Слике страница

Thus, there is a great deal of religion in the West Indies, but little Christianity. For instance, Sunday is most religiously observed in the West Indies. The majority of the lower classes do not care to do anything in the shape of labour on that day. Large numbers attend places of worship, but their chief delight is to sit in the open air and sing hymns, and the more solemn and dolorous those hymns are, the better. To break the Sabbath day in the West Indies is a greater crime with the peasant than to tell a lie.

But it must not be gathered from the above remarks that the West Indian negro is incapable of becoming a real Christian. Not at all; for there are thousands of exceptions to the general rule, but I am dealing with the majority now; and also with the present time, not the future.

Now, whatever one chooses to think of the origin of our moral sentiments, it must be universally admitted that different systems of religion will have various effects on them. Immorality, for instance, is little thought of as a breach of a moral law in West Africa, and the chief reason of this is because it has never been condemned by the native religion. Where adultery is punished in that country it is because an injustice against a man's personal rights has been committed, not because of the heinousness of the deed per se. Similarly, stealing may be condemned from a utilitarian point of view, for it is certainly very annoying to have your things stolen; but West African religion has nothing to say against it. But reverence for the priesthood, for superiors, for elders, and for parents is almost an article of faith with the West African negro, and in nearly all these respects the force of heredity tells in his pure-blooded offspring.

It has ever been said that the negro is not honest, and the consensus of opinion in the West Indies is that the lower class negro is very much inclined to petty theft. He is not a burglar; he will not attack you on the highway for the purpose of robbing you; he

rarely thinks of taking your life for your money, yet he will rob his honest neighbour's neighbour's" provision ground" without the slightest compunction. This prædial thieving is the chief crime of the lowest classes of the West Indian peasantry. No one suffers by it so much as the hard-working black planter, who may awake any morning to find the results of weeks of labour robbed from him in a single night.

It has sometimes been alleged that the West Indian negro cannot cooperate for any useful purpose; but this assertion is emphatically negatived by the numerous Friendly Societies and Unions that have been flourishing for the last thirty or forty years. This spirit of co-operation is yet in its infancy, so to speak; but, of course, a fully developed system of voluntary cooperation is the product of a corresponding state of civilization. The very fact that it exists here in an incipient stage is something hopeful, and I cannot concur either in the assertion that the negro is absolutely thriftless. It is scarcely fair to expect thrift from people who, in the majority of cases, have little to live upon. But even in this respect there is positive evidence in favour of the negro. Where did he get the money to buy the land he now owns in the West Indies? There is enough evidence to prove that he worked for it. Mr. Stewart in his "Account of Jamaica,' first published in 1808, gave it as his opinion that a great part of the gold and silver coin then in the island was in the hands of the negroes, who had obtained it in exchange for the products of the small pieces of land they were allowed to cultivate for themselves during slavery. And if anyone chooses to take the trouble of looking through the official returns of the savings banks of the West Indies he will be able to judge for himself whether the negro is, on the whole, thrifty or not. Perhaps I can do no better than quote here a few sentences from a lecture on Jamaica delivered in April, 1880, before the Royal Colonial Institute, by Sir Anthony Musgrave, one of the best of


West Indian Governors. Said he : "There are indications, everywhere regarded as evidence of prosperity and thrift on the part of the working classes, to which we may point as testimony that the people in Jamaica, like their fellows elsewhere, are becoming mindful of the value of industry and the advantage of providence. In 1868 the number of depositors in the savings bank was 2,524, and the amount of their deposits £58,913. In 1879, after deducting some deposits on public accounts, there were 6,222 depositors, with a total amounting to £207,000."

The above remarks, although made with special reference to Jamaica, are far from being inapplicable to the other West Indian islands, and I could give statistics to show that, despite the terrible depressions and crises through which the West Indies have recently passed, there are many hopeful signs of increased thriftiness on the part of the common people.

The West Indian negro is intensely emotional, impulsive, polite, given to begging, very liberal, has no strict regard for the truth, is affectionate, is generally grateful for past kindnesses, and is cheerful. When enraged he does not reason, and is ungovernable. This, of course, is the trait of an undisciplined mind; yet his fury rarely ever lasts. He is not revengeful-impulsive people are not so as a rule. And though the women are given to begging, both sexes are liberal. (West Indian liberality has always been much lauded, but it must by no means be supposed that this hospitable feeling is only confined to one class.)

I have said that the negro has no strict regard for the truth. In this respect I must be understood to be speaking broadly of the majority. And, too, there is a sort of honour attached to a certain form of lying. Suppose, for instance, one man has seen another commit some petty misdemeanour, and tells of it, he is invariably regarded as a liar, although he has told but the strictest truth.*

Speaking of people in a lower state of civilization than the West Indian peasantry, J.

That as a rule the negro is affectionate is unquestionable. Negro mothers are most attentive to their children. Infanticide is not common in the West Indies; and though Sir Spencer St. John in his book on Hayti gives it as his opinion that the dreadful infant mortality of that country is due to the sacrificing of children, most persons who are at all acquainted with West Indian diseases will at once concede that tetanus has more to do with it than any such inhuman cruelty.

That the negro is generally grateful is well substantiated by facts. There are numerous instances recorded of the fidelity of household slaves to their owners during many trying periods in the history of slavery. Slaves have given their lives for kind masters. They have protected their property, have fought their battles, have supported them in time of distress. Negro peasant women have been known to carry regularly a portion of the produce of their "fields" for their old slave mistresses after emancipation. They have sympathised with them in their distress, for above everything else the negro is sympathetic.

