But they were at once volatile and of a languid frame, which could not long repel the enticements of wine and passionate excess, liable to petty rages, incapable of concentration, with no power of remembering anything but a benefit, lavish fawners, but not hearty haters, easily persuaded, and easily repenting of everything but hospitality. No abuse of that put the drop of savage blood in motion, till the Spaniards began to regard their women with indiscriminate desire. That was the first outrage for which a Spanish life had to atone. But neither treachery nor cruelty lurked beneath their flowery ways; it was sullen despair which broke their gayety, brief spasms of wrath followed by melancholy. But they could not keep their ideas well enough in hand to lay a plot.
These graceful children, with their curious prognostics of a Creole temper, were not devoid of religion. The Creator has set none of His children in the sun, to work or play, without keeping this hold upon them. They defer to this restraint, with motions more or less instinctive, but can never, in their wildest gambols, break entirely loose. It is not easy to separate the real beliefs of the Haytians from the conjectures of Catholic and Jewish observers. The former were interested to discover analogies which would make it appear that they had been foreordained to conversion; the latter were infested with the notion that they were descendants of one of the Lost Tribes. What, for instance, can be made of the assertion that the Haytian Supreme had a mother? The natives were gentle enough to love such a conception, and to be pleased with the Catholic presentation of it, but this is the only proof we have that they originated it. It would be pleasant to believe that they referred, in some dim way, their sense of the womanly quality back to the great Source of Life.
But the Hebrew coincidences were as eagerly sought.[L] If a cacique remarked to Columbus that he thought good men would be transported to a place of delights, and bad men to a foul and dismal place where darkness reigned, it was deemed to be a reminiscence of Sheol and a later Jewish idea of Paradise. If Anacaona, the charming wife of Caonabo, came forth to meet the Adelantado, at the head of thirty maidens of her household, dancing and singing their native songs, and waving branches of the palm-tree, a variety of Old and New Testament pictures occurred to the mind. Their hospitality and pertinacious sheltering of fugitives was another Oriental trait. But, above all, the horrible oppression to which the Spaniards subjected them, the indignities and sufferings heaped upon them, were considered to fulfil the divine curse which rested upon Jews! What a choice morsel of theology is this!
[Footnote L: Consult a curious book, The Ten Tribes of Israel historically identified with the Aborigines of the Western Hemisphere. By Mrs. Simon. 1836.]
Cabrera found at Cuba, says Humboldt, a variation of the story respecting the first inebriation of Noah. A wild grape grew in all the West India Islands. The natives of Cuba preserved also the tradition of a great terrestrial disturbance, in which water played the chief part. This was probably held by the Haytians also, for we find it again among the Caribs beyond, especially in South America. But Cabrera, mounting with the waters of the Deluge, was not content till he had found in Cuba the ark, the raven and dove, the uncovering of Noah, and his curse; in fact, the Indians were descended from this unfortunate son whom Noah's malediction reduced to nudity, but the Spaniards, descending from another son, inherited his clothes. "Why do you call me a dog?" said an old Indian of seventy years to Cabrera, who had been insulting him. "Did we not both come out of the same large ship that saved us from the waters?"[M]
[Footnote M: Notes on Cuba, containing an Account of its Discovery and Early History. By Dr. Wurdemann. 1844.]
It is certain that the Haytians believed in continued existence after death, and pointed, as all men do, to the sky, when talking of that subject. They held, indefinitely, that there was some overruling Spirit; but they believed also in malignant influences which it was advisable to propitiate. Their worship was connected with the caverns of the island, those mysterious formations beneath which the strange sounds were heard. The walls of these caverns were covered with pictured distortions, half man, half animal, which yielded to the priests, or butios, interpretations according to the light and shadow. Some of these vaults are lighted through a natural fissure in the roof, and the worship or augury commenced at the moment the sun struck through it. There were movable idols, called Zemes, which represented inferior deities. The Catholic writers call them messengers and mediators, having their own saints in mind. But their forms were sometimes merely animal, a toad, a tortoise with a sun upon its back, and upon each side a star with the moon in her first change; another was a monstrous figure in basalt, representing a head surmounting a female bosom, diminishing to a ball; another was a human figure made from a gypseous stalactite.[N]
[Footnote N: The savages of Martinique kept in their caverns idols made of cotton, in the form of a man, with shining black seeds of the soap-berry (Sapindus) for eyes, and a cotton helmet. These were the original deities of the island. It cannot now be decided whether the cotton thus worshipped was long-staple or upland; but the tendency of the savage mind to make a fetich of its chief thing appears to be universal.]
