« PreviousContinue »
sweep the ground, were carefully folded up in plaits to prevent, as is the supposition, the animals from giving out through fatigue.
In this style we sallied forth, I in the advance and Lorent at a respectful distance in the rear-sometimes indeed too respectful, for I discovered him at times perhaps half a mile behind, holding parleys with the acquaintances he encountered on the route. Having rode about two leagues, I overtook a black soldier gently pacing along on mule-back. I joined company with him, and finding him to be very civil and polite I introduced subjects of conversation. The politics of the nation were touched upon, and I found him like the great body of his fellowcountrymen excessively virulent in his sentiments respecting the French, and resolutely determined to hazard his life in defence of his country. Should the French again attempt," said he with fervour, "to reduce the island to slavery, this child (pointing to a lad of about eight years of age who was mounted behind him) shall carry a musket." Such expressions of devotion to the cause of liberty (phantom as she is to all in Hayti but the great) are every where to be heard, and it seems as if the youth, like young Hannibal, the moment they are able to lisp, are made to swear-eternal enmity to the French nation.
My fellow traveller soon left me to take a by-road, and I continued slowly on, without meeting with any occurrences worthy of remark. At eight o'clock we were saluted by the sentinel of a corps de garde, with the usual question of qui vive? It was now so dark that the horses could scarcely keep the road, and any kind of accommodations appeared to me preferable to proceeding further. I accordingly inquired of the soldiers if they would permit us to lodge there, and whether they had any thing eatable for man or horse? to all this they replied in the negative, and as there was no choice left, we were obliged to proceed. Port Margot, which was two miles off and out of our route, was the nearest place where we could expect to find a lodging or a supper, and we immediately shaped our course for 'it. When we arrived near the town, which we discovered by the glimmering of lights, I sent Lorent forward to procure accommodations; supposing him to be acquainted with the people.
He knocked at a door, from which an old woman soon issued, and in answer to his inquiries replied, that she had nothing in her house to eat. He went on and produced from his next call an old man, who supposing him to be a pauvre diable like himself without a penny to pay for his lodging, informed him, that he had no spare bed. By this time I had reached the door, almost in despair from hunger and fatigue, when as soon as the honest gentry discovered that Lorent was not travelling upon his Own account, but was the quarter-master of one who had the appearance of being able to pay the club of both, they instantly changed their tune. They said they could very comfortably accommodate the capitaine Americain, that as for supper, there was no such thing in the town as a loaf of bread, but that if I would promise to pay them five quarters of a dollar, they would provide me with an omelet, some plantains and a bed. Had my kind host have asked me for as many dollars, he would have been sure to have received them, for I was in such a state of weariness, that I would have acceded to almost any proposition. Why this odd sum was named as a preliminary to our bargain, I never could divine, unless the poor landlord had owed some importunate dun exactly that amount, and had had his mind so harassed, as to be always ruminating upon it. I dismounted, and after having seen the horses fed, sat down to my stipulated meal and then retired to my chamber. Fancy yourself in a hut made of large twigs interwoven in the manner of a basket, plaistered with mud, and floored by simple nature. A bundle of corn stocks or sugar cane, sewed up in a large sack for your bed, a portmanteau for your pillow, and a surtout to defend you from the night air, which had plentiful circulation by means of the transparency of the house. A thin wax taper, stuck in a fracture at one end of an old table, and a bottle of bad claret wine, standing with tears in its eyes at the other. Such was my chamber, and such its furniture. Sleep however soon commenced his balmy operations, and deprived me from longer enjoying the delights which such an unrivalled 3llection of domestic comforts afforded.
On the following morning before day-light, Lorent had prepared the horses, and after having taken my cup of coffee, which answers in this country to the Virginian julep or anti-fogmatic, we proceeded. After travelling a few miles over muddy and
mountainous roads, we reached a ferry at a small river called Sal, over which we passed in a scow. At nine o'clock we reached Le Borgne, a town of about a hundred houses, a few of which are stone and log, but the rest of the same kind of wicker-work as the one at which I lodged the preceding night. Here I breakfasted upon part of a fowl, some goat cutlets, bread and wine. Mine host was a right respectable looking old black gentleman. He was a judge of the peace, kept a kind of inn for the convenience of travellers, and a billiard table for the amusement of his townsmen. Le Borgne is situated in a bay very near the open sea, and is remarkable for the frequency with which its inhabitants are attacked by the loathsome disease called scurvy. A considerable quantity of fine coffee is transported from this town to the Cape (from which it is distant about ten leagues) in boats which are constantly plying between the two places.