Carlyle has laid it down that the world is built upon a foundation of clothes; and if this dictum has application anywhere, it is in the West Indies. The negro is extremely fond of dress. He may go in rags during the week, but on Sunday he will dress like a prince if he can afford it. There is nothing on which he will more readily spend money than on fine wearing apparel. This trait has been long since recognized, and economists have dwelt upon it as an inducement to the negro to labour.

The negro is not a politician. In the towns where there is always a somewhat lively play of public opinion, he does take some interest in political matters. Not so in the country where he is far removed from the scene of

S. Mill ("Three Essays on Religion,") makes one or two remarks which apply here. "They have," says he, "a notion of not betraying to their hurt, as of hurting in any other way, persons to whom they are bound by some special tie of obligation."

[blocks in formation]



W. Gonde



THE first fight I was present at during the Russo-Turkish War was the passage of the Danube. When the crossing was effected between Simnitza and Sistova, Archibald Forbes and I joined General Arnoldi's cavalry brigade on the invasion of Turkey. The advance squadrons were dragoon, carrying rifles, bayonets and swords, in fact, mounted infantry or cavalry at will. There is no service during war that appeals to me more than that of the Uhlan, or scout, and Arnoldi's men acted as such for the invading force. To be in the very fire-front of an advance, always on the alert, to keep touch with the enemy, interrogating the peasantry, or cutting telegraph wires; in fact, to be here, there, and everywhere, is to me the best part of campaigning.

Arnoldi, though a staunch Russian, had, as his name suggested, Italian blood in his veins, and all the artistic feeling both in music and painting of that highly-gifted race. He was a keen aquarellist, and nothing did he like better than, after he had seen his men encamped for the day, to devote the remaining hours of daylight to a jaunt with me through the adjacent Bulgarian villages, and place our campstools in the front of some picturesque hut, and try to reproduce, with our

limited pigments, the marvellous hues of the paprika pods enshrouding the portals with crimson, yellow, and delicate greens, while the wondering inhabitants stood in motley groups round the crazy General, as they dubbed him.

Certainly the quaintest and most picturesque figure of the odd scene was Arnoldi himself, doubled up on his stool, arrayed in pink silk shirt, white kapi, and dark green trousers, with the broad stripe of red down their sides denoting his high rank.

When the sun was down we would light our pipes, shoulder our campstools, and trudge back to camp, just as if we were on a sketching picnic instead of the serious business of war. Sometimes Arnoldi and I would be so keen on sketching that we would not hesitate to pull out our sketch-books and colours on the line of march, and ride as far as we dared ahead of the squadrons and begin our work. Occasionally the General and I would be many hours in advance of our baggage, and once or twice so hard pressed were we for food that Arnoldi would request a passing Cossack to dismount and order him to empty his pockets of the dry pieces of black bread, which those hardy warriors always stored, in case of a long march, in their capacious trouser-pockets. It

was a quaint and amusing sight to see the trooper, at word from Arnoldi, come to the attention, then salute, and dive his hands into his nether garment, and produce, apparently, black cinders, which he would place in the hollow of his cap, and, with trembling hand, offer the ration to his General, when Arnoldi and I would consume the stale food with great relish. I suggested to the General that it was rather rough on the trooper to requisition his rations at a moment's notice, but he laughed with great glee and replied: "My dear Villiers, did you not notice that the soldier was trembling as he handed me his bread? Why, he was shaking with pleasure, and he will be the proudest man of his troop to-day for the honour we have done him in eating his crusts. You don't know the Russian soldier yet, my Villiers," continued the General. "If that man gets out of this campaign alive the one thing he will ever remember and talk to the children about-above heroic deeds and the glamour of the fighting-will be this litttle incident of his General munching those musty crusts out of his greasy trouser-pockets."

[blocks in formation]

skirmishing over the heights, driving the rear-guard of the Turkish force out of the town, the principal Bulgarian residents of the place and the chief dignitaries of the Orthodox Church were advancing towards the General and his staff, proffering them bread and salt, while an aged priest held up a large metal crucifix which the General and his officers in deep reverence kissed. Shortly afterwards our troops took up a position on the heights to the left of the town.

Towards evening a number of the enemy's Circassian cavalry stood out against the blood-red after-glow of the sun like huge carrion crows on the purple horizon, hovering along the ridge in our immediate front till their figures began to be merged in the gathering gloom. And when night set in, flickering lights on our front and left and right betokened that the enemy had not retreated far, but were keeping a keen watch on our movements. The General had expected the infantry to follow close on our heels, for we were not strong enough to court attack; therefore, when the morning broke, and finding that the enemy had been closing round us during the night, so formidable did they look, Arnoldi immediately ordered our guns and baggage to retire behind the River Yantra, which ran below the town, and over which we had passed the previous night.

We stood by our horses all day long, our videttes occasionally taking potshots at the enemy as they gradually drew closer towards our flanks. We were anxiously waiting and watching till the sun was on the wane, when, to our intense delight, we descried afar over the plain a column of dust beginning to rise, gradually rolling nearer and nearer. Through this dust specks of fire sparkled as the yellow glow of the sun glinted on the lips of bayonets. Steadily the grey cloud approached, and soon white uniforms were distinctly visible, and the sound of the steady tramp, tramp of infantry came up from the plain. The dragoons sprinkling the heights of Bjela gave lusty cheers

« ПретходнаНастави »