The cacique took precedence of the butios, in theory, at least, and designated the days for public worship. He led the procession of men and women festively adorned, beating on a drum, to the cavern where the priests awaited them. Presents were offered, and old dances and songs repeated in honor of the Zemes, and of departed caciques. Then the priests broke cakes and distributed the pieces to the heads of families, who carefully kept them till the next festival as amulets and preservatives against disease.
They had an original way of expressing their vague instinct that the Supreme Being loves truth and cleanliness in the inward parts. Each person presented himself, with singing, before the chief idol, and there thrust a stick into his throat till the gorge rose, in order, as they said, to appear before the Divinity with a heart clean and upon the lips.[O]
[Footnote O: Histoire d'Hayti, par M. Placide Justin, p. 8.]
The priests were diviners and doctors. If their predictions failed, they did not want the usual cunning of mediums and spiritual quacks of all ages, who are never known to be caught. But it became a more serious affair for them in the case of a death. Friends consulted the soul at the moment of its leaving the body, and if it could give no sign, or if no omen of fair play appeared from any quarter, the butio was held to be the author of the death, and, if he was not a very popular individual, he incurred the vengeance of the family. If at such a time an animal was seen creeping near, the worst suspicions were confirmed.[P]
[Footnote P: Voyages d'un Naturaliste, etc., par M.E. Descourtilz, Tom. II. p. 19, et seq. 1809.]
The natives had a legend that the sun and moon issued from one of these caverns, which Mr. Irving says is the Voute-a-Minguet, about eight leagues from Cap Haytien.
They were very nervous, and did not like to go about after dark. Many people of all races have this vague disquiet as soon as the sun goes down. It is the absence of light which accounts for all the tremors and tales of superstition. How these sunflowers of Hayti must have shuddered and shrunk together at the touch of darkness! But they had a graceful custom of carrying the cocujos[Q] in a perforated calabash, and keeping them, in their huts, when the sudden twilight fell.
[Footnote Q: A Haytian word appropriated by the Spaniards, (cocuyos); Elater noctilucus. Their light is brilliant enough to read by.]
Their festivals and public gatherings were more refined than those of the Caribs, who held but one meeting, called a Vin, for consultation upon war-matters and a debauch upon cassava-beer.[R] The Haytians loved music, and possessed one or two simple instruments; their maguey was like a timbrel, made of the shells of certain fishes. Their speech, with its Italian terminations, flowed easily into singing, and they extemporized, as the negroes do, the slightest incidents in rhythmical language. They possessed national ballads, called areytos, and held in high repute the happy composers of fresh ones. Altogether their life was full of innocence and grace.
[Footnote R: Father Du Tertre enjoys relating, that a Carib orator, wishing to make his speech more impressive, invested his scarlet splendor in a jupe which he had lately taken from an Englishwoman, tying it where persons of the same liturgical tendency tie their cambric. But though his garrulity was thereby increased, the charms of the liquor drew his audience away.]
Such were the aborigines of Hayti, the "Mountain-land." But as our narrative does not propose a minute and consecutive survey, it will detain us too long from certain essential points which deserve to be made clear, if we follow step by step the dealings of the Spaniards with these natives. All this can be found delightfully told by Mr. Irving in his "Life of Columbus," in such a way as to render an attempt at repeating it hazardous and useless. Our task is different,—to make prominent first, the character of the natives, which we have just striven to do, and next, the style of treatment in converting and in enslaving them, which gave its first chapter of horrors to San Domingo, and laid violent hands on the whole sequence of her history.
