Anita's advice.-Simple remedies.-Juanico and Felix wish to call a physi-
cian.-Each knows a worthy doctor.-They disagree.-Decide to employ
neither.- My rapid recovery.-Valuable hints ....................... 189
Famous yield of sweet potatoes.-Contract with Captain Ramirez.-The
Captain becomes alarmed.-His fears quieted.-Anita's transactions with the
natives.-Cocoa-nut grove.-Its importance.-Am in great perplexity.-
Juanico plays the diplosmat-Felix comes to my relieC-An amusing
scene.-A friendly contest-Sale of the "cultivator."-What Felix under-
takes.-How Felix is swindled.-My despair.-A fresh comer in the scene.
-Arrival of Rosa Dalmeyda.-Her mission.-How we arrange matters.--
Success at last.................................. ................. 215
Triumph of Felix.-Auspicious return of Juanico.-His unwanted gayety.-
How accounted for.-Don Delfino imports a Stump-Extractor.-Great
excitement in the neighborhood.-We muster our forces.-How we obtain
recruits.-The process of stump-extracting.-Anita's collation.-Private
dinner in the North Arbor.-Don Julio appears again.-Fresh attack on the
enemy.-Close of the contest.-The "Extractor" victorious.-Delflno's
invitation.-I accept it-His plantation.-What we do there......Page 243
Finish my visit.-Delfino surprises me.-We both return to Palenque.-Ex-
pected important arrivals.-Anita.-Fishing-day.-" Yankee Charles, of
Baltimore."-His history.-American newspapers.-The Strangers' Rest."
-All Saints' day.-Favorable omen.-Improvise a bee-hive.-Arrival of
agricultural implements.-All grievously disappointed.-Dishonesty of the
"house" in New York.-A warning to buyers.-Juanico and his garlic-
bed.-Visit from Manuel, the carpenter.-Furniture from my own ma-
The ripening corn.-Hoe-husbandry.-Unbroken succession of crops.-Plans
for the future.-Affectionate fidelity of Juanico-Attempt to finish my
cottage.--Dishonest mason..-Unlooked-for disappointment.-What I
resolve to do.-Juanico's proposition.-Felix comes to my reliet-The
lime-burner.-Cottage finished.-Delflno appears suddenly.-What he in-
sists on.-Preparationsfor a Christmas-tree.-Everybody to be invited.-
Site selected.-The company assemble.-We celebrate Christmas joy-
By way of explanation............................................ 302
Supplemental chapter by the Editor................................. 07
LIFE IN SANTO DOMINGO.
How I came to leave New York.-Why I went to Santo Domingo.
-The voyage.-Arrival at the town.-Am introduced to Don
Leonardo Delmonte.-A hospitable reception.-Resolve to
strike for the interior.-An unexpected greeting.-An old
settler.-What he advises.-Start on foot for Palenque.-Visit
to Don Julio Perez.-What comes of it.-I purchase a small
farm and take possession.
I wAs born and reared on a large farm in the near
of the State of New York, and all my tastes are for
the independent life and tranquil occupations of the
country. Nevertheless, it was my destiny to strug-
gle for a livelihood several years within the crowded
walls of a city establishment, and that with so little
success, that the end of each season found me no
nearer an independence than the begipning.
14 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
I had not ventured to marry on such prospects;
but my only brother had loved better, or more suc-
cessfully, perhaps, and taken to himself a wife. He
had the misfortune to lose her some two years
ago, and, wearied of a series of discouraging cir-
cumstances, which seemed to create, with every
effort to improve his condition, only a fetter the
more, he proposed to seek a new home in the Far
He has three boys, whom he desires to educate in
such a manner that they may become industrious,
self-helping, and independent men, equally removed
from boorish ignorance and elegant imbecility. As
a poor man, he did not see his way clear to accom-
plish this in a large city. Among the cheap lands
and growing population of the West it was more
possible, and he warmly solicited me to move with
him in the direction of the setting sun.
I was more than willing to cast behind me the dust
of the city; but for various reasons I preferred seek-
ing a home in some high, healthy, and accessible
region of tropical America, to beginning anew in the
LIFE Iw ST. DOMINGO.
equally distant, more trying, and less profitable fields
After weighing all the facts before us, to the
best of our ability, we decided to cast our future
lot in Santo Domingo, as it had the advantage,
unhappily denied to the Spanish American republics,
of a stable government, at peace with all other
I volunteered to be the pioneer in the work of
finding and making ready our new home, and I set
about my preparations without delay.
I left New York on a biting, gusty morning, early
in December, and after a pleasant passage of fourteen
days, landed at Santo Domingo City, amid the balmy
air and bright verdure of a Northern June. All na-
ture revelled in an overflowing wealth of fruits and
flowers and foliage. The people were moving about
in light summer dresses, and the store doors and
house windows were wide open to admit the fresh
The novelty, and, perhaps still more, the bright
contrast of this delicious climate with the wintry
16 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
rigors of our northern latitudes, prepossessed me at
once, and strongly, in favor of this new country.
I remained, however, but one day in the city of
Santo Domingo. An American firm there had pro-
vided some native cottages on the heights overlook-
ing the town, for the transient accommodation of im-
migrant families coming over in their vessels. In
one of these I obtained a corner of refuge for myself
and my few effects, while I cast about me for the
choice of a final abiding-place.
A Cuban gentleman, residing in New York, who
has travelled extensively in Mexico and Central
America, as well as in the West India Islands, had
recommended Santo Domingo as offering, on the
whole, more advantages to a farmer or mechanic,
emigrating from the United States, than any other
country of tropical America.
This advice confirmed me in my own opinion; so
I followed it the more readily.
Besides advice, my friend favored me with a let-
ter of introduction to a gentleman of the name of
Delmonte, who, I soon learned, was a member of
LIFE- IN ST. DOMINGO.
one of the old patrician families of the island. He
is a notary public, an office of trust and distinction
under Spanish law; and at the special request of the
official and commercial representative of the "States"
in this country, he keeps a list of the most desirable
landed properties offered for sale, for the benefit of
American immigrants in quest of homesteads.
I presented my letter, and requested his advice.
Don Leonardo Delmonte received me with the
obliging suavity of a high-bred gentleman, and freely
laid before me the details of the numerous proper-
ties he had in charge; but none of them came within
the scope of my narrow means.
They were chiefly sugar estates, or large tracts of
mahogany and logwood forests, altogether beyond
the possibility of my means of purchase, but it occur-
red to me that some one of them might be obtainable
on a long lease. I stated my situation frankly, and
asked Don Leonardo what he thought of the chances
of hiring a farm.
"There would be no difficulty in getting a place,"
he answered, after hearing me out with kindly atten-
18 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
tion. "But why not strike at once into the interior,
and buy a small farm on time? With the farming
implements in your possession, and your experience
in agriculture, you can pay for your land in a few
years, and meanwhile be shaping your homestead to
"This was my plan in coming here, but the prices
of land seem formidably high," I said, doubtingly.
"Yes, immediately around the city land is high;
but a short distance back it is almost as cheap as the
public lands of the United States."
Don Leonardo has studied our laws, language, and
institutions, and understands them like a native.
What particular section of the country would you
advise me to settle in, Don Leonardo ?" I asked, after
a moment's pause.
That depends on what you propose to make the
principal feature of cultivation," he replied. "We
must reflect a little on what-all things considered-
is likely to suit you best."
We stood a long time before a map of the Island
of Hayti, and, with Don Leonardo's copious notes of
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
description in hand, discussed the several specialties
and various gifts of San Cristoval, Bani, and Azua to
the west, and of Macoris, Romana, and Samana to the
east; but not.one of the many fine corn, cotton, coffee,
and sugar estates was within my reach, for none on
his list were offered in small lots, and I left the office
of the polite notary in perplexity and irresolution.
I had turned my steps toward my temporary quar-
ters, to think over in quiet all I had heard, and come
to some settled resolution as to the direction I should
pursue in my search for a home, when a trifling inci-
dent concluded my hesitation and determined my
I was walking slowly along a side street, anxiously
revolving my next proceeding, when a horseman
rode by at a brisk pace, and dismounted at the door
of a tidy cottage, a few paces ahead. As I came up
I heard the joyous welcome of wife, and children
poured forth in such a flood of hearty, homely Eng-
lish that it arrested my attention, and half uncon-
sciously I paused for a moment to look in on the
20 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
The wide door opened into a neat, well-furnished
room on a level with the street, and a lively party of
friends and kindred were grouped around the newly
arrived, with the warmest expressions of affectionate
welcome. They were all colored people, yet their
dress and every item of their surroundings bespoke
at a glance easy circumstances and somewhat of cul-
Recollecting myself, I was about to pass on my
way, with a bow of mute apology for my abrupt pause
at the open door, when the master of the house saw
me, and interrupted his account of the state of friends
at Bani and Palenque-which, from my recent con-
versation with Don Leonardo, I caught up with a
thrill of peculiar interest-to step forward and ask
me if there was any thing in which he could serve
me. I excused my breach of decorum by frankly
stating that I was a stranger just landed, and that
the grateful and unexpected accents of my native
land had for an instant arrested me at his door.
"Ah, sir," said the man, in the most respectful tones,
"the American language is always like sweet music
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
to me, too. I have lived here near on to thirty years,
and with God's help have done very well in Santo
Domingo; but there is no treat for me like seeing
a gentleman from the States, and hearing of their
great doings in steamboats, and railroads, and tele-
"I shall be glad to exchange information with
you," I replied.-" The latest news from the United
States against your old experience in the nature and
capabilities of this country."
