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kitchen. It was quite evident that he had had both his shave and a night of it, for there are Chinese dens in Vancouver where opium is smoked and unspeakable infamies are practised, and no matter how meek and mild your Chinaman may look, no matter how gentle his voice and confiding his manner, Saturday night is almost certain to find him "doped" in his bunk, weaving dreams under the poppy's subtle spell. From this debauchery he arises haggard and worn in the pale dawn and returns to his work with a million memories in his heavy eyes and about him the painful odour of unutterable things. Somehow-how no one knows, for he has no confidantes among Anglo-Saxons-he gets through his morning's tasks, but the afternoon usually finds him sleeping on his cot, soothed to more peaceful slumbers, perhaps, by the knowledge that he has helped himself abundantly from your favourite decanter and taken about half the contents of your tobacco jar.
Much as we liked Chow for his willingness to let the baby play with his pigtail, we were pained to observe as time went on that there was always something wrong. He not only stole everything that was not barred and bolted and guarded with barbed wire, but he was forever breaking the dishes or setting the table the wrong end to, or doing something that he shouldn't do. If we had people in to dinner he was just as apt to begin in the middle and wind up with the soup. He knew better, and he knew we knew he knew better, but if anything was said to him a pathetic look of reproach would creep into his mild eyes and he would say in that gentle voice of his, "Me no sabe," and it was impossible to do anything with him. With malice aforethought he would give the joint to my wife and place the sweets before On Christmas Day he poured pudding sauce over the boiled salmon
and had raisins scattered through the potatoes; but the situation reached the climax when he ruined the family stomach by providing us with mutton chops nestling in pure tobacco sauce. I have had some warm experiences in my life, but never anything like this. I wondered as I turned the dose down my throat what it was that I had done to have my future punishment now.
I came back into the house again, gasping, perspiring but determined. I was not angry, I was not even agitated, but I was firm. I had an axe in one hand and a hatchet in the other. "Chow," I said, "get out. Get out quickly. I have only so much patience left, and when that is exhausted, I don't know what may happen. Skip. Vamoose. Go!"
And Chow gathered up his belongings in a wicker luncheon basket, took three sticks of kindling wood with him as a souvenir of our home, and went.
There are good Chinese servants, I believe. Some people here swear by them. There is no servant like a Chinese servant they say, when you get a good one; and that is possibly true. My own experience leads me to believe that the good Chinese are something like the good Indians-dead. Put a Chinaman in a position where he can do all the housekeeping himself and rob you without restraint and without reproach and he may serve you admirably, doing as much work as a couple of women, and doing it well. Throw about him the same safeguards that the ordinary housekeeper throws about her domestics, and in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred he will make your life a burden. But such as he is, he solves the great servant-girl problem in British Columbia, for there are no servant girls here, and without him housekeeping would be an impossibility.
THE WEST INDIAN NEGRO OF TO-DAY.
By H G. DeLesser, Institute of Jamaica.
HERE are some subjects on which there has always been a diversity of opinion. The so-called negro problem is one of them. It bewilders one to read the scores of books and articles that have been written on this eternal question. Men of unimpeachable veracity have given answers so entirely opposite that the enquirer who is not in a position to study the matter at first hand may well despair of ever arriving at the truth. Yet one thing ought never to be forgotten, namely that people who have passed some time in the West Indies have generally spoken favourably of the negro; while those persons who have only paid a flying visit to these islands, and who have not taken the trouble to study their subject thoroughly, generally go to form that class of writers who represent the negro as steeped to the lips in the mire of a meaningless superstition, and hopelessly incapable of any progress whatsoever.
But as a matter of fact you can know little of the negro after but a few weeks acquaintance with him. He is a human being, not a machine with which you can experiment. His character is not so very simple as may be supposed. It is not safe to judge of him merely by his hilarious laugh any more than that it was wise in truthful James to judge of Ah Sin's character by his bland and childlike smile. This has been fully grasped by Colonel Ellis and Miss Mary Kingsley (two recent writers on West Africa), and it is an important fact to be remembered by those who would approach the study of negro character in anything like a scientific spirit.
I do not pretend, however, to handle this question here one-half as thoroughly as it might be handled. That is impossible within the compass of a short "sketch." What I shall
say, therefore, may be taken as the outlines of a portrait, not as the portrait itself. Nevertheless, the outlines are true.
The negro in the West Indies has a past to remember, but he does not remember it. For your West Indian peasant is forgetful of past injuries, especially if he has not suffered them himself. His grandfather endured slavery, but he is free. Sixty years ago he was chattel property, to-day he is a landowner and a free-born British subject. The ruined cane-mill, the disbanded sugar estate, the massive aqueduct on which mosses and lichens luxuriate all these conjure up no bitter memories in his mind; no subtle association of ideas touches into life any slumbering passion. With him the dead past has indeed buried its dead.