What influence could the noble elements of the Spanish character have, when theology, avarice, and lust controlled the conquest? Pure minds and magnanimous intentions went in the same ships with adventurers, diseased soldiers, cold and superstitious men of business, and shaven monks with their villanous low brows and thin inquisitorial smile. The average character speedily obtained ascendency, because the best men were to some extent partakers of it. Columbus was eager to make his great discovery pay well, to preserve the means of continued exploration. In one hand he lifted high the banner of possession with its promise of a cross, which direful irony fulfilled; with the other he kept feeding the ravenous nation with gold, to preserve its sympathy and admiration, that the supply of men and vessels should not fail. Las Casas himself, a just and noble man, the first advocate of the natural rights of men in the New World, soon found that the situation was too strong and cruel; his wishes and struggles went under before the flood of evil passions which swept the island. He maintained his fight against Indian slavery by not discountenancing negro slavery. And his fight was unavailing, because mercy had no legitimate place upon the new soil. The logic of events was with the evil majority, which was obliged at last to maintain its atrocious consistency in self-defence. He might as well have preached the benefits of Lenten diet to shipwrecked men upon a raft, insane with thirst and the taste of comrade's flesh. It was a Devil's problem, which is the kind that cannot hold back from its devilish conclusion.
But bad passions were not alone to blame. The Spanish notion of conversion desolated like avarice. The religious bodies which from time to time controlled the affairs of the island differed in their humanity and general policy: the Dominicans were friends of the Indian and haters of the turbulent oppressor; the Franciscans were the instruments of the bad men whose only ambition was to wring pleasure and fortune out of the Indian's heart; the monks of St. Jerome undertook in vain a neutral and reconciling policy. But they all agreed that the Indians must be baptized, catechized, and more or less chastised into the spirit of the gospel and conformity to Rome. The conquistadores drove with a whip, the missionaries with a dogma. The spirit of the nation and of the age sternly asked for theological conformity: it was seriously understood that a man should believe or burn. For one of those two things he was preordained. Everybody was convinced that a drop of water on the dusky forehead of these natives quenched the flames of hell. The methods used to get that holy drop applied lighted flames, to escape from which anybody would take his chance of the remoter kind.
The cacique Hatuey understood the Spaniards. He was the first man in the New World who saw by instinct what an after-age perceived by philosophical reflection. He should have been the historian of the Conquest. The Spaniards had destroyed his people, and forced him to fly to Cuba for safety. There he also undertook a conversion of the natives. "Do you expect to defend yourselves against this people," he said, "while you do not worship the same God? This God I know; he is more powerful than ours, and I reveal him to you." With this he shows them a little piece of gold. "Here he is; let us celebrate a festival to honor him, that his favor may be extended to us." The natives hold a solemn smoking around the Spanish God, which is followed by singing and dancing, as to one of their own Zemes. Having adroitly concentrated their attention in this way upon the article of gold, Hatuey the next morning reassembles the people and finishes his missionary labors. "My mind is not at ease. There can be no safety for us while the God of the Spaniard is in our midst. They seek him everywhere. Their devotion is so great that they settle in a place only for the convenience of worship. It is useless to attempt to hide him from their eyes. If you should swallow him, they would disembowel you in the name of religion. Even the bottom of the sea may not be too far, but there it is that we must throw him. When he can no longer be found with us, they will leave us in peace."
Admirable counsel, if the gold in veins, or their own blood, were not also the object of search. The natives collected all their gold and threw it into the sea. A party of Spaniards landing upon the island not long after, Hatuey was taken prisoner, and condemned to be burnt alive because he refused to be converted!
"Was conduct ever more affronting? With all the ceremony settled! With the towel ready"—
and all the other apparatus for a first-class baptism, and the annexation to Rome and heaven of a tribe! When he was tied to the stake, and a priest conjured him to profess Christianity and make a sure thing of paradise, he cut him short with,—
"Are there Spaniards in this place of delights of which you speak?"
"There are indeed, but only good ones."
"The best of them is good for nothing," said the cacique. "I would rather not go where I might have to meet them."
Dying, he had his preference.