"I am a plain, hard-working man, without much
education," said Brooks-that was the name of my
new acquaintance-" but I have had plenty of rough
experience here, and if any thing I know about this
country can be of use to you, sir, I shall be proud
to do you a service."
Here was the very man I needed.
This sensible old settler, with his thirty years of
practical-or, as he called it, rough working-man's
-experience of soils, seasons, and localities, was
worth more to me, a poor toiling beginner, than vol-
umes of scientific dissertation, fit only for rich men
22 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
who were able to carry out large plans with full
hands. Moreover, he had just returned from a long
visit to Bani and Palenque, both inviting places,
thirty and forty miles to the westward of Santo Do-
mingo, to which, from among other points, rich in
cotton and sugar lands, Don Leonardo Delmonte had
called my attention, as distinguished for pure air and
Not desiring to trespass on Brooks's good-nature
at this moment of re-union with his family, I de-
clined the arm-chair his wife hastened to press on my
acceptance, and confined the questions I was eager
to flood him with to one or two about the places he
had just visited. His answers were extremely sug-
"Palenque," he said, with animation, is the love-
liest situation, and has the finest harbor to be found
anywhere on the south coast of Santo Domingo, be
tween this city and Azua."
"You ought to know this coast by heart," I said,
with a smile at his earnestness.
"You may well believe it, sir. I have learned it
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
like A, B, C, by cutting and loading mahogany, and
other woods, to ship at every inlet and landing from
here to the Haytian line."
"And what is your opinion, Brooks, of this dis-
trict for farming ?"
"As to that, I can assure you, sir, that all along
the coast, about Palenque, Bani, and Azua, is a
beautiful level country, with fine savannas for pasture
back towards the hills. It is rather dry some seasons,
but very healthy."
And how about the fruits ?" I inquired with in-
"Plenty of fruits, sir-two or three kinds for every
month in the year, for the people who will take the
trouble to plant them. But that, you know, is the
case everywhere in this region."
"Only one question more, Brooks, and then I will
leave you to enjoy the company of your family, with
many thanks for your obliging information."
"Please don't speak of it, sir. It is such a pleasure
to us all to have a few words with an American."
"Well, my remaining question is about the price
24 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
of farming land. Do you know how it ranges in
that direction ?"
"Not exactly, sir. It must be cheap enough,
though, for most of it lies waste, overgrown with
"For want of inhabitants, perhaps ?" I suggested.
"Not that alone, by any means," replied Brooks.
"To be sure, the people are not very thick there-
abouts, but there is enough of them to do something,
if they knew what to do, and how to do it, for
themselves and their beautiful lands. But they don't."
"Yes, I am told the Dominicans are not very
"Scientific, sir! Why, bless the poor souls, there
is not one in a hundred would know a plough from a
wheelbarrow, if you were to put them down together
on their dinner-table. That is," added Brooks, in a
more subdued tone, "if these rancheros ever used
such fixings as a regular dinner-table."
Why, Brooks, I cannot imagine the possibility
of farming without ploughs, and wheelbarrows #jo,
for that matter."
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
"That is because you are an American, sir; but
you will soon see for yourself that the whole of this
beautiful country is in a dead sleep, for want of these
ploughs and such like helps to break up the hard
crust, and let out the life that really is in the land."
"Well, I think I can promise to show you, some
day or other, an American plough in motion, with
an American ploughman at the handle, trying his
best towards waking up some little corner of this
On this we parted for the day; but in the evening
Brooks called to mention that Don Julio Perez, a
wealthy proprietor, a few miles beyond Palenque,
wanted to lease several farms on "shares," or at a
nominal rent, for a term of years, to American farm-
ers. It had occurred to him that possibly this gen-
tleman would sell me a small tract of fifty or sixty
acres on very easy terms, as he was bent on getting
some people about him who really understood farm-
I took down the address of this proprietor, and in
the morning went with it to Don Leonardo, the no-
26 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
tary, to learn whether this property was on his list
of lands for sale. It was not, but the owner, Don
Julio Perez, was his personal friend, and he offered
to give me a letter to him if I chose to go and see
the place. I gratefully accepted the offer; the let-
ter was written on the spot; and I went back to
my temporary home with a light step, to prepare for
Arranging with Brooks to forward my effects to
Palenque by a coasting.vessel, in case I decided to
remain, I took my staff and scrip, and set out on
foot for the land of promise, the third morning after
my arrival in Santo Domingo.
It was a long day's walk to Palenque, but the
green and smiling landscape beguiled the hours, and
the sun was yet an hour high when I arrived at the
door of Don Julio's country house. I sent in the
letter by a servant, and scarcely had the time ne-
cessary to read it passed, when a slender, graceful,
bright-eyed man presented himself with a cordial
welcome. I read many signs of hope in his clear
brow, well-shaped head, and mellow voice. Gen-
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
tieman was written on every line of his face, and
in every movement of his slight but well-formed
The letter of his friend, Don Leonardo Delmonte,
had briefly explained the object of my visit, and he
entered into the details of farming life in the United
States with an eager and intelligent interest. I
stated to him my exact situation, and did not
attempt to conceal the narrowness of the means on
which I founded my presumptuous plan of creating
for me and mine an independent homestead. Don
Julio was not willing to sell his land; but he said
there was a corner strip of something like forty
acres, with a small clearing, and the ruins of an old
cabin upon it, which he would consent to part with
to an American farmer who would engage to settle
upon it at once.
The next morning I arose with the sun. I spent
a busy and anxious day running over the land.
It was rather well timbered, with patches of heavy
undergrowth here and there, but generally open
and grove-like. The best point was that directly
28 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
around the old cabin-a perfectly free space of not
less than two acres in extent, bordered by some very
Don Julio had named his price-one hundred and
fifty dollars, payable in one year. After this brief
survey of the ground, I went back in the evening to
say to him that I accepted the terms and would
like to enter into possession, in order to go to work
"But this is the dry season," said Don Julio.
"From the middle of December to some time in
April you cannot rely upon rain enough to bring out
any crop whatever that is not put in as early as
"But the ground is to be cleared," I said.
"Fences are to be made, and some kind of shel-
ter must be put up for farming animals and im-
plements, and this serene season seems to afford the
very best weather for that kind of work."
Very true, there is plenty of work suitable for
each season of the year," was in substance Don
Julio's reply, "but few in this country either care
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
or know how to regulate their business so as to do
the right thing at the right time."
"Everywhere in this world, the only way to win
good returns for your labor is to work with system
and forethought, and I must try to learn the best
But you cannot live on your place at present ?"
said Don Julio, interrogatively. You must secure
a few servants, and build yourself a cottage before
you can possibly settle on your estancia."
"I shall patch up the old cabin for a shelter, and
be my own servant until I feel my way to something
better," I answered, resolutely.
"Well," returned Don Julio, with one of those
happy turns of expression which converts into a
compliment what an ill-bred man would treat as a
disparaging circumstance; Well, if you are resolved
on that course, I can only say, that the man who has
the courage to walk from Santo Domingo here, in
one day, to find a farm, and who examines the ground
and completes the purchase on the next, is not likely
to fail in any thing he undertakes."
30 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
I thank you for the compliment, Don Julio, and
will accept it as an encouragement to persevere in
my scheme of single-handed farming."
On this we retired for the night, and before my
host was awake in the morning, I was on the road
to my estancia, with a machete and hand-axe on my
shoulder, to repair as best I might, with these bor-
rowed implements, the old cabin, and clear the small
grass-plot around it of the encroaching weeds.
A week later I had planted myself in the old cabin
-the merest apology for a shelter-on the land I
had bargained for, and had written for my boxes
and farming things to be sent to me by one of the
little craft plying along the coast.
This ruin of a cabin, the two acres of cleared
ground, more or less, with some fragments of the
native evergreen fence of M aya around them, were
all the improvements on the place. Yet I entered
hopefully upon the task of converting this bit of
wilderness into a well-cultivated homestead.
Partly at Don Julio's suggestion, and partly to
aid my memory, when I wished to recall how my
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
work succeeded in its season, but most of all to
have some record which might serve a little to guide
the first steps of other new settlers, I began from
the first to take notes of what was attempted, and
what done, as each month came and went in its
After mending the thatched roof of the cabin, and
cutting away the straggling brush around it, I was
ready to receive my farming implements and the
small stock of provisions which I had left to be sent
on by water. Until they arrived I slept under the
hospitable roof of Don Julio.
At the close of the last week of December, the
coasting sloop Alice landed my goods at Port Pa-
lenque, together with a small cart. It was a mere
hand-cart, in fact, which I had fitted with shafts on
the voyage, but it was my chiefest treasure," and I
loaded on it the balance of my worldly gear, and walk-
ing by the side of the donkey I proceeded with humble
rejoicing to my home. I slept there for the first time
New Year's Eve, and that night I commenced my
new life, and this, its faint, imperfect record.
32 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
First night on my farm.-Happy surprise in the morning.-A
singular arrival-Resolve to turn it to account.-Engage the
services of Juan and Anita Garcia.-Tent-making.-Juan as-
sists.-Preparations for supper by Anita.-My new avenue.-
Orange and lime groves.-An unnecessary fright.-Faithfulness
of Juan.-The spring grove.-My garden.-What it contains.-
How we fenced it.-American plough and other implements.-
Astonishment of the natives.-The old cabin.-What I did in
I THEw myself in my hammock for my first night's
rest in my new home, with an indescribable sense of
responsibility, yet with a keen sensation of delight in
the free and self-reliant existence I had chosen. But
the fatigue of bringing home, and partially unpack-
ing and putting in place even my limited stores,
was sufficient to overpower the excitement of my
novel position, and I was soon buried in profound
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
There was no door left on the cabin, and as I open-
ed my eyes in the morning, I looked down a green
slope, and through an arcade of waving branches, on
a cluster of lime-trees, dotted with stars of golden
fruit. Under the shade of those limes, and encircled
with trees of larger growth, bubbles a spring of cool,
On this green slope, half-way between the spring
and the old cabin, I decided to pitch my sleeping-
It was New Year's day, a day of festival through
all Christendom, yet it seemed to me that I could not
enjoy it until I had set up my tent and entered for-
mally into occupation.