Not that it must be thought that the negro existence in the West Indies was one of unutterable misery; for it certainly was not. Yet he was a slave, and in that lay his chief grievance. Still having long since forgotten all about it, his outlook to-day is singularly undimmed by any reminiscence of a sorrowful past.
I think it may be said without fear of contradiction that the negro bids fair to become a great factor in the industrial future of the West Indian colonies. In one respect at least he has been misrepresented in the past. The so-called "ruin" of the West Indies has sometimes been attributed to him; but, anyone who is not content to accept a mere assertion will be considerably puzzled as to why this allegation was made. It is all very well to say that the negro deserted the sugar estates after emancipation, but enquire into the matter, and you will find that there are two sides to this question. However, there is no ne
cessity to handle it here, as I have Idealt with it elsewhere.* At the present time, too, it can not be said that the planters attribute the "ruin" of the West Indies to the negro; for such a charge could not be sustained.
The most abundant proof exists that the negro works well when he is paid well. I do not say that he works as well as he might work. I do not say either that he will work for the mere love of work. But I think that in this respect he is very much like other persons. Tout le monde fait l'éloge du travail, personne n'en veut plus, writes M. Paul Leroy Beaulieu, with his usual deep sagacity. He is right.
And I am glad to find, also, that so well-known an American journalist as Mr. C. A. Stoddard agrees with me in this respect. Says he,† "I had heard a great deal of the indolence of the negroes in the West Indies. I saw little. Taking into consideration the low price for labour-from four cents a day, in Barbados, to a shilling or thirty cents a day in the best labour markets of the islands-and considering also climate and the possibility of easy existence without labouring, it seemed to me that the negroes were an industrious class of people."
The negro in the West Indies is largely a peasant proprietor, and to his small patrimony he devotes most of his time. Of course, it might be pointed out that at its best his land is but poorly cultivated. This is true; but who is to blame? Not the negro, certainly, for he cultivates according to his lights, and those lights are very dim. He has not improved much upon his old-fashioned system of cultivating the soil; he will not improve. upon it until he is taught how.
Taking the initiative is not a strong point with the negro. As an imitator, however, he is very successful. If you would have him be a good workman you must not leave him to hatch out
* "New Century Review" for January,
+"Cruising Among the Caribbees"; page 38, 1895.
new methods for himself; you must teach him. His past history proves this. During thousands of years in Africa he developed under circumstances which fettered the growth of his intelligence. Every natural agency made against his progress. Yet his very survival shows that he developed in harmony with the conditions of his existence. But habits and peculiarities were then formed, the results of which are apparent to-day.
Take, for instance, the most distressing social problem in the West Indies at the present time. I speak of the relationship subsisting between the lower classes of both sexes. In a word, marriage is not a favourite institution with them. And what is peculiar is, that the institution per se is highly respected by them. That is, those of them that are married are more highly respected by their fellows. They even speak of those who live together without being married as persons "living in sin." This, of course, is due to the influence of Christian teaching; but this respect has at present no great effect on morals.
But no one who has studied the question thoroughly will say that gross sensuality is the sole cause of the negroes' present attitude towards the institution of marriage. As a matter of fact the causes are many. Those who are acquainted with the origin and history of the institution of marriage will readily understand that amongst a primitive people the position of the woman is peculiar. She is sometimes the absolute property of her lord. She has few rights. She is a beast of burden. She is won either by capture or purchase, so that love has little to do with her position as a wife. And with this system polygamy generally goes hand in hand.
These remarks apply, broadly speaking, to the people of West Africa, and they are the stock from which the West Indian negro has sprung. But the transplanting the negroes to the West Indies has wrought changes in the position of the woman which is
tantamount to a social revolution so far as that sex is concerned.
In bygone times polygamy was rampant among the slaves of the West Indies. But the man was a slave as well as the woman, and had no absolute right over her. Their marriage customs. were simple. Divorce was therefore a thing of course. The man was not called upon to support his children after he and the woman had separated. The man, then, felt not the burden of responsibility; and it profited the woman to bear children, as she was more kindly treated by her owner in consequence of it. Hence, though she might grieve that her 66 'husband" should leave her for another, she was accustomed to regard it as a natural occurrence. Besides, she herself was at perfect liberty to leave him for some one else. This custom obtains to-day.
Another reason that makes against marriage amongst the negro population of the West Indies is their dislike of a contract. The peasant may live with his helpmate for life; at his death he may leave to her, and to their children, all his possessions; but it will sometimes happen that he will refuse to be joined in wedlock with her. He knows the marriage tie is binding; he knows too that while, amongst his own class, it is no particular disgrace to leave the woman he has been living with, yet to leave his wife is considered a contemptible action by the same people. So he hesitates before giving anyone so great a claim on him. On her part, the woman has no such great objection to marrying. Indeed, I think that in most cases she would prefer it. The man's excuse is, that as long as the woman knows he can leave her at will, she will be submissive and obedient; but if he becomes bound to her by legal ties she will be difficult to manage.