It seems to be one that is innate in the savage mind. An Ojibbeway was apparently pleased with the new religion that was proffered to him, and thought of being baptized, but, dreaming that he went up to a fair prairie covered with numerous trails of white men, without the print of a single moccasin, was cured of his desire. The Frisian Radbod also expressed his disgust at the converting methods of Charles the Hammer. "He had already immersed one of his royal legs in the baptismal font, when a thought struck him. 'Where are my dead forefathers at present?' he said, turning suddenly upon Bishop Wolfran. 'In hell, with all other unbelievers,' was the imprudent answer. 'Mighty well!' replied Radbod, removing his leg; 'then will I rather feast with my ancestors in the halls of Woden than dwell with your little starveling band of Christians in heaven.'"[S] And if he, too, died a heathen, it is certain that one continued to live in Bishop Wolfran. For it is men of his narrow and brutal theology who are not yet converted to Christianity, but who get a dispensation to disgust men with that glorious name.
[Footnote S: Motley's Dutch Republic, Vol. I. p. 20.]
So it went on at Hayti. Catholic fetiches vied with the native ones for ascendency. Ecclesiastics were charged with the management of secular as well as spiritual matters, for it was the genius of Spain to govern by the priest. A very few of them understood men, and had a head for affairs; of these, some were pure, the rest were base, and readily fraternized with the soldiers and politicians in their selfish policy. A bad and cruel theology, a narrow priestly mind, became the instruments of lust and murder.
Guarionex was the chief cacique of a province which comprised the middle part of the Vega Real. His conversion was undertaken by Friar Roman, a St. Jeromite, and Joan Borognon, a Franciscan. The cacique listened attentively to their instructions, but the natives, already alienated by the excesses of the Spaniards, would neither attend mass nor be catechized, except upon compulsion. It was the policy of Guarionex to offer no resistance to the addresses of the priests. But an outrage committed upon his wife hindered the progress of religion in his province. He dashed the cross to the ground in fury, and scattered the utensils. The affrighted priests fled, leaving behind a chapel with some pictures which they had instructed the converts to regard in offering up their prayers. Guarionex buried all the pictures, and said over them, instead of a Pater, "Now you will begin to bear fruit!" Friar Roman says that a catechumen, digging his agis (sweet pepper) in that field, found two or three of them grown together in the shape of a cross. The miracle and the outrage were reported at once, and the six natives who had buried the pictures at the command of Guarionex were burnt alive! This was the first auto-da-fe on Haytian soil.
The preaching and the lust went on. But the preaching sometimes addressed the sinner also. Montesino, a Dominican preacher, attacked the cruelty of the colonists from the pulpit of San Domingo. He was accused of treason; that is to say, the king was held to represent the policy which enslaved and destroyed the Indian. The authorities threatened to expel the Dominicans from the island, if the preacher did not apologize and withdraw his charges. Montesino promised soon to preach in another style. Having filled the church with his malignant audience, he bravely maintained his position with fresh facts and arguments; he showed that the system of repartimientos, or partition of the Indians among the colonists, was more disastrous than the first system, which imposed upon each cacique a tax and left him to extort it from his subjects. He urged the policy of interest; for the Indians, unused to labor, died in droves: they dropped in the fields beneath the whip; they escaped by whole families to the mountains, and there perished with hunger; they threw themselves into the water, and killed each other in the forests; families committed suicide in concert;—there would soon be no laborers, and the Spaniard could rob and murder, but would not toil. Brave preacher, worthy mouth-piece of the humane Las Casas, what could he effect against the terrible exigency of the situation? For here was a colony, into which all the prisons of Spain had just been emptied to repair a failing emigration,—men bred in crime coalescing with men whose awakened passions made them candidates for prison,—the whole community, with the exception of the preacher and his scattered sympathizers, animated by one desire, to get the gold, to exhaust the soil, to glut voluptuous immunity, to fill the veins with a fiery climate, and to hurry back with wealth enough to feed it more safely in the privacies of Madrid and Seville. What were preaching and benevolent intention, where shaven superstition was inculcating the cross by its weight alone, and bearded ferocity desolated with the sword what the cross could spare? The discussion which Montesino raised went home to Spain; but when a board of commissioners, charged to investigate the subject, advised that all Indians granted to Spanish courtiers, and to all other persons who did not reside upon the island, should be set at liberty, the colonists saw the entering wedge of emancipation. The discontent was so great, and the alternative of slavery or ruin was so passionately offered to the Government at home, that the system of repartimientos remained untouched; for the Government felt that it must choose between the abandonment of the island and the destruction of those who alone, if judiciously protected, could make it profitable to retain it.