I made my coffee, and had my truly happy New
Year's breakfast in the luxurious company of my own
thoughts, projects, and anticipations for the long
round of twelve months now opening with this bright
and genial morning.
After breakfast came the business of setting up
the tent. In bringing it with me from New York, I
thought to use it for a temporary dwelling on my
34 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
intended purchase, should there happen to be nothing
better to be found in the shape of shelter. It came in
good stead, for it leaves the cabin free for kitchen,
storehouse, and workshop, and affords me a cleanly
and acceptable refuge for my hours of rest and
Congratulating myself on my comfortable pros-
pects, I was quite satisfied to regard tent-raising as a
holiday enjoyment, and set about it with a zest.
While I was cutting some forked sticks to strengthen
it stoutly, I happened to look round, and saw a very
black and very tall man, making his way through the
bushes. He approached with a smiling face and a
profusion of complimentary bows, which liquefied, as
it were, into a torrent of friendly words as he met
my extended hand.
He brought on his back a macuta-one of the
woven baskets of the country-filled with oranges,
plantains, bananas, and limes, which he tendered to
me with an air of hearty satisfaction-on the part of
I had to ask my visitor his name, for these Domin-
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
icans rarely use any form of introduction, either in
presenting themselves or any one else for acquaint-
ance, and learned that it was Juan Garcia, my near-
est neighbor on the road to Bani, and that he had
come to offer his services and those of his family, if
there was any thing in which he could be useful
Don Julio Perez had named this man to me as the
most willing and industrious laborer in my vicinity;
and so he has proved, for he has worked with and
for me the most of the month, in a truly faithful and
thoroughly helpful manner.
In return for his acceptable gift of fresh fruits, I
could only offer Juan a portion of the poor luncheon
of crackers and dried fish which I had laid out for
my own frugal meal. So far was my new friend and
neighbor from slighting this more than Spartan ban-
quet, that he asked permission to take what I had
given him to his wife; and when I threw a handful
of sea-biscuit into the macuta for his children, he be-
came perfectly resplendent in ivory and eloquence.
He assured me that his Anita was a superior cook
36 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
and an unequalled washer of fine linen, and in either
capacity was wholly at my service, volunteering to
bring her over in the afternoon to convince me of her
abilities in these lines of utility.
These are homely details; but all the daily wants of
life press hardly on new settlers, and the ready help
of Juan and Anita has been a comforting aid to my
Juan showed himself an alert, willing, and service-
able man, on this the very first morning of our ac-
quaintance. He had a ready hand for every thing.
He gave me some instruction about the value of the
noble trees skirting the cleared space while he plied
the machete among them. His timely assistance en-
abled me to settle the posts and quickly rear my tent
in the selected spot, under the shade of those im-
mense old fruit-trees, evidently the relics of a former
The ground slopes gently down from the cabin to
this group of trees at the edge of the clearing, where
they encircle the spring in a symmetrical grove.
When the tent was up, Juan proceeded to cut
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
some leaves of the fan-palm, and bound them into a
broom with a strong, cord-like vine, which he calls
bahuca; with this escoba he swept up the earth floor
of the tent as deftly as a woman, while I arranged
my boxes for seats and stretched my hammock into a
commodious sleeping-cot. This done, I surrendered
myself to a couple of hours of noontide repose, and
Juan went home.
It was a sweet rest, though I was too much inter-
ested to sleep; and with deep thankfulness to our
Father in Heaven for the prospect before me, I
looked out of the raised curtain of my cool, airy tent
through the arcade of protecting trees, and planned
my next work.
It was a bold invasion into my shallow purse to
engage a man, so early in my career; but that
straggling and broken circuit of Maya hedge re-
quired a native hand to manage it, and I decided to
bargain with Juan for a week's assistance in fencing
in a house-lot.
He had gone home to carry my munificent gifts of
dried herring and sea-biscuit to his wife and children,
38 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
but he did not fail to return towards evening with
his Anita. She is a laughing, buxom body, full of
talk and curiosity, but strictly respectful, and fully as
anxious as her husband to prove herself an obliging
neighbor. Their little girl, Teresa, is a bright and
restless child of ten, black but comely, and she natu-
ralized herself on my premises from that day forward.
Few noons pass without Teresa. darting her round
head between the curtains of my tent on some mes-
sage from her parents, or to ask some trifling favor
on her own account, but she is never in the way. The
other child, a boy, younger than Teresa, I see little
of; and as he is a busy little imp of mischief, I am
not sure that I would be sorry were I not to see him
Anita brought with her a cake of cassava bread
and some chocolate, which she asked permission to
prepare at the fire I had kindled. It was evident
they came to get ready my solitary supper. I of
course consented, and in a short time she emerged
from behind the old cabin, where I have established
my kitchen, carrying before her, tray-wise, a piece of
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
a box cover, on which rested some unknown articles
hidden from sight by a clean white cloth.
I have arranged my bread-barrel in my tent, where
it does duty as a reading table, and on this Anita
placed her board tray, and, drawing off the white
covering, displayed a plate of toasted cassava, two
boiled eggs, a boiled pigeon, and a frothing cup of
chocolate. She begged me to excuse her boldness in
requesting me to taste these things "for the sake of
the New Year, and the poor neighbors who loved
I accepted the simple-hearted offering with sincere
thankfulness, for it was pleasant to begin the year
with such tokens of good-will from those about me.
Besides, however lowly their station, it was in their
power to serve or annoy me in no small degree, just
as the caprice to like or dislike should happen to seize
While these little matters were occupying my par-
ticular attention, Anita joined her husband and child
outside the tent, but in such a position that she could
watch and serve me with a finishing glass of water,
40 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
and take away the remnants when the meal was
done. That over, I went into a long line of questions
with Juan about the mode of cutting fencing-stuff,
and handling that formidable, long-leaved, and thorny
edged Maya. This Maya is a bright evergreen and
durable hedging material, and there was enough of it
to enclose a space three times as large as the present
clearing, if it could be transplanted and set out in
Juan readily undertook to remove the Maya to the
place I should mark out for it, either this month or a
little later in the season. Maya is one of the hardiest
of plants, and will live even when thrown out on top
of the ground; but it takes root quicker and grows
better if transplanted after a rain. Just then, Juan
was not prepared to make any promises about work;
he and his donkey, he said, were engaged in haul-
ing some fustic to the bay of Palenque for shipment,
but that should not prevent him assisting me to re-
pair the old hedge, or clear the line for the new one,
as soon as I might decide on which plan I should
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
Before I slept I had come to a decision. I would
enlarge the space around the cabin so as not only to
include all the broken line of hedge, and bring in the
groups of fruit-trees, scattered all along the whol 1
circuit, but also to take within it the gentle rise on
the opposite side of the spring.
This piece of ground I had noticed as a dark, rich
loam, free from stones and full of small open patches,
indicative of former cultivation. This will give me a
home lot of seven or eight acres to put in cultivation
with the early spring rains, and with this plan for a
starting point fairly fixed in my mind, I committed
myself to the care of my Heavenly Father and sunk
I awoke with the dawn, and hastily sprang from
my cot to begin the labors of the day. As my foot
touched the ground I recoiled with dismay, for I had
stumbled upon a human form, stre ched at ful. length
across the entrance of the tent. The figure rolled off
the blanket, and, rising, presented the courttenance
of Juan Garcia.
"Why, how came you here-and asleep?" I de-
42 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
handed in astonishment. "How long have you
been here ?"
"All night, Sefior. I left Anita with the children,
and came back to keep the Sefior company. I thought
the Sefior would be sad and solitary by himself, since
he was a stranger here."
"It was kind in you, Juan; but I never heard you
"No, Sefior, you were asleep, so I only said, May
God protect him,' and lay down softly on the ground
by your hammock, and slept until this moment."
"Thank you for your good-will, Juan; but I am
not afraid, and would rather not take you from your
family to sleep here."
The poor fellow has in a manner adopted me as his
own, and without ever ceasing to be obedient and
respectful in his service, he assumes an amusingly
parental tone and style when watching and waiting
on my wants. He is withal an excellent hand in the
work peculiar to the country, as I learned to my sat-
isfaction while we were trimming and cutting away
the wild vines and undergrowth under the noble
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
group of trees around the spring. They are all
fruit-bearing trees, and now that they are carefully
pruned, and" the ground canopied by their wide-
spreading branches, well cleared of every thing but
its soft carpet of "velvet grass," the "SPRING
GRovE," as I am proud to call it, is a noble feature
in my home landscape. I did not know the value of
this magnificent group of trees until Juan informed
me that morning what they all were. He particular-
ly called my attention to two of them, loaded with
round green fruit, which he told me was the famous
caimete. This fruit ripens early in February, and
holds on through all March, and sometimes deep into
April. Its rich, delicious pulp has been happily com-
pared to "peaches crushed in cream." From the
two or three which I have already enjoyed, for mine
are now ripening, I think this delicate fruit deserves
all the praise lavished upon it.
