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of workers who
ning strongly through the herd, on horseback every day by and perhaps 150 first-class seven o'clock, riding among mules; yet so hard are the the gangs times that neither class of clean the banana - plantations, animal fetches anything like pick the coffee, and pack the the price of former years. oranges, yet it seemed but a Some planters are reducing few minutes before the bell their works, and are not buy- rang, its welcome sound being ing the same amount of work- the work-clock of the neighing stock as they used to; bourhood, announcing the hour others have thrown up their of breakfast. It was always plantations altogether, and sold a meal worthy of the appetites off to the butchers a second- that awaited it, spread upon class animal (their working a carpet of brilliant flowers stock) at a lower price than from the little garden outside the pen - keeper can afford to the house, and helped by clusdo. Not only so, but ex- ters of white orchids, which planters constantly turn pen- grow in profusion on every keepers themselves, and, by roadside tree. Not a great deal sending into the towns an in- in the way of meat, mercifullyferior animal, seriously disturb generally generally a duck or a first-rate the markets belonging prop- steak; and then a wealth of erly to a trade scarcely less vegetables, such as roast yams, important than their own. I fried plantain, bread-fruit, and do not write this to complain pear, to supply all the nutriof the pen-keeping profession ment that is pleasant in the in Jamaica, for I believe that hot weather; followed by melincreased steamer facilities be- ons, pines, oranges, and bantween the West Indian Islands anas, such as Covent Garden and the mainland will reveal rarely sees, and a demi-tasse a splendid group of markets of black coffee, which is a to demand the supply from veritable revelation. For drink, Jamaican cattle breeders: I recollecting that Robert Louis only desire to indicate how Stevenson so frequently men far-reaching the effects of the tioned "claret and а slice failure in the sugar industry of pine-apple" in the Vailima may be. Yet with all this dis- Letters, we occasionally intress in the air, I understand dulged in that; but generally that large sums of money are to it was Scottish whisky with be spent in Kingston in convert- mineral waters and a large ing the mule-tramcars into elec- supply of ice, though shanditric cars, thus throwing a large gaff, and even gin, came occanumber of men out of work, and sionally before our thirsty notice. closing a good market for mules. (Dear Maga,' pardon this gasBut to the winds with such re- tronomic interlude, which is not, flections in holiday-time! I confess, of as general interest as its factors were essential to our diurnal contentment.)
How quickly the days passed amongst all the novelties of this place! Although we were
VOL. CLXV.—NO. M.
After luncheon let me admit
to a regular irregularity in Jamaican life—namely, a midday siesta; and let me notice at the same time the difference in habit between the workers in Southern Europe and in these tropical parts. For although the sun beats far less fiercely in the former regions, yet work is generally slack towards noon, and an after-dinner sleep is the rule. We have all noticed that in Italy and Spain. But in Jamaica, as soon as the workman's dinner is done, it lasts generally from 11 to 11.30,-he goes on cheerfully with his work till five in the evening, when the same bell bids him leave off for the day.
Included in the Knockalva property are two other estates, named Bogue and Retrieve. The former is close to Montego Bay, and consists of about seventeen islands in the sea, where some excellent shooting is to be had in winter - time. From these islands the property stretches up to the hills inland, and abounds in logwood, which is now being carefully cultivated, as there is a considerable demand for it. To see a forest of logwood in proper trim is a very pretty sight, for the silver-grey trunk of a good tree looks like several birchtrees bound together, spreading at no great height into branches bearing beautiful cool green leaves, not unlike the English thorn. The trees must not be close together, and the grass beneath is rich both in colour and in nutriment, bush and weed being conspicuously absent.
One can often see far into these deep quiet forests in consequence; and the effect is sometimes heightened by the herds of cattle that pasture in their shade, or stand to drink at some pool that glistens, and diminishes, in the sun.
Retrieve is a different sort of property, situated on the heights overlooking Lucia (pronounced Lucíe), where the cultivations of logwood, cattle, and pimento are all equally undertaken. It is hard to realise at this distance from the scene that one was driving but a week agone along the sea-shore, in groves of cocoanuts, for miles at a time, the deep dark-blue of the sea in lovely contrast to the graceful green trees that fringe its coast; now passing vast fields of sugar-cane, whose purple - feathered tops proclaimed that the time of harvest was near; now under great tree-ferns that vary the monotony of high hedges of sensitive plant; accompanied everywhere by gay butterflies and hummingbirds. And amid all this natural profusion live the negroes in their little log-huts, or, if in humbler circumstances, in bothies built of leaves and grass. They all seemed to be busy with something or another. At the doors women were sewing or men were cobbling; here, a little darkey girl combing out her sister's hair under a great Poinsettia-tree, whose red leaves burned brilliant in the sun; there, little picaninnies in a state of nature chasing chickens and pigs; now, where a stream
1 Written during a snowstorm in New York.
crosses the road, groups of girls washing linen with their sleeves rolled up well over their elbows, and their skirts well up to their knees; and all along the road we passed men driving cattle or mule-trains laden with produce to the nearest market. From each and all we were certain of a "Marnin', massa"; to which my brother (who is sub-agent at Knockalva) would always answer, "How you do, missis?" and received the unvarying reply, "So so, tank massa," which is the most reassuring account that a negro ever gives of his health.