Protection and amelioration, then, became the cry. In consequence of the great increase of cattle in the island, it was considered no more than just that the Indians should no longer be used as beasts of burden. They were also to have one day in the seven, besides the Church festivals, for their own use; and intendants were appointed who were to have a general supervision of their affairs, and to protect them from barbarous punishments. These regulations were a weir of reeds thrown across a turbid and tumultuous Amazon.
Las Casas was an eye-witness of the cruelties which he exposed in his memoirs to the Government, those uncompromising indictments of his own nation and of the spirit of the age. He had seen the natives slaughtered like sheep in a pen, and the butchers laid bets with each other upon their dexterity in cleaving them asunder at a stroke. Children, torn from the bosoms of their mothers, were brained against the stones, or thrown into the water with mocking cries,—"That will refresh you!" A favorite mode of immolation, which had the merit of exciting theological associations, was to bind thirteen of the natives to as many stakes, one for each apostle and one for the Saviour, and then to make a burnt-offering of them. Others were smeared with pitch and lighted. Sometimes a fugitive who had been recaptured was sent into the forest with his severed hand,—"Go, carry this letter to the others who have escaped, with our compliments."
"I have seen," says Las Casas, "five chiefs and several other Indians roasting together upon hurdles, and the Spanish captain was enraged because their cries disturbed his siesta. He ordered them to be strangled, that he might hear no more of it. But the superintendent, whom I know, as well as his family, which is from Seville, more cruel than the officer, refused to end their torture." He would not be cheated of his after-dinner luxury, so he gagged them with sticks, and replenished the fires.[T]
[Footnote T: Llorente's Oeuvres de Las Casas; Premiere Memoire, contenant la Relation des Cruautes, etc.]
Columbus first made use of dogs against the Indians, but merely to intimidate. They were swift dogs of chase, impetuous and dangerous, but did not yet deserve to be called blood-hounds. The Spaniards, however, by frequently using them in the pursuit of escaping natives, without thinking it worth while to restrain their motions, gradually educated them to a taste for human blood. From the breed, thus modified, the West-Indian blood-hound descended, possibly not without admixture with other savage dogs of French and English breeds which were brought to the island by their scarcely less savage owners. Many of the dogs which the Spaniards carried to South America roamed at large and degenerated into beasts of prey. Soldiers at one time were detailed to hunt them, and were then nicknamed Mataperros, or dog-slayers.
But if the dogs fed upon the Indian's body, the monk was ever vigilant to save his soul. A woman was holding her child of twelve months, says Las Casas, when she perceived the approach of the hounds in full cry after a party of natives. Feeling that she could not escape, she instantly tied her babe to her leg and then suspended herself from a beam. The dogs came up at the moment that a monk was baptizing the child, thus luckily cutting off its purgatory just behind the jaws that devoured it.
Spaniards were known to feed their dogs, when short of meat, by chopping off a native's arm and throwing it to them; and a few fed their dogs exclusively upon native-meat. We have the authority of Las Casas for the fact, which he took care to have well attested from various sources, that a Spaniard would borrow a quarter of native from a friend for his hounds, promising to return it at a favorable opportunity. Somebody asked one of these generous livers how his housekeeping flourished. "Well enough," was the reply; "I have killed twenty of these rascally Indians, and now, thank God, my dogs have something to eat."
The Spaniards paid their gambling debts in natives. If a governor lost heavily at cards, he would give the winner an order upon some cacique for a corresponding amount of gold, or natives in default of the metal, knowing that the gold could no longer be procured. Sometimes the lucky gambler made the levy without applying to the cacique. The stakes were not unfrequently for three and four hundred Indians in the early days of the colonies, when natives were so plenty that one could be bought for a cheese, or an arroba of vinegar, wine, or lard. Eighty natives were swapped for a mare, and a hundred for a lame horse. When it began to be difficult to lay hands upon them, it was only necessary to send for a missionary, who would gradually collect them for purposes of instruction and worship. When the habit of attending a chapel was pretty well confirmed, the building was surrounded, the young and stout ones were seized and branded, and carried away, with the most attractive females, for further indoctrination in the Christian arts.
