Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 128.djvu/736

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The doe is speedily removed; and Beatrix, whom her brothers regard with awe, is comforted and exhorted by her father.

"A sportsman's daughter, and can't stand a shot, Bee! Who would have believed it of you? What will mamma say? We must get you home somehow, as soon as we have had something to eat. One of the boys must go back with you."

From The Fortnightly Review.




"Enough of creoles, Chinese, and coolies for this once; we are yet at the outset of our voyage. Returning towards the factory, we pay a visit to the airy and well-constructed hospital; sore feet seem the principal complaint. The climate is, in itself, a healthy one; epidemics are rare, marsh-fever scarcely heard of, and yellow fever, like cholera, a historical event of years past. Hence disease when it occurs is mostly traceable to some distinct cause of individual folly, unreasonable custom, or, as is frequently the case with the self-stinting coolie, insufficient diet. Nor is there any doubt that here, as in almost every other West-Indian colony — Demerara is one of the few honourable exceptions — sanitary regulations and medical service are far from their best. Let them be reformed, as they easily may, and the inhabitant, European or other, of the Guiana coast will have no reason to complain of his lot, so far as climate is concerned, even when contrasted with the bracing atmosphere and invigorating breezes of the northern seashore.

A look at the truly regal king-palm, an African importation, and said to be the only specimen in the colony, that waves its crown of dense fronds, each thirty and forty feet long, in front of the Voorburg residence, and we re-embark; not sorry, after the hot sunshine we have endured, to find ourselves once more under the boat-awning in the temperate river-breeze.

In a few minutes more we have rounded the point of Fort Amsterdam, where of course flags are flying and officers and soldiers in all the glory of uniform are hastily marshalling themselves alongside of the battery at the water’s edge to greet his Excellency who, hat in hand, acknowledges their salutations from the deck. And now, with the tide to help, we are steaming up the giant Commeweyne, and enter straight on a scene of singular beauty, and a character all its own. For breadth of stream, indeed, and colour or discolour of water, the river hereabouts, that is for about twenty miles of its lower course, might fairly pass for the Danube anywhere between Orsova and Widdin, or perhaps for a main branch of the Nile about Benha, with the sole discrepancy that whereas the Commeweyne, thanks to the neighbouring Atlantic, is tidal, the two last-named tributaries of the tideless Mediterranean and Black Seas are not so. But that large reddish water-snake, that writhes its ugly way up the current; that timber-raft of rough-hewn but costly materials, bearing on its planks the tall naked African figures that guide its way; that light Indian corial, balanced as venturesomely as any Oxford skiff, and managed by a boatman as skilful, however ragged his clothes, and reckless his seeming, as the precisest Oxford undergraduate; that gleaming gondola-like barge, with its covered cabin — is the reclining form within dark or fair? — and its cheery-singing crew — all these are objects not of Bulgarian, nor even, though not absolutely dissimilar, of Egyptian river-life. The hot light mirrored on the turbid water, the moist hot breeze, the intense hot stillness of earth and sky, between which the very river seems as if motionless, and sleeping in the monotony of its tepid flow — these also are unknown to the Nile of the Cairene Delta, or the Turko-Wallachian Danube; they belong to a more central zone. Details of the sort might, however, be every one of them — the “bush negroes” and the covered Dutch barges excepted — equally well found, as I myself can bear witness, on the Essequibo, the Demerara, or any other of the neighbouring Guiana-coast rivers. But not so the scarce interrupted succession of estates, sugar, cocoa, and plaintain, to the right and left, each with its quaint name, most often Dutch, telling some tale of the hopes, cares, expectations, anxieties, affections, joys, sorrows, of former owners long ago.

Various as were the early fortunes of the “estates,” their later times have been to the full as varied, or perhaps more. Some have by good management, backed with the requisite capital, retained through all vicissitudes of trade and strife, of slavery, apprenticeship, and emancipation, a sufficiency of creole labour to