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principal room is merely of clay, rubbed with a red powder, which, mixed with water, hardens into a firm, polished surface. The house has but one story; the timbers of the roof, unwhitened, forming the only ceiling. The furniture consists of cane easy-chairs, a dining-table, and a pretty hammock, swung across one end of the room. Here we sit and talk long. Our host has many good books in French and Spanish, and in English, Walter Scott's Novels, which his wife fully appreciates.
A walk is proposed, and we go first to visit los negros chiquitos, — Anglicè, "the small niggers," in their nursery. We find their cage airy enough; it is a house with a large piazza completely inclosed in coarse lattice-work, so that the pequeñuelos cannot tumble out, nor the nurses desert their charge. Our lady friend produces a key, unlocking a small gate which admits us. We found, as usual, the girls of eight and upwards tending the babies, and one elderly woman superintending them. On our arrival, African drums, formed of logs hollowed out, and covered with skin at the end, were produced. Two little girls proceeded to belabor these primitive instruments, and made a sort of rhythmic strumming, which kept time to a monotonous chant. Two other girls executed a dance to this, which, for its slowness, might be considered an African minuet. The dancing children were bright-looking, and not ungraceful. Work stops at noon for a recess; and the mothers run from the field to visit the imprisoned babies, whom they carry to their own homes and keep till the afternoon-hour for work comes round, which it does at two, P. M. We went next to the negro-houses, which are built, as we have described others, contiguous, in one hollow square. On this plantation the food of the negroes is cooked for them, and in the middle of the inclosed square stood the cooking-apparatus, with several large caldrons. Still, we found little fires in most of the houses, and the inmates employed in concocting some tidbit or other. A hole in the roof serves
for a chimney, where there is one, but they as often have the fire just before their door. The slaves on this plantation looked in excellent condition, and had, on the whole, cheerful countenances. The good proportion of their increase showed that they were well treated, as on estates where they are overworked they increase scarcely or not at all. We found some of the men enjoying a nap between a board and a blanket. Most of the women seemed busy about their household operations. The time from twelve to two is given to the negroes, besides an hour or two after work in the evening, before they are locked up for the night. This time they improve mostly in planting and watering their little gardens, which are their only source of revenue. negroes on this estate had formed a society amongst themselves for the accumulation of money; and our friend, the manager of the plantation, told us that they had on his books two thousand dollars to their credit. One man alone had amassed six hundred dollars, a very considerable sum, under the circumstances. We visited also the house of the mayoral, or overseer, whose good face seemed in keeping with the general humane arrangements of the place, as humane, at least, as the system permits. The negroes all over the island have Sunday for themselves; and on Sunday afternoons they hold their famous balls, which sometimes last until four o'clock on Monday morning. Much of the illness among the negroes is owing to their imprudence on these and like occasions. Pneumonia is the prevalent disease with them, as with the slaves in our own South; it is often acute and fatal. Everything in Cuba has such a tendency to go on horseback, that we could not forbear asking if dead men did, and were told that it was so, -the dead negroes being temporarily inclosed in a box, and conveyed to the cemetery on the back of a horse. Our friend, seeing our astonishment, laughed, and told us that the poor whites were very glad to borrow the burial-horse and box, to furnish their own funerals.
Dinner was served at four o'clock, quite informally, in the one sitting-room of the house. A black girl brushed off the flies with a paper fly-brush, and another waited on table. The dinner was excellent; but I have already given so many bills of fare in these letters, that I will content myself with mentioning the novelty of a Cuban country-dish, a sort of stew, composed of ham, beef, mutton, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yuca, and yams. This is called Ayacco, and is a characteristic dish, like eel-soup in Hamburg, or salt codfish in Boston;-as is usual in such cases, it is more relished by the inhabitants than by their visitors. On the present occasion, however, it was only one among many good things, which were made better by pleasant talk, and were succeeded by delicious fruits and coffee. After dinner we visited the vegetable garden, and the well, where we found Candido, the rich negro who had saved six hundred dollars, drawing water with the help of a blind mule. Now the philanthrope of our party was also a phrenologist, and had conceived a curiosity to inspect the head of the very superior negro who had made all this money; so, at his request, Candido was summoned from the well, and ordered to take off his hat. This being removed disclosed the covering of a cotton handkerchief, of which he was also obliged to divest himself.
Candido was much too well bred to show any signs of contumacy; but the expression of his countenance varied, under the observation of the phrenologist, from wonder to annoyance, and from that to the extreme of sullen, silent wrath. The reason was obvious, he supposed himself brought up with a view to bargain and sale; and when informed that he had a good head, he looked much inclined to give somebody else a bad one. He was presently allowed to go back to his work; and our sympathies went with him, as it would probably take some days to efface from his mind the painful impression that he was to be sold, the last calamity that can happen to a negro who is in kind hands. We now wan
dered through the long avenues of palm and fruit trees with which the estate was planted, and saw the stout black wenches at their out-door occupations, which at this time consisted chiefly in raking and cleansing the ground about the roots of the trees and flowers. Their faces brightened as their employers passed, and the smaller children kissed hands. Returned to the house, we paused awhile to enjoy the evening red, for the sun was already below the horizon. Then came the volante, and with heartfelt thanks and regrets we suffered it to take us away.