Would that there were time to tell of the many amusing things that the natives said to me, their phrases and their proverbs, of the old-time retainers who once were slaves and still call a blessing as he passes upon "my owner ; of the great
"Howdye," when all the black residents and employees of Knockalva marched up in their hundreds with bands and banners to bid me welcome to Jamaica. And I wish I could describe in fitting language the harvest festival, with its decorations of palms, peppers, jam, pickles, loaves on the altar, and a coopful of hens at the vestry door. But all these things, unprinted, remain as abiding memories. Many a foggy winter's night will pass uncursed, and many an hour of Scottish estimates will pass unnoticed, if, in a true spirit of self-detachment, I can transport my mind back to those warm evenings at Knockalva, when, after busy days, we sat, Maurice and Ï, under the old brown verandah, and, amid a firmament of fireflies, talked of home.
A BIRTHDAY LETTER OF APOLOGY.
THE HILL BUNGALOW, KLEDANG, PERAK, Nov. 20, 1898. DEAR 'MAGA,'- Yesterday your letter was brought up here in "ladies' fingers." It is true that these were in a cook's basket with other green food, not to mention eggs and a chicken-still the omen was a happy one, and presaged the good news. So your thousandth birthday is next February. What can I do with the year's end coming, here perched alone upon a mountain like Don Quixote in his shirt, and not a Chinaman or Malay within reach, except Ah Tung the caretaker and Haji Mat the gardener, of whom I know nothing worth relating? Invent I cannot, to plagiarise I am ashamed.
Oh, I can't find anything to write about in this dull place. For what does 'Maga' want to hear about but men and women? and to what will she turn a deafer ear than to the "trite tropics" style of word-painting, with its dazzling sunshine, its impenetrable forests, its bird of gorgeous plumage on every bough? Who wants to read about a country farm, an icefield, a semi-detached suburban residence? What is the good of forcing upon an indifferent world the little affairs of a tea-planter, or an invalid in the Canaries, or a Bishop in his diocese? What is life on a ranche-in a mine-in a bank -in a balloon-to people out of the trade?
It poured as we came up yes
terday. By the way, you will be glad to hear that I am not all alone: there is another person. Thankful indeed were we when the last turn of the crooked six-foot path brought us in sight of the little compound on the ridge, with the zinc-roofed bungalow in the centre. Our coolies, Klings from Madras, and Chinese, must have been equally pleased; and they did not fail to ask for something extra on account of the weather. The Chinese boldly took their dollar a-head, and urgently demanded cents for spirits, grinned and marched off. The Klings accepted their half-dollar, acquiescing in the humiliating fact of being only half value; then lingered shivering obtrusively, smiling enticingly, deprecatingly; twiddled their toes, and slipped away. The tin roof was deafening with the drumming of the rain; and we watered the house as we moved about and sadly gazed upon the puddle that had been bread.
This house has no fireplace, except of course the cookingrange in the outhouse behind. That is a pity, for two reasons: first, because, unlike the weather in the valley, it often rains here in the morning as well as afternoons, and you want somewhere to dry your clothes at; and second, because the pleasure of feeling uncomfortably and unusually cold is marred by the absence of a wood fire where you could warm your toes and roast jack-fruit seeds
(something like Spanish chestnuts if flavoured with imagination), declaring it is just like Home. Still, to be able honestly and truthfully to shiver is a great deal.
The house, which is of wood, is raised on posts a few feet above the ground. A broad verandah runs along its whole frontage, and the bedrooms open upon the verandah. The verandah is closed in with panes of glass all round, which is also a delightful novelty. When the lamps are lighted and the wind comes drenched with rain and beats against these panes, and shakes the window frames and whistles through the chinks, then you may shut your eyes and sneeze, and dream of an English night in November. The gusts fly down sobbing through the wet tree-tops, and in the lulls clouds of dense white mist press close against the windows. "Oh the poor sailors!" says the other person involuntarily. But all the while our friends in the valley are blessing it for a cooler, fresher night.
The porch in front of the house is hung with creeping boughs of honeysuckle, covered with perennial blossom, and always throwing out long tendrils which grapple in vain with the smooth surface of the
corrugated roof. But honeysuckle grows over our orchidhouses in the valley, so here, though good, it is not the best. Roses-big, loose, pink roses— grow in great bushes on both sides of the porch, a mass of colour that never fades. You may strip the bushes to-day, and load every finger-glass and
tumbler you can find, but before these flowers are withered the place of them is rosy with their sisters. And then there are white dwarf roses lower down. Here we are only 3000 feet above sea-level: another 1500 feet will bring you to the zone of white and purple violets.
The terraced garden falls steeply away below us. With the roses are other plants, lovely in their way, but tropical, and therefore half repugnant to the European spirit of the hour. Gardenias, which shine like stars from out their dark-green foliage, are importunate of perfume. Oh that I could sell them for button-holes at sixpence apiece! Then there are huge shrubs aflame with flowers like hollyhocks. We call them the shoe-flower, because, when your boy has finished the blacking for your brown shoes, as an alternative to cleaning and ruining them with lemon, he brings them to an equally illgotten lustre by rubbing them with these red flowers. Lower down there are magenta sprays of bougainvillea, and a wonderful creeper with huge golden bells, which, just because it loves to break loose and climb squirrel - fashion among the branches, therefore Haji Mat must, after his kind, crib into a sort of geni's-bottle framework of sticks, daily cutting off its head to keep it in its place.
Is it merely a matter of associated memories, or are the names we give to flowers singularly suited to them? Could Cowslip, Ragged Robin, or Primrose belong to any other than plants born to live in cool damp fields and hedgerows?