ページの画像
PDF
ePub

fall for the men ; for those who, like the faultless painter Andrea del Sarto, could have done so much, risen so high, if only she had been different; had she, with all those charms of beauty which appeal to passion's sense, but brought a mind, a soul, to make her worth the loving.

.“Some women do so," and well for us it is when these women bappen to be our wives.

Woman with whom
We may make this world a Paradise
By walking it together hand in hand,
With eyes that, meeting, find a double strength.

A woman from whom her husband gains in “sweetness and in moral height,” while she from “his large mind in mental breadth,”

Till at the last she sets herself to man
Like perfect music unto noble words.

There is no need for tears then, nor for the sad backward glances that a bachelor occasionally casts. Glances not an ideal of his own making, for how could any man dare to imagine what course even a dream woman would pursue! He looks back at a rose-tinted past, in which amid those fair hills of memory is enthroned a Queen, a woman with a good, sweet face, and lovely eyes, a woman not the less loved because she could not love enough.

He has tried to forget her and succeeded wonderfully, thanks to the universal cure of time, but sometimes, just when he does not want it, the memory comes back with a throb, the old wound aches, a song, a scent, takes him back to the past. Were she sitting here on the other side of the fire in that long, low chair, just made for dreaming !

How should we feel ; would the picture be as perfect as fancy's brush has painted it, the consummation of infinite content ? or should we find that, without the radiance lent to it by the light of illusion, the canvas is as gray as a November afternoon, and our hearts full to overflowing with the fog of disappointment and dead hopes ? Ah! who can tell ?

E. B. fox.

QUASHIE.

CT. THOMAS and the Virgin Islands were behind us, and the D Eider was steaming over a placid and azure sea towards Montserrat. We had assembled for dinner in the saloon. Then, for the first time, it was borne in upon those of us, to whom the Sunlands were new, that henceforth Quashie was to be a reality and not merely a name; the all-pervading human fact of the Crown colonial life we were to lead. The dress-coated, white-tied, demure looking persons of the male sex, who, on that memorable evening, handed us soup, fish, entrées, joints, and what not, were black, black as the ants, who persistently promenaded the table cloth. It was a fresh sensation for us, the new-comers to the Caribbean, and impressed us vividly. I almost doubt whether the "tropic palms in cluster,” the glorious glens of the Guadeloupe and Dominica coasts, affected the imagination more. And it might well be so. From this moment onward over the long years, Quashie would make our beds, cook our dinners, wash our clothes, sweep our floors, drive our cabs, preserve order, light lamps, and be the most frequent human feature in the streets. He had ceased to be a precious exotic, as we had known him at Missionary meetings, for example; but was at home, of the soil, his foot on his native heath, so to speak, with none of his flavourand fragrance lost in journeying north.

No longer shall we see "white" men performing menial offices. "Jeames,” “Tummas,” and “Mary Jane” have all turned sable, The "buccra” and the servile function are dissociated. I call to mind a curious instance of creole inability to connect the dominant race with revolt, a condition implying some sort of prior servitude. I once set a history paper for a forni made up of Portuguese, negroes, mulattoes, quadroons, octaroons, coolies, and whites. One of my questions bore reference to the peasant troubles in the reign of Richard II. A little Scotch creole of fourteen, in answering, wrote : “The rebels came into the city and killed all the white men

they met.” I was for a time puzzled to understand how he arrived at “white men.” He showed me his Collier's “ History of England ” in proof of his correctness, and there I saw that the word used was “gentlemen,” and understood at once my pupil's mistake. Yes, the ground-work of the community in which our lot was cast, was black. It was Quashie, Quashie everywhere.

One of the first new and strange things about Quashie, our Quashie, studied in his habitat, was that he was an Englishman. The matutinal jam at the Kaieteur Hotel was encased in a somewhat original pot, so I asked the black waiter where it came from. “It come from home, sah,” said he suavely and ingenuously. And then I learnt that by “home” he meant England, which, moreover, is referred to as “home” by dusky myriads, who have never seen her cliffs rise above the waves. A few weeks later, I went on a boating excursion up the Camoonie Creek, an affluent of our river, and the rowers were negro creoles of the colony. The sun beat down hotly upon them, and therefore, to stimulate themselves to exertion, they sang in chorus. Here is the refrain they were never weary of repeating, for it celebrated their imagined prowess at Waterloo : We bully dogs of Jargetown blazed away,

Fanderanderango.
We made the Frenchman run that day,

Fanderanderango. They sang with delighted emphasis, appropriating to themselves a full share of the national triumph. I am afraid I strove to encourage a jingo spirit among my coloured fellow-subjects. At any rate one of them, soon after I acquired his acquaintance, made it plain to me that the flame of an Imperial patriotism glowed within his breast. His hue was very much that of Lord Beaconsfield's statue which stands opposite St. Margaret's Church, Westminster. I regarded him, I hope, with a proper composure of countenance, when he assured me that he never felt so proud of being an Englishman as when he travelled in the islands of the Antilles, whither he had fled for his health's sake, and because of business complexities. Everywhere, he said, his nationality caused him to be treated with respect and consideration, whereas Frenchmen of his own colour, I presume, were of much less account. But, after all, Paul, who was a Jew, could say with good effect, Civis Romanus sum, and why should not Quashie proudly utter the modern equivalent of the Latin phrase ? Still, he does allow his imagination to run a long way with him, where his northern “home” is concerned.