Stimulated by the happy discovery that it was a
superb fruit-grove, instead of a cluster of wild forest
trees, which shades my tent and the beautiful spring
slope before it, I could hardly keep to the rule I had
44 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
laid down, to quit hard out-door work at eleven.
Juan worked with me at clearing with steady good-
will, cutting away the brush, lopping off the dead
limbs, and piling up the trash for burning; and be-
tween us we had given a different aspect to the
Spring Grove, and to the green borders of the spring
itself, before we left them.
Juan carried home his share of my plain dinner,
and after his departure I sought my hammock for an
hour of rest and reflection. I wanted to consider
what I should do first of all in the way of providing
for my support when the stock of provisions should
be exhausted. It is the dry season, and crops, that
is to say, products in quantities intended for sale,
could not be started at this time of year. Whatever
was already a month in the ground, and well under
way, so that the roots could find a little moisture be-
low the surface, would keep on growing and ripen-
Oh, that I had come out in October," I thought.
"Had I been here with the fall rains, I might have
had, at least, a vegetable garden very well advanced."
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
Then arose the question:-" But may I not even now
prepare and sow a bed with a part of the seeds I
brought with me? By dint of care and watering,
can I not gain a month or two on the dry season, and
raise a few vegetables for my own table ?" As I
asked myself these things, I was answered in my
own mind that it was well worth the experiment.
Yes, I would start a seedling bed without delay,
and before the seeds were out of the ground, Juan
and I might have the old fence so far repaired that I
need fear nothing for my young plants. I could not
remain in my hammock after this idea seized me. I
was anxious to begin, and besides, the site I had se-
lected would be partially in the shade, and pleasant
for work early in the afternoon.
Before two o'clock, my hour for commencing the
afternoon labors, I had got my tools ready and had
marked off a bed ten feet long and four wide, on the
east side of the old cabin. On the west side is my
kitchen, and the south looks towards my tent. I
chose the east to give it the benefit of the morning
sun, and yet secure it some shelter from the scorch-
46 LIFE IN ST. DOMINwO.
ing afternoons. With my pick-axe, hoe, and rake, I
had managed to get this rich bit of ground in pretty
thorough tilth when Juan and his wife dropped in
upon me, about five o'clock in the afternoon. Their
amazement was almost beyond words. "To work
in the dry season! To work so much on such a little
bit of ground. To work with so many tools." They
both stood and rung the changes on these singular
innovations upon their mode of cultivation, until they
were out of breath.
Juan took my want of experience in serious com-
Do you know, Seior," he asked, impressively,
" that in our climate nothing you plant in the dry
season bears fruit until the rains come on, unless you
water it many, many times ?"
But I intend to water what I sow in this bed as
often and as much as is necessary to bring the plants
forward. I want to eat of these vegetables two
months earlier than I can have them if I wait for the
"But do they take so much trouble in your comn-
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
try to have a few young beans and tomatoes in March
when you can have them without any trouble in
May?" asked Juan, in undisguised wonder at such
Why not, Juan ? We can have nothing in this
world without trouble and sacrifice."
Juan and Anita were by no means convinced of
the wisdom of my course, but they very cheerfully
brought water from the spring and gave the seedling
bed a plentiful bath, while I put in the little rows of
ocra, onion, tomato, and egg-plant destined for future
transplantation, alternated by like rows of lettuce and
radishes, which are to remain in final possession of
the ground they now occupy until called to the table.
By the time all the seed was duly covered in the
little rows, and I had finished off the bed with a row
of early bush beans" at the outside edge, it was
dusk, and Anita called me to a pleasant supper of her
own arrangement. While the supper and the seed-
ling bed were simultaneously receiving the last touch-
es of preparation, Anita, who had become intensely
interested in both, kept running from one to the
48 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
other in an amusing flurry of haste and excite-
"Ah, Maria Purissima! what a variety of seeds,
and all marked out in such order. Will it please the
Sefor to come to supper ? The rice cooked in cocoa-
milk is perfectly ready. But to think of seven kinds
of vegetables, all set in beautiful rows like the seven
cardinal virtues, and the whole to be fed with water
through the dry season. Wonderful! wonderful!"
Anita's distribution of the "seven cardinal virtues"
was as incomprehensible to my understanding, as my
disposition of the seven vegetables seemed to hers;
but not choosing to expose my ignorance, I went
into supper without asking any questions.
After Juan and Anita had attended to theirs, we
held a council on the condition of the fences, and the
propriety of immediately clearing a few more acres
of land, for the double purpose of enlarging my
planting space, and of obtaining a supply of wood to
In conclusion, Juan agreed to work for me four
days in the week for the next six or eight weeks, at
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
half a dollar a day. He reserved two days in the
week for his own clearing and planting, which he said
he should conduct partly on the native plan and part-
ly on mine, for he wanted to learn "American ways,"
and, most of all, the use of the "Yankee" plough, of
which he had heard surprising things from persons
who had seen it tearing up the ground in Cuba and
Finally, assuring me that I could depend upon his
coming to me with the sun the next day, Juan and
his wife went to their home, and left me to my soli-
Juan was faithful to his word, and the work of
fencing in the space intended for the Home Field was
begun in earnest. Two sides-those forming the line
of my property on the north and west-are to be
guarded by a Maya hedge and were left for the last.
The other two sides will be partition fences, if I am
fortunate enough to carry out my present plans, and
those we have closed in with a palisar or stake fence.
A Dominican palisar is a very simple, yet, if well
made, a very effective affair. Stout stakes are driven
50 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
firmly into the earth at short intervals, and crossbars
are woven in and bound to them with strong and
durable vine-stems, which are called bahuca.
As fast as Juan and cleared the ground we laid
up the posts and bars, and bahuca, and collected
all the brush, which was too small for service, in
heaps for burning.
The last week of the month, Juan and half a dozen
boys, whom he had collected from I know not where,
made a perfect holiday of bonfires of it, and my first
field stands almost ready for planting. There still
remains a strip of tangled undergrowth where the
old fence ran, but it is a perfect nursery of young
fruit-trees, which I wish to trim out and transplant
when the season permits. January is the month of
months for cutting timber and clearing new ground
for crops, and it has been fully occupied with its ap-
There were three very heavy rains in the early
part of the month, and under their favor I made a
melon-patch back of the old cabin, and a much larger
one by the spring, of the savory Dominican calabazas.
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
They are all thriving, and so is a triple row of pole
beans on each side of the path to the spring.
Anita comes over every day or two to admire the
progress of the seedling bed, which is now well ad-
vanced, and to count up what varieties of vegetables
I have under way. She has herself smuggled parsley,
thyme, and coriander seeds among my beans, and
reckons them up with the melons among the vegeta-
bles. She proposes to make a "superb soup" for
Easter Monday, in which they are all to figure, I be-
lieve,-melons, cucumbers, and coriander included.
Now, at the close of the month, I can fully realize
how fortunate it has been for me that I began my
farming experience in Santo Domingo in the serene
month of January. It is really the first month of
the "dry season," though that is reckoned to begin
with December. These are the two best months for
beginners from the North. At this season the heavy
rains of the summer and early fall sensibly diminish
in force, and before February sets in they cease
almost entirely, leaving an interval of from seven to
nine weeks of bright weather, scarcely interrupted
52 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
by a passing shower, which the settler should not
fail to take advantage of.
This secure period of calm and cloudless sky has
given me time to form my plans, to select and clear
my planting-ground, and to strengthen my fences
against my neighbor's cattle; I have none of my own
as yet, to fence in or out.
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
A call from Don Julio Perez.-Transplanting vegetables.-Juan's
curiosity.-Cutting logwood.-My success in clearing.-Another
visit from Don Julio.-Agreeable result.-Washington's birth-
day.-How I celebrate it.-Anita's breakfast for Don Julio and
myself.-My Buena Vista.-Mysterious conference between
Juan and Anita.-Preparations for an orange grove.-Juan's
amazement.-Success of my garden.
WE were blessed with a rainy week in the early
part of the month, and under favor of this unusual
refreshment of the earth, in the heart of the dry
season, I made a kind of winter garden at the low,
moist margin of the spring. In the rainy season
this bit of low ground, at the outlet of this precious,
unfailing fountain, might be altogether too wet for
satisfactory cultivation; but in the period of drought
it offers the only spot on my little homestead on
which I can securely rely for a fresh succession of the
54 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
more delicate vegetables through most of January,
February, and March.
The morning after the first fall of rain I was up
with the dawn, and at work in my projected winter
garden," breaking up the ground and laying off the
plats in regular order for the various plantings.
"You are at work early, sir," said a voice at my
elbow, as I was wielding the pick-axe with all the
vigor of the fresh morning. I looked up in surprise,
and met the kindly smile and extended hand of Don
"I rode over to see your improvements, vecino
mio," said Don Julio, "and more particularly to
warn you that it is not safe for an unacclimated per-
son, like yourself, to continue your labors through
the heat of the day."
"Thank you, Don Julio, for your consideration,
but that is precisely what I am careful not to do," I
answered. "I abstain from all severe out-door labor
after ten-or, at the latest, eleven-in the morning,
and do not resume it again until two or three in the
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
"And yet, the five weeks you have been here have
left their mark," said Don Julio, politely, as he led
his horse a few steps up the spring slope, and swept
the clearing, of which it was the centre, with a look
of mingled curiosity and satisfaction. "This large
clearing speaks strongly of an American axe in
"I have a faithful help in Juan Garcia," I observ-
ed, "and in the hours I dedicate to labor I feel able
to work to some purpose."