There is also another aspect of this question, not to be overlooked. Voltaire says truly, "Les femmes. n'ont... que très rarement l'instinct d'embrasser leurs maris . . . and this is evidently a wise provision of nature.
The thoughtful reader will at once see that were the passions of women equal in strength to those of men, their social status would be infinitely lower than it is, even in the most uncivilized countries. Joined to this comparative feebleness of passion there is the inferior physical strength of women. Where they cannot rival man in the struggle for daily bread, they must be provided for; and they must therefore have some definite claim on those upon whom they are dependent. But this physical inferiority is scarcely found in the West Indies. The women work, and work well. There is therefore no danger of their being left behind in the struggle for existence. Then they take very little thought of the future. With them, "sufficient to the day is the evil thereof." They have, also, no social position to lose by having illegitimate children; and so the most powerful aids to chastity are very much lacking in the West Indies.
The uneducated negro is deeply superstitious. It is his nature to be so. Writing of the "Irish peasant" in his "History of Our Own Times," Mr. Justin McCarthy says of him, "Half his thoughts, half his life, belong to a world other than the material world around him. The supernatural becomes almost the natural for him. The streams, the valleys, the hills of his native land are peopled by mystic forms and melancholy legends, which are all living forms for him." The same may be said of the negro peasant. His mind is cast in a mysterious mould. The supernatural becomes the natural for him they are one and indivisible. But instead of sneering at the superstitions of the negro, it would be better to enquire into their meaning. Perhaps, as Mr. Herbert Spencer trenchantly remarks, you may find in them something useful and instructive.* The
*Instead of passing over as of no account or else regarding as purely mischievous, the superstitions of primitive man, we must enquire what part they play in social evolution; and must be prepared, if need be, to recognize their usefulness."-Herbert Spencer, "Principles of Sociology," Vol. II, page 230; 1893.
negro in Africa may sacrifice hundreds of human beings at the death of a king; but he does so because he believes in an after life, and if his king has attendants on earth, he thinks he must necessarily want them in the land of the dead. His belief in "obeah," or witchcraft, also illustrates a dominant conception of his mind. The gods are powerful, therefore they can do great harm to you, or prevent it being done. Therefore they must be propitiated, or charms must be got from them through their high priests. All this is clear to the negro. He no more "bows down to wood and stone "in his blindness" than you do. Every action of his has some definite meaning for him.
But the religious ideas of the negro have undergone strange modifications since his introduction into the West Indies. He has come in contact with Christianity. He has been cut off wonderfully from his native land. The religious practices of his own country have been slowly repressed by the law. He has been taught about a God who punishes sin hereafter, of a Christ who died for him, of a heaven the bliss of which soars beyond the loftiest conception of But does he fully grasp all this? Will the mere teaching of a new religion revolutionize completely and at once all his old beliefs? Has this ever yet been the case with other peoples? As Miss Mary Kingsley points out, the negro has spent all his life in propitiating deities who either do not care for him, or are directly opposed to him; God, he is taught, does care for him, and naturally he looks for immediate benefits. He thinks he gets them when the rain falls, and his fields return abundant produce; but when lightning strikes a man dead, he also attributes this to the direct action of God. It is God who has struck that man. To appeal to him, vengeance or reward must be present and striking. Both hell and heaven are shadowy indistinct things of the future. His imagination is not keen, and therefore what would be terrible realities to other persons are not so to him.
Then he argues inwardly, why should he who is a Christian suffer? He does not speak out his thoughts as a rule, for religious conformity compels him to say "God's will be done." But he thinks for all that. Said a peasant, whose fields had been repeatedly robbed, to me one day: "It is true that God will punish the guilty, but then the innocent is punished at the same time. If a man robs my yams, he may go to prison, but I lose my yams all the same. I don't understand it." That's just it! He doesn't understand! Yet he knows that if he hung up an "obeah" charm in his field, few thieves would come near it. He will scarcely do that because he has been told, and believes that it is wrong. But his mind is in a whirl, and when he thinks at all, he is perpetually asking the question, "Why?"
The West Indian negro believes in God, but, as said above, his conception of Him is somewhat narrow. I do not believe that he thinks much about God as a God of love. No; God is rather something terrible to him. But Christ is different. He was a man on earth; he suffered and died. That means a great deal to the negro. He can understand the Man with all the best attributes of a man. Then again, his conception of Christ must be distinctly anthropomorphic, for he knows that Christ was in every respect physically like himself. He is taught, however, that God is not; but his conception of Him is distinctly material, and he pictures heaven as a land of gold and precious stones, and actually flowing with milk and honey! That is, he accepts the description in Revelations quite literally.
But do the lower orders of any European country think much differently? I should say not.
The negro was accustomed to rites and ceremonies in West Africa, and in the West Indies he regards Christian rites with almost as much zeal as he once did pagan customs in Africa. External ceremony always appeals to him. He likes much singing, and an elaborate display of religious zeal.