In personal reverence for our Royal family he is not outdone by

any Englishman. I recall an interesting incident, which well illustrates this point. It occurred during the visit--now many years ago

-of the Duke of Edinburgh to the West Indies. Prince Alfred had just departed in the early morning from a house, where he had been enjoying the delightful hospitality of a tropical host. This gentleman was a planter, and when the Prince had been gone an hour or two, it occurred to him and his family that the water, which had served for the Royal tubbing, was too precious to be poured away. He hurried to give orders for its being left untouched till a domestic council decided whether it should be bottled or not. He was too, too late. He had been anticipated by Quashie. The loyal black servants of the family had drunk every drop of the precious fluid. Possibly they thought it might work a charm ; but, in any case, it was only a vast profundity of regard for the son of the Queen which could have led to such an emptying of the bath.

As I have mentioned the bath, it may be as well to observe in this place that Quashie at the equator is clean. Ablutions are a luxury in the tropics, never a hardship. No memory of the sunlands is to be recalled with more delight than the tub at six in the morning, when one never wearied of pouring the contents of the full calabash over one's head. And after it, the coffee and buttered toast were so very, very good. And as Quashie has a keen eye for luxuries approved by the white man, and as there was no lack of water in our colony, he was almost amphibious. Often, when the frequent deluge of our forest lands came down, he revelled in a shower bath. He merely, to do this, took off his clothes and walked about in the downpour, and when the clouds rolled by, he had small need of a towel to dry himself.

Possibly it was owing to this popularity of water that the calling most followed by the dark-skinned ladies of our city was that of “washer.” In fact, if the census returns are to be accepted as affording trustworthy data on this point, there must be more “washers” than shirts and collars in Demerara. As at cards there is the axiom, “When in doubt, play trumps," so the sable Demerarian, uncertain as to her status, makes it a rule to put herself down a “washer.” And when she is a “washer,” she despatches wristbands, and fronts, and collars with a destructive energy scarcely exceeded by the London laundress. Naturally, linen has a shorter life at the tropics than at home. It is seldom worn more than an hour or two before it is drenched with perspiration, and collars and cuffs are not so much soiled by dinner time, as so many flabby, clammy pieces of damp cloth. In this condition they are sent to the “washer," who returns them admirable specimens of laundry work, but, after frequent intervals of too brief brilliance, in rags.

As a cook also, Qúashie merits respectful mention. In excursions into the forest, if you have him with you, you need, beside the kettle, take no other kitchen utensil than the iron pot, similar to the one in vogue among the peasantry of France. He will always manage to extract something toothsome from it for you, when you come in to eat, after watching the fly-catchers darting about the “benabs”) in the twilight, or the insect-like humming birds swarming in the low bush by the creek side. There is an immense amount of culinary resource in a tropical Crown colony. I am inclined to attribute this undeniable circumstance to slavery. “Massa ” was in the old times a man to be humoured at all costs. The liver doubtless gave him much trouble, as it does his descendants to-day. His appetite often failed him, even when whetted with gin swizzles, and sherries and bitters. Quashie felt that life would not be for him worth living, if he did not conquer the squeamishness of massa's refractory stomach. So he strove strenuously to attain this object, and became a chef of the first order. If Mirobolant had been privileged to partake of the hospitality of our Government House of ten years ago, he would not have hesitated to embrace the Quashie, responsible for the general excellence of the dishes, as a brother artist.

As everybody knows, however, it is not in every department of industrious activity that the West Indian negro can be depended upon as a worker. He is entirely of the mind of the man who coined the proverb that “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy." He has probably never heard that phrase of such unholy import in the Ibsenite drama, La Joie de Vivre, but he enjoys existence. He, now he is free, declines absolutely to become a merely wealth-producing animal, with fitful intervals of unquiet rest. And, surely, there is nothing in this to shock any philanthropically minded person. For him healthy and happy Quashies will be a pleasanter subject to contemplate than merely wealthy and wise ones would be. And the West Indian negro's sense of humour, his capacity for hearty laughter, his quick appreciation of a joke, of the very faintest scintilla of wit, made a deep and agreeable impression upon me. How thoroughly well off he was in mind and body came home to me when first I realised that between me and him once more rolled some four thousand odd miles of Atlantic Ocean. We had arrived at the docks in the Thames, and again, after two years, I saw white men in dismal clothing. But it was not that which was so depressing. It was the

1« Benab” = Indian dwelling,

« 前へ次へ »