"Perhaps it would be better for us all, natives as
well as foreigners, not to exhaust our energies at
mid-day," resumed Don Julio, after a moment of
"I find it well, at least, I assure you, and I
would extend the rule in some degree to Juan,
but he cannot be kept to the early morning hours
of labor which I prescribe to myself."
"Of course not," said Don Julio; "none of these
people will give you a fair day's work, except in
their own old way. But the cool morning is running
away, and I am detaining you: Adios."
56 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
Springing on his horse, Don Julio galloped off
almost as abruptly as he came, but not without
pressing upon me the offer of a yoke or two of oxen
to plough up my corn-land in its season.
To return to my February rains, and their results.
The seedling bed of January, nursed with many co-
pious waterings, became so thick set that it was neces-
sary to transplant freely to give room for growth.
Juan went on alone with the Maya hedge, setting
that in its place with his native bush-hook, while I
set out abundance of tomatoes, egg-plant, ocra, and
other vegetables in my winter garden. We both
made the most of our plants while the earth was
moist with recent showers. They have taken very
well, and Juan brings over his friends every now
and then to see and wonder at the extraordinary
trouble I have taken "to have things grow in spite
of the seco-dry season."
Nevertheless, Juan and I are visibly progressing
with our clearing and fencing arrangements, and our
enlarged lot is now, at the last of the month, ready
for the plough, where the stumps will permit it to
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
pass. Burning the brush has killed them off, and
will prevent "sprouting," and I have promised Juan
that by the close of the rainy season-or whenever
the care of the crop will best allow it-we will rig
out a stump-puller with our ox-chain, and make clean
work of most of the ground. He is wild with
curiosity to see the process of drawing out roots,
as I have compared it to extracting teeth.
February, with its almost unbroken succession of
calm, summer-like days, is exactly fitted to the busi-
ness of clearing, and more can be done in one such
week, than in two when the rains set in; besides,
the time of rains should be employed in planting
the ground duly made ready in advance, when little
else can be done.
February is also a good month for pruning and
grafting, except for such trees as are then in the
midst of their fruit-bearing.
In the morning, after devoting an hour to my
vegetables and fruit-trees, Juan would present him-
self for work and his breakfast-a camp breakfast
of the roughest, but perfectly acceptable to a healthy
58 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
appetite. Then to our daily war on the woodlands-
I with my keen, smooth-helved American axe, to fell
the trees during my appointed hours of toil, and
Juan to trim off the branches with his long-bladed
native machete-always taking care as we went on
to pile aside the fence-stakes, and heap up the useless
brush for burning, as we had been doing through
There was a beautiful eminence-a round knoll,
crowned with a dense grove of logwood, sloping
upward from the farther margin of the spring-
which gave us no little toil and trouble. It was a
thorny tanglement of undergrowth terrible to attack,
but we persevered with axe, machete, and brush-
hook, until it was all brought to the ground, and
the logwood trimmed for market.
One bright afternoon Don Julio dropped down
upon us in his sudden way, just as we were piling up
the last of our logwood, and inquired what I intend-
ed doing with it. I knew it was a marketable com-
modity, and that Don Julio was a large exporter of
mahogany and other woods; so I replied, half in jest,
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
half in earnest, that I proposed to sell it to him in
part payment of my land.
"But you are not called upon to pay me any thing
before the end of the year," said Don Julio.
"Nevertheless, I would gladly dispose of this log-
wood as it lies here, and cancel so much of my in-
debtedness as it will cover. I leave the price to
yourself, Don Julio, as you are experienced in woods,
if you choose to take it."
Don Julio dismounted with a smile, and examined
the logwood- Campeche, it is called here-with atten-
"This is a fine lot, and convenient to the landing,
and at ten dollars a ton may be fairly worth one
hundred dollars," he said, as he remounted his horse.
"I will allow you that sum as it lies; or, if you
prefer, you may take it to the scales at Port Palenque
landing, and I will pay you by its weight ten dollars
"I accept the hundred dollars, Don Julio. The
logwood is yours, and," I added to myself, with a
bounding heart, "two-thirds of the purchase price
60 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
of this fair homestead has been won from it in less
than two months' occupation."
This was the 21st of February, and on the 22d I
kept holiday, in memory of the birth of Wash-
It was a day of twofold interest,-dear in mem-
ory of the Father of his country, and dear because
it saw me in very deed the owner of my homestead.
At my request Anita came early, to prepare a camp
breakfast, for Don Julio had promised to ride over in
the morning with the papers for my land, and take a
cup of coffee with me. Of course, there was no end
of bustle and anxiety of preparation from sunrise to
about ten, when our guest presented himself, and the
table was served with fresh lettuce, rosy radishes,
crisp cucumbers, and green beans. These first-fruits
of my industry figured, in this melange of all meals,
with the fresh cassava, nice calabawa, sweet potatoes,
and other vegetables from Juan's patch of garden,
besides a brace of broiled pigeons and a gourdshell
of boiled eggs as central ornaments. Not the least
luxury, in my estimation, was a plate of peachy.
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
pulped caimetes, and another of the rosy, sub-acid
pomegranate, mingled with creamy custard apples,
all from my own trees. The oranges were from
Juan's cottage door-I have none as yet-but all the
other fruits were from the grand old trees around
It was an odd, but abundant, and not unsavory
meal, yet there was not an article upon our rustic
table that came from the United States, except the
toasted sea-biscuit and the Orange County butter
that dressed it.
The corn and the cassava bread were the product
of Juan's labor, but the coffee and sugar came from
Don Julio's plantation. His kind and neighborly
old mayoral-land steward-had proposed an ex-
change of those articles for some of my salted stores,
and both of us have found the arrangement satis-
This trifling matter is only worthy of note because
other new settlers may find it convenient to be in-
structed by it. My first entertainment under the
shelter of my own tent was, therefore, in nowise an
62 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
American affair. It was Dominican-thoroughly ana
amusingly Dominican-in all its details. The ruling
idea was quantity. Every available nook and shelf
was put in requisition to hold some portion of Anita's
elaborate display; but the coffee was good, the omelet
respectable, the picadia excellent, and the pigeons de-
licious, so that ample justice was done to the extra-
ordinary efforts of Juan and his wife.
After coffee, we took our oranges and our cigars
under the shade of the superb trees overhanging
the spring slope, and left the tent and their share
of the breakfast to these willing servants, for a quiet
hour of enjoyment in their way.
Meanwhile, Don Julio delivered to me the title-
deeds of my place, duly attested in legal form.
They had been made out as if the money were all
paid, and he almost refused to take the note I had
written for the balance due him.
In his desire to serve me, he suggested the supe-
rior profits to be gained by cutting mahogany, satin-
wood, Campeche, ship-timber, etc., and offered me
liberal conditions if I felt disposed to procure a good
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
force of axemen and teamsters from the United
States, and take charge of a valuable tract of forest
owned by him near the Haytien frontier. I declined,
partly on the plea of my insufficient capital and ex-
perience for such an undertaking; but the stronger
reason, as I frankly informed him, was my uncon-
trollable desire to obtain a settled and immediate
home for me and mine.
"Perhaps you are right. Yes, I have no doubt of
it, my friend," said Don Julio, after one of his
thoughtful pauses. "Health, tranquillity, and inde-
pendence are the greatest of earthly blessings, and
you are now on the surest road to them."
Throwing away the stump of his cigar, he arose
and sauntered through my cherished and thriving
winter garden, complimenting the arrangement of the
beds, and promising to send me plenty of ginger and
arrow-root to edge the borders, and also bespeaking
a supply of tomatoes and ocra for his own table,
These plants are setting in fruit and blossom, and
there will be an over supply for us all, if they yield
as well as they promise.
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
Returning from this circuit, Don Julio called for
his horse, but, with the bridle over his arm, he lin-
gered and chatted over farming matters as he slowly
ascended, the knoll where he had found us piling
logwood the previous day. I was walking beside him
when he stopped abruptly, and exclaimed with en-
"What a lovely prospect! How is it that I never
saw it before ?"
I glanced round in surprise. Then, for the first
time, from the summit of the knoll lately occupied by
the Campeche grove, I caught an indistinct but
charming view of the blue and dancing sea. It was
seen in broken glimpses through the intervening
trunks of forest-trees, and only a narrow belt of
foliage, easily swept away, marred the wide prospect.
The dense chapparal had hitherto completely obscured
the beautiful reach of lower land and the swelling
waves beyond it; but the last labors of Juan the day
before had rent away the veil. Until that moment I
had no idea that this moderate elevation commanded
such an extensive view. I observed to Don Julio,
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
after we had gazed awhile in silence on its unexpect-
"But it surprises me that you, the owner of this
estate, should not have known it before."
"I was aware," he replied, "that in old times
there was a residence here called Buena Vista-Fine
View-yet it never occurred to me to ask why. But
hark! is not that the murmur of the surf?"
"Yes, undoubtedly it is," I said, after listening
a moment, "and distinct enough, too. It is singular
that in all the last week, while Juan and I were
cutting this timber, neither of us noticed the sound
of the surf."
Not at all. The wind did not happen to set this
way, and the rustle of the falling trees would deaden
"Then these magnificent old fruit-trees, which I
am taking such a delight in pruning, were perhaps
planted for the adornment of Buena Vista ?" I
Undoubtedly," replied Don Julio. And now I
recollect that some of the old men about here have
66 LIFE IN ST. DoMINGo.
told me that in the days of its splendor this estate
had a straight avenue, with a double line of orange-
trees on each side of it, from the mansion to Port
Palenque. The orange-trees were choked to death
long ago, but my people may find the line of the old
road when they take this logwood down to the land-
"I too will look out for it, Don Julio, and be as-
sured I shall exert myself to do all that Juan's labor
and mine can help towards opening a direct road to
the landing. The winding mule-path we are using
now is a rough affair."
