Page:Littell's Living Age - Volume 128.djvu/742

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

tions ordinary in the empirical regions of the New World. So that, thought I, if Paramaribo be comparatively not conservative, the conservatism of Munnikendam must be something worth the studying. The governor assented, and by his order a message was shouted across the stream that on our return we would pay the good folks of the estate a visit, and we continued our way.

My readers, will, I hope, accompany us on our visa to Munnikendam, in the following chapter, and derive from it as much pleasure in idea as we ourselves did in shows like a little island, surrounded by actual fact. Just now, however, the immediate goal to which we were bound was the estate entitled "La Paix," the remotest of all European settlements, or farms, from the colonial centre, bordering on what was once the military frontier, between which and the Marowyne River the land lies yet open and unreclaimed. East of the Marowyne commences Surinam's old rival and plunderer — French Cayenne. The distance of La Paix from the capital, in a straight line, is about fifty miles; following the river windings, it cannot be much short of a hundred.

The Cottica in this part of its course, and above its junction with the Perica, which flows into it a little below Munnikendam, is narrow, often not exceeding eighty yards in width, but extremely deep; the banks, where they have not been cleared for cultivation, or planted over with fruit-trees, are a tangled maze of forest, underwood, creeper, leaf, flower, thorn, through which a cat or a snake could hardly find a way. Coffee-bushes, the abandoned relics of plantation, mingle freely with the native growth; tall palms shoot up everywhere; bamboo tufts bend gracefully over the stream; water-lilies, pink, white, and yellow, float on the ink-black waters. From space to space the opening of some small natural creek, or artificial canal, enlarges the vista, green and flower-starred, to its furthest reach. Amid these creole cottages and gardens, cocoa-nut and banana plantations, abound and prosper; there is no sign of insecurity anywhere, still less of want. A mile or so before we reach La Paix, we pass the large dwelling-house called "Groot Marseille;" it is inhabited by three creole negroes, the joint proprietors of the adjoining sugar-estate. And these landowning brethren, though thriving, live together, strange to say, in unity.

La Paix itself, with its seventeen hundred and sixty acres of grant, though not more than one-third of them are under actual cultivation, is a fine sugar-estate; the fertility of the soil is evidently only limited by the amount of labour bestowed on it; and the employment of coolies speaks well for the corresponding amount of capital invested. Yet the place has a half-wild, frontier look; and in the struggle between the industry of man, and the excessive productiveness of nature, the latter seems ever and anon almost on the point of gaining the upper hand. Long grass and fantastic undergrowth shoot up wherever the smallest vacancy is left; the cane-patch an encroaching tide of trees; and the tall branches overshadowing cottage and outhouse, give the habitations a backwood-settlement appearance — doubtful and undecided.

And here, on the twilight verge, where the extremest rays of civilization blend with the dark margin of savage, or, at any rate, non-civilized existence beyond, let us pause awhile.

From Blackwood's Magazine.



Next morning Yorke, as an early man, was up before any of the family; and Miss Lucy, who was the first to come down, found him already in the dining-room reading the paper. Was it that some spirit of inner sympathy she had divined his thoughts of last night, or was it merely his fancy that he could detect, over and above her shyness, a certain consciousness of affinity, betrayed in a becoming little blush? But as they stood before the fire, hardly speaking, while the servants brought in breakfast, the children entered to create a diversion, soon to be followed by the others; and Mr. Peevor, who was evidently uneasy about something, began to make the conversational running, divided between particular inquiries after the amount of rest enjoyed by his guest, and the subject which oppressed him. "Don't you feel how chilly it is, Charlotte, my dear?" he said to his wife, as she took her place at the table a little later than the rest: "thermometer only fifty-five in the hall; it is really too bad of Johnson;" — and then it was explained to the guest that Johnson was the engineer engaged to look after the heating-apparatus, with a good salary, and strict orders to keep the temperature of the house exactly at sixty degrees. What