Soon after leaving Le Borgne, a range of high mountains extending for fifteen miles, commences. The roads over these are scarcely passable, for rocks and mire, and in no part of them would admit a carriage. In one spot the path is cut through a huge rock, and so narrow, that a single horse can just pass. As you may suppose, there are not many inhabitants in this neighbourhood. Here and there you may see a hut, surrounded by a cluster of plantain trees, and a few sorry looking peasants. But if scenes of grandeur can be imagined, of wild and terrifying prospects, they are here to be found. Frequently the path winding around a peak of the mountain above the clouds, presents to your view the raging ocean beneath, dashing his angry waves against its base, and threatening with ruin the whole pile. In other places, horrible precipices commencing immediately with the margin of the road, menace with destruction the trembling traveller.
The appearances exhibited by the clouds in this climate afford an object of pleasing speculation. Falling weather is always preceded by their visible descent, and we see on such occasions large volumes enveloping the tops of the mountains and concealing their summits from view. At other times a large body is seen stationary, perched upon a peak, and at others boldly sweeping along the sides of the mountains. This latter appearance is exceedingly beautiful, especially when the cloud highly char
ged with the electric fluid, plays its whole artillery upon the hills en passant, and resembles a ship of war bidding defiance to a line.
After much fatigue and unpleasant travelling, we reached L'Ance Folin, a small village of about twenty wicker huts situate upon the very border of the ocean. Here we stopped and procured some punch for refreshment, of an old negro woman who lived upon the road side. After continuing our route until seven o'clock, we arrived at St. Louis, another small town upon the margin of the sea, about three leagues distant from Port de Paix. The approach of night determined me to proceed no further. I had heard of the hospitality of Mr. Lleland, a man of colour, proposer or deputy ordonnateur of this quarter, who resided at this place, and although I had no letters of introduction to him, I made no hesitation in going to his house. I was received by him and his family with much civility, provided with an omelet, some bread and claret for my supper, and after having enjoyed this frugal repast, I retired to my lodging room, which had a ground floor, where a comfortable matrass spread upon the tops of two tables, was prepared for my accommodation. This town contains about forty houses, the best of which are of log and the rest of the basket kind. It has also a church, and on the following morning before day-light I heard its bell summoning the pious portion of its inhabitants to matins.
At an early hour after leaving upon the table in my chamber, the usual bonus, I departed, and at eight o'clock, after passing over a level and pleasant road, reached the place of my destination. Immediately on arrival, I fulfilled the requisite formality of waiting upon the commandant of the place to report myself, but he not being at his office, his assistant examined my passport and endorsed it with the official notice, visé. From my knowledge of the extreme unhealthiness of Port de Paix I did not feel disposed to continue in it any longer than my business absolutely required, which was but a few hours. As soon therefore as it was concluded, and I had visited two of my countrymen who were sick, and dined with two others who were well, I set out at four o'clock on my return. We lodged at St. Louis, and after having repassed the same rugged mountains and roads which we had encountered the preceding day, arrived at Le
Borgne, on the following afternoon. I here saw a young Frenchman whose appearance attracted my attention and with whom I entered into conversation. His age was apparently about four and twenty, his person handsome, and his countenance interesting; but sorrow was depicted in such glowing colours in his looks and deportment, that one could not but sympathise with him upon the wretchedness of his situation. I found him to be a man of liberal education, and gentlemanly manners. His clothes were rather upon the threadbare order, but at a single glance one might perceive that mean apparel was not adapted to the style of his address. He informed me that he was an European, that he had been in the Island about three years, that his life had been spared because he was generally liked by Py inhabitants of the town (being I presume what they call in "erms of endearment un bon diable), and that he was the only white man left there. He also stated to me, that Christophe had wished him to perform upon the stage at the Cape, but that he preferred to drag on his miserable life in his present situation as a clerk in the proposer's office, rather than subject himself to the slavery which such an occupation would impose upon him.
On the following day I returned to port Margot, and thence took a different road from the one I had before travelled, which led me to Limbé, a small town, regularly laid out, but composed, with two or three exceptions, of wicker houses. Here I breakfasted about noon, and amused myself whilst the meal was preparing with a game of billiards. This species of amusement is the principal one, to which the Haytian gentlemen are attached, and so prevalent is the fondness for it, that there is scarcely a town in the island of any moderate extent, which has not its billiard-table. From the constant practise of this game, many expert players have been produced, and perhaps there is no country in which they can be excelled. Having but six leagues to travel to the Cape, I soon set out, and completed my expedition, late in the afternoon. I arrived just in time to join in the festivities of a splendid entertainment given by an American in commemoration of the day which gave birth to the illustrious Washington. Almost all the officers of distinction as well civil