S"Do so, vecino mio," replied Don Julio, with a fare-
well grasp of the hand, and we will also talk about
what can be done in the way of extending your
boundaries in that direction if you require more
After his departure I threw myself on the ground
under the shade of the interlacing branches of the
noble fruit-trees-which I now felt were so really
my own-and thought over the cheering success of
my single-handed search for a home.
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
I was still buried in these pleasant reveries when
Juan broke into them by bringing me a caimete
branch, loaded with that most delicious fruit. He
asked me if I was sick, that I remained so long sitting
motionless under a tree, neither eating, sleeping, nor
smoking. I answered by pointing to the snatches
of blue sea visible through the trees. He threw a
careless glance in that direction and asked me if I
thought the sea as beautiful as the savanna.
"Sea and savanna are equally beautiful, Juan,
each in its way; but this grand reach of blue waves
and the fresh and bracing air which they will send
to us every hour of our lives are alone worth all I
have paid for this estancia. I hope to build my
own dwelling on this old site of Buena Vista, if it
shall please our Heavenly Father to smile on my
efforts in Santo Domingo."
Juan was astonished at the value I set on a sea
view, and assured me that he had at his rancho
almost as wide a prospect, but that a few bushes,
which he had never thought of taking the trouble
to cut away, had grown up and hid it from sight.
68 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
He could partly appreciate the care I was bestowing
on the fruit-trees; he liked fruit himself, if it was
to be had without much trouble; and the shade was
rather agreeable in the lazy noon-tide; but the su-
perfluity of a graceful arrangement or the charms
of an extensive prospect were below, or beyond, his
When we returned to the tent he shared his sur-
prise with his wife, and he made the computation in
his own fashion when he stated to her how highly
the Senor valued his sea prospect. He had assist-
ed in cutting down the logwood that covered the
old site, and was present when I sold it to Don Julio,
and he spoke, therefore, as one having official infor-
"Anita, my lily, would you believe it," he said
to her confidentially, while I was out of sight, but
not out of hearing, mixing a glass of fresh lemonade
-within the curtains of my tent, "would you be-
lieve it, Sefior Vecino says, very positively, that
the sight of the sea, when it is right blue, is worth
ten tons of Campeche."
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
"Is it possible!" exclaimed Anita, in a tone of
profound astonishment, which melted gently into an
accent of commiseration, as she added, "But the
poor innocent lamb of a stranger don't know the
value of Campeche."
Nevertheless, I hold stubbornly to my own esti-
mate of the comparative value of my sea views,
though it had not occurred to me to weigh it against
logwood, before Juan hit on the happy idea.
Had I required additional stimulus to steady, un-
flagging exertion, I might have found it in the en-
couraging circumstances of my logwood cutting; but
I did not need it. To work with an aim is to work
with interest, and to work with interest is so healthful
for mind and body, that there is no chance for miser-
able dyspepsia or for indolent repinings. My labors
are acceptable, and my intervals of rest delightful.
I find it the most agreeable of relaxations to plan
out my improvements, and to fit and adjust one oc-
cupation with another, so as to bring within the
compass of each successive week the proper duties
of its time and season. I want to feel and see that
70 LIFE. IN ST. DOMINGO.
the labors of every month have been, to the best of
my ability, such as most properly belong to that
particular portion of the year.
My clearing and fencing are over for the present.
My Home Field is in order for the plough, when-
ever the spring rains set in. When that time comes
I shall be able to exchange my own labor, with my
heavy American plough, for the use of oxen. Don
Julio offers me, gratis, the use of two yoke of strong,
though rather wild oxen, and a driver with them,
in order to have them all instructed in that yet
unknown mystery to Dominican agriculturists, the
art of ploughing.
The season has not yet arrived for that; but I
have plenty of occupation without it for the next six
weeks in the care of my fruit-trees, and, perhaps,
in putting up a poultry-yard.
I must think of what trees I require, of where I
am to obtain them, when they should be planted,
and, neither last nor least, how I am to place them
to the best advantage, both with reference to their
respective demands on soil, and their symmetrical
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
relations with the situation of a future dwelling on
my chosen site of B.uena Vista.
There are many bearing fruit-trees on my home-
stead, eight or nine varieties at least; but there is a
serious lack of sweet orange-trees. There are limes
and sour oranges, plenty for my use, and always in
bearing, it would seem; but no trees bearing the
large, juicy sweet oranges, for which Santo Domingo
aas an old and well-deserved renown.
I want an orange grove for the enjoyment of its
wholesome, delicious fruit, and for the preparation
of that most delicate of tonics, "orange wine." I
have tasted it at Don Julio's hospitable board, and
am impatient to see it at my own.
I have a fair beginning at hand in a wild, chance-
sown nursery of year old seedlings, which both Juan
and Don Julio assure me will bear in three years,
if left where they stand. But I have no idea of
letting them stand, for they have nearly every one
planted themselves in the wrong place. I must
teach them how to shoot and where to grow, for I
have my own plan as to what I shall do with them,
72 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
Early in January I noticed these clusters of young
oranges struggling for life under a suffocating load
of wild vines, along the line of the old hedge. I
carefully relieved them at the time from their en-
croaching enemies, and partially trimmed off the
crooked and superfluous shoots. Juan was eager to
bring his machete to my aid, but his slashing ac-
tivity was much too energetic for the health of my
tender yearlings. I told him that I must reserve
them for my own mornings' recreation until the rains
came on, when I would be glad to have him help me
to transplant such as I should select along the spring
Juan heard the plan of transplanting with amaze-
ment. "Transplant these things, Seiior!" he ex-
claimed; "why, these are nothing but sour oranges.
Ah, yes, here are two-three-four sweet ones, but
they are very well here. All the rest will give you
fruit as sour as limes, only fit to make orangeade for
sick people. They may live or die anywhere, as God
But, Juan, I must place them where they will
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
have room to grow, and in time make a pleasant
shade, to protect us from the sun and rain as we go
to the spring and back. Besides that, I intend in
due time that every one of these trees shall bear
plenty of the finest sweet oranges, like those in your
"How is it possible, Sefior, to turn ugly sour
oranges into large, beautiful sweet ones, like those
Anita brings you ?" queried Juan, somewhat doubt-
Perfectly possible, Juan. I will engage to change
the nature of their bearing so as to make every
one of these wild, sour orange-trees yield none but
the sweetest fruit-exactly like your own, in fact-
provided you will give me some cuttings from the
tree before your door."
Oh, Senor, you know that the whole tree, body
and branches, is at your service. But when will you
perform the miracle ?"
"About the first of March we will try to begin it,
but in the mean time we have our February pruning
to finish. Every thing in its season, Juan."
74 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
The last of our February work was the opening of
a small trench in the winter garden to let in water
from the spring. The dry weather tells more severe-
ly than I expected on my vegetables and garden rel-
ishes. The tomatoes hold up their heads, and are
well set with young fruit as large as marbles, and the
beans yield me a green mess every day for my din-
ner, but most of the other things seem to bear feebly.
They are growing fairly in stem and leaf, but the
fruit does not satisfy my expectations.
I have delved out with the pickaxe and hoe a
foot-wide trench, which, opening its trunk at the
margin of the spring, ramifies in crossing and ex-
panding branches so as to conduct threads of water
through most of the beds. It has cost me several days
hard toil, with four half days of hired work from
Juan, but it has secured the well-being of my plants,
and I have a strong faith that the abundant and
varied produce of this bit of ground will well repay
I have worked and watched their progress with
too much interest, not to be sensible of the fresh
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO. 75
and improved appearance of my plants since I sent
the trickling overplus of the spring meandering
among them, and, for every hour I have given them,
they will return me days and weeks of increased
comfort and health. This much at least I have
learned, and earned, in the first two months of
working experience in my new country.
76 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
Fruits and flowers.-Charms of tropical life.-A visit from Juan's
cousins.-What they wanted.-A strange "baptism."-Prepara-
tions for grafting-Startled by the appearance of a crowd around
my tent.-The convita."-My "neighbors and well-wishers."-
Grafting performed in presence of a large company.-Pro-
nounced a "miracle."-The great feast.-My address.-How
responded to.-Jos6 Ravela.-We resolve to make aroad to
Palenque.-Don Julio's surprise.-He promises assistance.-The
road finished.-Ignorance, not industry, debasing.
A PERPETUAL succession of fruits and flowers is one
of the peculiar charms of tropical life, and March,
like February, belongs emphatically to fruit culture.
The pruning-knife and saw may be used moderately
in January and freely in February, but March is the
month for the final trimming and most reliable graft-
ing of all kinds of fruit-trees, except those absolutely
in the heart of their bearing season.
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
Juan had talked all through February of the graft-
ing exploits we were to perform in March. Some of
the neighbors had a dim idea of the process, but none
had ever witnessed it, and there was quite a stir of
expectation around and about me, though I was
altogether unconscious of it until the day of action
On the last evening of February, I was bending over
the closing notes of the month's summary, when the
hum of voices outside of the tent aroused my attention.
It was Juan, attended by a brace of cousins, who had
come to ask formal permission to be present at "the
baptism of my young orange-trees." For a moment,
I was at a loss for the meaning of this odd phrase;
but Juan explained it by reference to the sour orange-
trees which I was to convert into bearers of sweet
oranges of the first class, by some peculiar process
which his friends were anxious to behold.