And who had been the real hero of this day? Who but Roque, fresh from town, with his experience of Carnival, and his own accounts of the masked ball, the Paseo, and the Señorita's beaux? All that durst followed him to the gate, and kissed hands after him. "Adios, Roque! Roque, adios!" resounded on all sides; and Roque, the mysterious one, actually smiled in conscious superiority, as he nodded farewell, and galloped off, dragging us after him.
As we drove back to Matanzas in the moonlight, a sound of horses' feet made us aware that Don Antoñito, the young friend who had planned and accompanied our day's excursion, was to be our guard of honor on the lonely road. A body-servant accompanied him, likewise mounted. Don Antoñito rode a milk-white Cuban pony, whose gait was soft, swift, and stealthy as that of a phantom horse. His master might have carried a brimming glass in either hand, without spilling a drop, or might have played chess, or written love-letters on his back, so smoothly did he tread the rough, stony road. All its pits and crags and jags, the pony made them all a straight line for his rider, whose unstirred figure and even speech made this quite discernible. For when a friend talks to you on the trot, much gulping doth impede his conversation, and there is even a good deal of wallop in a young lady's gallop. But our friend's musical Spanish ran on like a brook with no stones in it, that merely talks to the moonlight for com
pany. And such moonlight as it was that rained down upon us, except where the palm-trees spread their inverted parasols, and wouldn't let it! And such a glorification of all trees and shrubs, including the palm, which we are almost afraid to call again by name, lest it should grow "stuck up,” and imagine there were no other trees but itself! And such a combination of tropical silence, warmth, and odor! Even in the night, we did not forget that the aloe-hedges had red in them, which made all the ways beautiful by day. Oh! it was what good Bostonians call "a lovely time"; and it was with a sigh of fulness that we set down the goblet of enjoyment, drained to the last drop, and getting, somehow, always sweeter towards the bottom.
For it was set down at the Ensor House, which we are to leave to-night, half-regretful at not having seen the scorpion by which we always expected to be bitten; for we had heard such accounts of it, patrolling the galleries with its venomous tail above its head, that we had thought a sight might be worth a bite. It was not to be, however. The luggage is brought; John is gratified with a peso; and we take leave with entire goodwill.
I mention our departure, only because it was Cuban and characteristic. Returning by boat to Havana, we were obliged to be on board by ten o'clock that evening, the boat starting at eleven. Of course, the steamer was nowhere but a mile out in the stream; and a little cockleshell of a row-boat was our only means of attaining her. How different, ye good New Yorkers and Bostonians, from your afternoon walk on board the “Bay State," with valise and umbrella in hand, and all the flesh-pots of Egypt in well, in remembrance! After that degree of squabbling among the boatmen which serves to relieve the feelings of that habitually disappointed class of men, we chose our craft, and were rowed to the steamer, whose sides were steep and high out of water. The arrangements on board were peculiar. The body of the main
deck was occupied by the gentlemen's cabin, which was large and luxurious. A tiny after-cabin was fitted up for the ladies. In the region of the machinery were six horrible staterooms, bare and dirty, the berths being furnished simply with cane-bottoms, a pillow, and one unclean sheet. Those who were decoyed into these staterooms endured them with disgust while the boat was at anchor; but when the paddle-wheels began to revolve, and dismal din of clang and bang and whirr came down about their ears, and threatened to unroof the fortress of the brain, why, then they fled madly, precipitately, leaving their clothes mostly behind them. But I am anticipating. The passengers arrived and kept arriving; and we watched, leaning over the side, for Don Antoñito, who was to accompany our voyage. Each boat had its little light; and to see them dancing and toppling on the water was like a fairy scene. At last came our friend; and after a little talk and watching of the stars, we betook ourselves to rest.
Many of the Dons were by this time undressed, and smoking in their berths. As there was no access to the ladies' cabin, save through the larger one, she who went thither awaited a favorable moment and ran, looking neither to the right hand nor the left. The small space was tolerably filled by Cuban ladies in full dress.- Mem. They always travel in their best clothes.-The first navigation among them was a real balloon-voyage, with collisions; but they soon collapsed and went to bed. All is quiet now; and she of whom we write has thrown herself upon the first vacant bed, spreading first a clean napkin on the extremely serviceable pillow. Sleep comes; but what is this that murders sleep? A diminutive male official going to each berth, and arousing its fair occupant with "Doña Teresita," or whatever the name may be, "favor me with the amount of your passage-money." No comment is necessary; here, no tickets,- here, no stewardess to mediate between the unseen captain and the unprotected female! The
sanctuary of the sex invaded at midnight, without apology and without rebuke! Think of that, those passengers who have not paid their fare, and, when invited to call at the captain's office and settle, do so, and be thankful! The male passengers underwent a similar visitation. It is the Cuban idea of a compen dious and economic arrangement.