"Oh, certainly," said I. "Juan and his friends are
heartily welcome to all I can show them. We will
name next Monday morning for our grafting experi-
ment. But I must first prepare my grafting salve,
78 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
and, to make it properly, I must beg Anita to favor
me with a lump of her nice beeswax."
"En hora buena," exclaimed Juan, joyously. "In
a good hour. My lily of a wife"-Juan had the
habit of calling his ebony spouse his rose" and his
"lily" when his spirits were elated-" my Anita said
only to-day that she ought to bring you some new
honey, and when the smoke is going, and my hands
are among the hives, I will see that you have plenty
of wax. Never fear for that, Senor."
A piece the size of a hen's egg will be sufficient
for all the trees I propose to graft. Don't trouble
yourself or Anita to provide more than that."
"But does not the Sefior want something from the
apothecary at Bani for this famous salve?" inquired
one of the cousins, in an anxious tone. "If he does,
I will walk over there to-night, and bring it to him
No, thank you. Except the wax, I have all I re-
quire in that tin cup on the shelf. I take a bit of
candle and as much rosin, or, as I have no rosin, as
much tar as the tallow and wax together, and I have
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
all I want. These three ingredients well mixed and
melted, and spread on strips of old rags of any kind,
is the whole story of this grafting salve. I hope you
will all remember and practise it."
Wax and tar and tallow," said Juan's other
cousin, in a tone of surprise nearly allied to unbelief,
" nothing but wax, tar, and tallow to baptize a sour
orange into a sweet one! Why, Senor, that stuff is
what we use to cure an ox or a burro when he gets
a bad cut."
Nothing else is needed, I assure you. Fruit-
trees are as easily treated as oxen and donkeys.
Only remember my directions, and practise carefully
the proper method of uniting the young slips of
sweet orange with the stems of the roughest and
wildest nature, and you may have as many fruit-
trees of the best quality as you wish, or have ground
to plant in."
With this recommendation, which they promised
not to forget, my visitors departed in high good
humor, and left me to my solitary but never lonely
repose. I am too full of occupation for lonesomeness
80 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
-which is the oppressing genius of men without an
On the appointed day, not only Juan and his wife
with his cousins and their wives, but at least a
round dozen of their friends, male and female, were
on the ground. After an early cup of coffee, I had
gone over to Juan's cottage to cut scions from the
superior fruit-tree at his door. When I returned I
was a good deal startled at seeing a crowd gathered
around my tent. I felt reassured, however, when
Juan's cousin Anselmo detached himself from the
group, and informed me that these were all my
"neighbors and well-wishers, who had come to see-
with my permission, and if I found nothing improper
in their presence-how I performed the miracle of
changing the nature of a tree from bad to good."
Anselmo had the idea rooted in his mind that
there was some occult, though benign, charm in the
proposed operation. In his simple fancy, it had a
kind of assimilation to the sacred rite which hallows
the infant brow, and brings it within the fold of
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
There was not the remotest tinge of irreverence in
their unsophisticated hearts, and I felt that the short-
est way of explaining the simple and material nature
of the change to be wrought in the fruits yet to be
borne by these hardy stocks, would be to show the
exact character of the operation.
With a few brief words of welcome, I invited them
to the scene of business. They thanked me with im-
pressive solemnity, and moved in mass to the point
indicated, where they took their assigned places with
the grave decorum of a Committee of Observation,
duly authorized to carefully watch and exactly
report every step of the important process.
I could hardly repress a smile as Juan stepped
about, his countenance charged with the deepest ex-
pression of responsibility, ranging his men in a stand-
ing semicircle on one side, and seating the women
under Anita's captainship on the grass, opposite
their liege lords, but a little farther removed from
the centre of operations.
I asked two of them to come forward and notice
the young trees before I beheaded them; that they
82 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
might see for themselves that they were then but
saplings of the common sour orange, although they
were never to be permitted to bear other than
large, sweet fruit, exactly like that of their neigh-
bor Juan's, which, be it said, is the admiration of all
"There are three limes here besides the seventeen
oranges," observed Juan sedately, not for my benefit
-for we had counted them half a dozen times over-
but for a little stage effect on his own account.
"I think we will make sweet oranges of the limes
also, while we are about it, Juan." A suppressed
murmur of amazed delight was the only reply, as I
advanced to.open the play.
The salve and bandages were ready, as well as
the scions, which, as I have already noted, Juan and
I had cut early in the morning. As I successively
headed down and cleft the stem of each young tree,
Juan, previously instructed in his part, with two
smooth strokes of his knife, cut the scion butt into a
long, true wedge, and handed it to me to insert in
the stock. The instant my knife parted the cleft,
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
Anita, and an aide-de-camp cousin, honored for the
day with the charge of the twine, delivered the
bandage, to be wound well and firmly over the union
of scion and stock, and assisted in tying it all in
place. In this order we went from tree to tree, till
every one had received the crowning graft, and then
for the first moment did the anxious company un-
bend from its rigid attitude of attention, and break
forth into the warmest expressions of applause.
More numerous and distinguished spectators may
have cheered the experimental labors of a Franklin,
while seducing the lightning from its wild path in
the heavens, or a Jenner, while spreading the mild
glories of vaccination, but neither of them ever had
an audience more trustful and appreciative, than the
breathless circle whose eyes followed with reveren-
tial faith every motion of the two jack-knives and of
the ancient tin cup, while employed in doing the
honors of that grafting day.
I have no doubt that nearly every man then pres-
ent will try his hand at grafting fruit-trees in some
fashion, and without much regard to time and season,
84 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
but I shall feel well satisfied if any one of them really
I was careful to explain to them that the most
suitable time is towards the close of the dry season,
when the sap is concentrated, and disposed to rush
into vigorous circulation with the early rains; but few
of that class will remember it. Yet it will be well
for new-comers in this sunny and abounding land to
give some heed to these lessons.
Trees may be safely relieved of that luxuriant sur-
plusage of branches, so noticeable in most tropical
countries, at almost any season of the year; but the
time for regular and complete pruning is between
December and May, when the circulation is languid,
and nature declines exhausting her powers in impetu-
ous efforts to sprout new shoots where the old ones
Men of practical experience have assured me that a
judiciouis trimming i'n January or February gave an
advantage equal to a year's growth in oranges, mango,
mamey, and other young fruit-trees,--most of them
being larger, more beautiful, and bearing better at
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
three years, than others in the same grounds, which
were left to themselves, at four, and even five years
from the seed.
There is generally in the Antilles a period of
"forty dry days," some time between the first of
February and the last of March, and this is the chosen
period for pruning and grafting.
My grafting for the current year was begun, and
in all probability was finished, on the memorable first
Monday of March, which I am now chronicling at
this egotistical length. In truth, my kind neigh-
bors made it such a pleasant day that I love to dwell
It was near eleven when the last crowning scion
received the final knot on its bandage, and I was not
sorry to be done with it, and turn to the cool shade
of my embowered tent for an hour's repose.
As I drew back the curtain to enter, I discovered
Anita and her little daughter Teresa buzzing about
like two distracted bees, in the vain endeavor to dis-
pose in neat order a dozen independent heaps of fruits
and vegetables, scattered on the floor, on the table,
86 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
on the boxes that do duty for sofas and chairs, on
every thing, in brief, and in every corner that would
"What in the name of wonder is all this, Anita ?"
"Oh, nothing, Sefior. The 'convita' (the party of
invited guests) knew the Senor was a stranger in our
country, and each of them brought a yam, or some
cassava, or a handful of potatoes, or any nadita (little
nothing) from their own grounds, so as not to give
the Sefior the least trouble about their breakfast."
"Then we are to give all these people a regular
breakfast ?" I demanded in consternation, as my scant
store of camp cups and plates, not to mention where-
with to fill them, flashed across my mind.
"Don't be concerned, Senor," said Anita, with the
triumphant composure of an able general, serenely
conscious that his well-planned arrangements have
secured victory to his banners. "Juan and I have
prepared every thing."
"Is this splendid breakfast to be laid out here,
Anita?" I inquired, in helpless despair, glancing
round at the narrow limits of the tent.
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
"God forbid, Seiior," said the woman, hastily.
"We know better than to take such a liberty with
the Sefior's private apartment."
'Where then is the affair to come off?" I asked,
greatly relieved by this declaration.
I will show the Sefor, if he will please to walk
this way," she answered, radiant with the feminine
delight of having managed a success.
I followed her docilely to the door of the old cabin.
This had been cleared and repaired, to serve as a
kitchen and store-room; and what with barrels, cart,
plough, etc., it was reasonably full of a poor farmer's
working gear; but while I was busy in the early
morning, getting my scions and attending to the mi-
nutie of the grafting preparations, two of Anita's
confidential friends had quietly slipped into pos-
I will not attempt to describe the process by which
three barrels and a couple of planks were converted
into a table; the plough and "cultivator" made the
ornamental supports of a rustic sofa; while the cart
and'wheelbarrow loomed into the dignity of side-
88 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
boards. Enough to say that those who planned the
feast and shared in it, found it to their perfect satis-
The company were not present when I went to sur-
vey the hall of entertainment; Juan had consider-
ately led them off to the site of Buena Vista, to show
them how, thrifty and symmetrical those trees were
growing which we had trimmed in January. When
they returned it was about noon, and the breakfast
was ready for them.
As to the feast, I can only chronicle that an enor-
mous baked fish came from I know not where, and a
vast platter of stewed kid, formidable to the eye, but
of fragrant odor, was rushing in on the head of a
tattered youngster from other unknown regions.
These, with a Spanish "san coche" composed of pig,
pigeon, and plantain-excuse the alliteration-were
the staple dishes. An unlimited supply of corn-cakes
and warm vegetables was kept up by an old crone in
charge of three or four fires back of the cabin, and'
whatever my biscuitbarrel and a smaller one-whose
contents shall be nameless-could do in the way of
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
helping out this wildwood cheer, was frankly con-
My own simple noon meal was served to me apart
in my tent, but when that and theirs were well over,
I went to the cabin and circulated a bundle of native
cigars among my native guests. Not being compel-
led to smoke them myself, I was quite regardless of
the expense, which, for the benefit of future immi-
grants, who should always have some on hand to
offer to country visitors, I will mention, is some-
thing less than a cent each.
After eating, drinking, lounging, and smoking un-
til about two, the whole party, headed by Juan,
filed up before the tent, to offer their aid for the after-
noon in completing my fence. That was a piece of
business at which so many hands could not be em-
ployed to advantage, and I proposed, in its stead, to
name something which I said ought to interest all
A quiet little fellow, named Jose Ravela, promptly
answered, in the name of his companions, that they
had come to offer me their services in whatever way
90 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
would be most acceptable, and I had only to signify
I pointed out, in a few words, that the neighbor-
hood was utterly destitute of a cart road to the port,
though it was but a mile distant from their centre
of settlement at the edge of the prairie.
"Does Sefor Vecino (Sefior neighbor) say we
ought to make this road ?" asked Jose, evidently taken
Yes," I boldly replied, and we ought to make
it now while the season favors us. If we unite our
efforts for one day in a week, we can open for our-
selves a fine, firm, straight road in a couple of months.
It will harden and improve while our crops are grow-
ing, and when they are gathered we can take them
to Palenque in carts, at half the expense and trouble
it now costs to carry them as you do, on the backs
of mules and donkeys."
Enough. We are all ready to follow you in the
work," was the cordial response of the most influen-
tial voices present.
This road had occupied my thoughts for some
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
time, and I had carefully examined the lay of the
land. In effect, the line of the road was so easy and
obvious, that I had in a measure traced it out in ad-
vance. This volunteer force enabled me to begin it
well, and, once begun, I could foresee a way to have
The great coast highway from Santo Domingo to
Azua skirts our savanna for several miles, leaving a
belt of woodland, between it and the sea, but sparsely
dotted with small cleared fields. Mine lay about mid-
way between the prairie edge and the Bay of Palen-
que, but I had no more interest than the poorest of my
farming neighbors in opening this cross road from
the highway along the savanna to our common sea-
port at Palenque, and all of us together scarcely as
much as any one of the large landowners like Don
Julio Perez, who were weekly shipping their sugar
and fine woods from this point.
Armed with axe and machete, my neighbors and I
lost no time in commencing the work at the nearest
point, according to my plan; and, taking the direction
of P&enque, we cut away with such energy, that by
92 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
sunset we had opened a long vista between the walls
of verdure on either hand, to the unbounded satisfac-
tion of the company. There were no large trees to
dispose of, and the nature of the ground is extreme-
ly favorable; so our progress was rapid, and our in-
dustry told well to the eyes and hearts of the labor-
The idea of a road of" our own," where it was so
much needed and so easily made, captivated all,
and before we dispersed it was unanimously agreed
that the neighbors should again unite their forces and
continue the work for three successive Saturdays at
On this I told the company that I felt that we had
earned the right to call on Don Julio Perez and the
large proprietors, who used Palenque as the shipping
port for their rice, sugar, and precious woods, to do
their proportion towards opening a road so useful to
their leading objects of business. My hearers were
perfectly enchanted with the brilliant audacity of an
appeal to the rich proprietors, and pledged them-
selves over and over again, with great heartiness, to
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
undertake with me the half of the road on our prairie
side, if Don Julio would engage for himself and
friends to make the portion that traversed their own
wild lands around Palenque.
When I broached the matter to him I fancied that
Don Julio was slightly astonished at the bold ur-
gency of a poor stranger, but I insisted upon his at-
tention to its bearings on his own interests, and won
from him a promise that he and his friends would do
their part, after land my humble friends (who were
so much less able, and so much less to be profited
by it) had fulfilled our proportion of the under-
Resolved not to spare my own full share of effort,
I spent most of the week in chopping up and remov-
ing to one side of the lane the brush which remained
in the way. My new fence was lined with it, and to
this Juan and I put the finishing bars and stakes as
we went along. It was done on Thursday, and my
field was now not only completely enclosed, but every
tree in it carefully trimmed of dead and superfluous
limbs. All of Friday was given to marking out the
94 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
work for my neighbors, when they should collect in
force for road-making the next day.
They were true to their word, and the day's
work told wonderfully. The first twenty yards were
close chapparal, but beyond that stretched a long
grassy strip of plain ground, which gave us, ready
made, near three hundred yards of excellent road
from nature's own hand. Farther on, our lane cut
through the border of an abandoned field, leaving on
either hand just enough young trees to ensure a
Placing Juan with two assistants at one end of
this troublesome patch of chapparal, and Jos6 Ravela
on the opposite side, I directed them to cut towards
each other until they met, while I crossed the open
glade with the main force and continued the lane on-
ward. By so doing the.two sections laid off for the
forenoon were both well opened at half-past eleven,
when we called a rest.
We had our luncheon on another small open glade,
at the termination of the second section of the morn-
ing's work. From thence we looked back with de-
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
light, through a beautiful straight lane, to the point
The afternoon's work did not show so well; for after
passing the old field, and the little glade beyond it
where the former cultivator once had his cottage and
door-yard, we entered the real forest. But this was
the domain of Don Julio, and, in strict justice, to him
rather than to us belonged the charge of the road
hence to the sea. Our remaining work lay at the
other end of the line, towards the prairie, and was
to be resumed at our first starting-point and carried
out to where it would strike, nearly at right angles,
the royal highway. Still we dented our lane a few
rods into the forest border, so as to connect it with a
beaten horse-path, leading down to the port and
fishing-grounds of Palenque; and we worked zeal
ously to effect this before we separated.
The axe was still ringing, and the machete merrily
plying among the falling limbs, when Don Julio rode
in among us from the winding Palenque path. He
trampled through and over the last felled branches,
and reined up at the head of the long line of light
96 LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
opened by our lane, with a strong exclamation of
delighted surprise. That one long, earnest gaze
through the clear vista carried a more direct convic-
tion to his heart than a thousand arguments. In show-
ing him what we had done, it told him what he ought
to do. When he spoke it was to the purpose.
"This road is exactly what we want, my friends,"
he said, warmly :-" what every man with a croon
of sugar or a stick of timber has suffered for these
thirty years, and it shall be finished forthwith."
This announcement was received with enthusiasm,
and the spirit of mutual helpfulness which took form
that evening has been in active operation the whole
month, and with the month the road has been com-
March has been what it should be, by natural laws,
-a season of fruit-grafting and road-making. The
last Sunday of the month, Don Julio sent a horse
for me to join him and a party of his friends in a ride
to the peerless bathing-coves of Palenque, through
our new and straight road, and through it back again
to a supper at his house.
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGo. 97
I return from it to close my record for the month,
and to add that the fact of my working among work-
ingmen for my daily bread has not unfitted me,
either in my own estimation, nor, so far as I can see,
in the estimation of Don Julio's aristocratic circle,
for the free interchange of useful plans and ideas, if
I happen to possess any, with these privileged "ex-
empts" from manual toil. Remember, honest fellow-
toiler, it is ignorance, not industry, that dwarfs and
debases those men without manhood who would
rather beg than work.
98 LIFE IN ST. DOMINQGO.
Floughing-match at Don Julio's.-Stupidnative.-Unruly oxen.-
An unlooked-for assistant.-Don Delfino de Castro.-Achieve a
great victory.-Compliments and congratulations.-Return
to Buena Vista.-Important changes.-An Eden of tranquil-
lity."-A guest for the night-He proposes to remain longer.-
Camp cooking and coffee-making.-Compact with Don Delfino.-
What we do together.-His man Isidro.-Beautiful appearance
of my orange avenue.-Plentiful showers.-Fragrant blossoms.
-Crowning triumph of my garden.
FRAGRANT April has come and gone. Balmy and
flower-laden is April everywhere, but eminently fra-
grant and blossoming here, where fruits and flowers
crown every month of the year with garlands of
beauty. Strictly speaking, the "wet season" com-
mences in May, but there are few years in which the
frequent and refreshing showers of April will not jus-
tify early planting, particularly of corn, potatoes, and
beans, all of them most excellent and paying crops in
LIFE IN ST. DOMINGO.
the West Indies. It is always within the compass of
the poorest man, if he is willing to work, to produce
these crops in sufficient abundance for the comfort-
able support of a plain farmer's family.
Juan, who has stood by me so faithfully in my
clearing, fencing, road-making, and fruit culture, is
now busy in getting his own crop in the ground, and
can only work for me two or three forenoons in the
week. I had arranged my plans to meet this limit-
ed amount of help, when a timely accession of aid
and encouragement burst in from a most unexpected
Don Julio had offered to lend me a yoke of oxen
to break up my land, and I had proffered in return
the use of my plough to turn up an old field adjoin-
ing his house, which he desired to plant with coffee.
I had no will to trust my heavy plough to his igno-
rant field-hands and ill-trained oxen, and therefore
proposed to do the work myself at a specified time.
We had several falls of rain in the first two weeks
of April; and a succession of three smart showers
within the space of seven days is warrant enough for