And here ends our account of Matanzas, our journey thither, stay, and return. Peace rest upon the fair city! May the earthquake and hurricane spare it! May the hateful Spanish government sit lightly on its strong shoulders! May the filibusters attack it with kisses, and conquer it with loving-kindness! So might it be with the whole island-vale!
THE FIRST AND THE LAST.
It was the last December of the eighteenth century. All night a fierce northeast snow-storm had been hissing and drifting through the frozen air, pelting angrily at the shuttered and curtained windows of the rich, and shrieking with scornful laughter as it forced its way through the ill-fitting casements and loose doors of the poor, clutching at them with icy fingers as they cowered over their poor fires, and spreading over the garret-beds in which they sought to hide from him a premature shroud of cold white snow.
But with morning the storm ceased, and a little before noon the sun, peering from behind his clouds, seemed to wink with astonishment at seeing how much had been done in his absence.
Not only the sun, but Mr. Phineas Coffin, guardian of the "town's poor,” in the town of Newport, was astir, and, standing at the door of the "poor-'us," bent a contemplative eye upon the progress made by two stout youths who were clearing the snow from the sidewalks and paths upon his premises.
Mr. Coffin perceived that a trial of skill and speed was going on between one of his own pioneers and a lad similarly engaged on behalf of the next estate. About half-way between the rapidly approaching competitors stood a roughhewn block of stone, marking the boundaries of the two estates.
To first reach this, the winning-post,
was evidently the emulous desire of each. As they approached near and nearer, the snow flew from their shovels with a force and velocity which would certainly have reminded Mr. Coffin of a steam snow-plough, had he ever seen or heard of such a thing, which he most assuredly never had.
Each boy performed prodigies of skill and valor. The "poor-'us" lad evidently gained, and his patron did not conceal a wide smile of satisfaction; the rival looked up, saw it, was stung with generous rage, threw himself with fury upon his shovel, and in three enormous plunges laid bare his own side of the post, before "poor-'us" had come within a foot of it.
Then, clapping his numb fingers upon his thighs, the successful champion uttered a melodious crow, which so disgusted the spectator that he was about to retire within doors, when his eyes fell upon a thinly clad, timid-looking woman who was advancing along the newly opened path, casting deprecating glances at the two boys, who from peaceful rivalry were now proceeding to open warfare, carried on with the ammunition so plentifully spread before them.
Nor was the alarm of the poor woman groundless; for, as she advanced into the battle-field, she found herself saluted upon the breast with an immense snow-ball, which, being of loose construction, adhered to the red broadcloth cloak of the pedes
The First and the Last.
trian, forming a conspicuous and remark-
Besides, Nathaniel, the poorhouse lad,
His rival did not seek to conceal the expression of his triumph and derision, the consequence of which was, that, as soon as "poor-'us" could see, he fell upon his antagonist, and both immediately disappeared from view in the bosom of an enormous drift.
"Come right along, Mum," called Mr. Coffin to the horror-stricken woman, who stood contemplating the spot where a convulsive floundering and heaving beneath the snow showed that the frozen element had not yet extinguished the fire of passion in the breasts of the buried heroes, come right along, and don't be scaart of them young uns. They're drefful rude, I know; but then boys will be boys."
The woman returned no answer to this time-honored defence of youthful enormities, but, hurrying on, reached the door, saying,
Why, it's Widder Janes,-a'n't it?
Waal, I dunno as I can stop," replied the widow, beginning, nevertheless, to shake the snow from her scanty skirts, and to stamp her numb feet, which were protected from the biting cold by a pair of old yarn socks, drawn over the shoes.
"I was wantin' to see ye, a minit," continued she; "but Miss Coffin allers keeps cleaned up so slick, I don't hardly darst to come in."
"Oh, waal,” replied Phineas, with a chuckle of satisfaction at the compliment to his wife. "Ye look nice enough for Come right in, this anybody's folks.
"I dunno how 'tis," continued the visitor, as she followed her host through the long entry, "that Miss Coffin can allers be so forehanded with her work, an' do sich a master sight on't, too. don't never seem to be in the suds, Monday nor no time."
Mr. Coffin had reached the door of the "keeping-room” as the widow concluded her last remark; but pausing, with his thumb upon the latch, he turned, and, looking over his shoulder, whispered, with an emphatic nod,—
"Fact is, Miss Janes, there a'n't sich a great many women jest like Miss Coffin."
"There a'n't no two ways about that," murmured Miss Janes, assentingly, as the door was thrown open.
Walk right in. Here, Marthy, the widder Janes has called to see you this morning."
A quiet, middle-aged woman turned round from the table, where she was fitting patches to a pair of pauper trouHer face was sweet, her voice
How's your health this morning, Mr. low, and, though she was of middle age, Coffin?"
"Waal, Ma'am, I'm pooty middlin' well, thank ye," replied Phineas, slowly, and with an evident effort at recollection; then suddenly added, with more vivacity,
every one agreed that "Miss Coffin was a real pooty woman, an' a harnsome woman too."
"How does thee do, Keziah Janes? I am glad to see thee. Take a seat by the fire, and warm thee after thy cold walk."