A device of the caciques which was practised in Nicaragua might easily have been pursued in Hayti. But the account of Las Casas refers to the former province. When a demand was made upon one cacique to supply laborers, he would repair to another, and say, "The devil who has me in his power wants so many men and women. I have no doubt that your devil will say the same thing to you. Let us arrange the matter. Give me the facility of procuring my quota in your tribe, and you shall take yours from my tribe." "It is agreed; for my devil has just made a similar demand of me." Each cacique would then swear to the Commanders, who were very nice upon the technicality so long as slaves were plenty, that the men furnished came from his own district, thus saving his life and his credit with his people. This was a great convenience; for in all savage exigencies and dire perils men must study how they can best arrange with the inevitable.
But it will be too painful to recount the various inventions for punishing these unhappy children of Nature. The dogs, perhaps, were merciful, for they killed and ate a native on the spot. Cutting off the ear and nose was an ordinary barbarity,—in its origin it was a way to save time in collecting ornaments; shutting fifty or more into a house and setting it in flames was a favorite method of extemporizing a bonfire; pricking a crowd of insurgent natives over a precipice into the sea was an exceptional act of mercy,—they would place one hand over their eyes and take the plunge. It was a common sport to match stout Indians with the hounds, and bet upon their wrestling. In the pearl-fisheries, in rowing galleys, in agriculture, in the mines, in carrying ship-timber, anchors, and pieces of ordnance, in transporting produce, the Spaniards wasted the natives as if they were wind-and water-power which Nature would supply without limit. How can this ferocity be accounted for? It consulted neither interest nor personal safety. They raged like men stung to madness by poisonous clouds of insects; the future received no consideration; plans for improving the methods of cultivating different crops, or for introducing new staples, could not be carried out. Once having tasted native blood, like their own dogs, the hunting mania possessed them, till two millions of Haytians alone had perished. The population had become so reduced as early as 1508 that they were obliged to organize great Indian chases on the main-land, and a Coolie trade sprang up in the Lucayan Islands, to keep the Haytian mines and plantations supplied with hands. Forty thousand of these Lucayans were transported, on the assurance of the Spaniards that they would be restored to the souls of their ancestry, who had gone to reside in that Mountain-land of the West. Was there a touch of grim Spanish humor in this inducement to emigrate? For certainly the Lucayans did very soon rejoin those departed souls.
Wine and the climate maddened these unbridled Europeans. Avarice is a calculating passion; but here were aimless and exhausting horrors, like those which swarm in the drunkard's corrupted brain. What were vices at home became transformed into manias here. The representatives of other nations were not slow to imitate the example of the possessors of Hayti. Venezuela was ceded to a company of Germans in 1526, whose object was simply to strip the country of its treasures. Las Casas tries to believe that the Spaniards seemed like just men by the side of these new speculators; but it was not possible to destroy natives faster than was done in the countries under Spanish rule. The Germans, after all, were forced to employ Spaniards to pursue the Indians when they attempted to escape from this new system of farming into the mountains, and they profited so well by the lessons of their Catholic hunters, that, upon their departure, they hit upon new expedients for making the natives productive. The German Governor constructed a great palisaded park, into which he managed to drive all the Indians of the neighborhood, and then informed them that they could issue from it only as slaves, unless they paid a certain ransom, whose value he fixed. They were deliberately starved into adopting one or the other alternative. Those who could procure gold were let out to collect it, leaving their wives and children as pledges of their return. Many of the others preferred to die of hunger and thirst. When the ransomed natives departed with their families, the Governor had them pursued, reparked, and subjected to a repetition of this sponging process, and again a third time, so admirably did it work. This strikes Las Casas as a refinement of cruelty, which can be attributed only to the fact that these Germans were Lutheran heretics, and never assisted at the mass. "This is the way," he says, "that they conformed to the royal intention of establishing Christianity in these countries!"
How did the Spaniards conform to it? Rude soldiers became the managers of the different working gangs into which the Indians had been divided, and it devolved upon them to superintend their spiritual welfare. Enough has been said about their brutality; but their ignorance was no less remarkable. Las Casas complains that they could not repeat the Credo, nor the Ten Commandments. Their ignorance of the former would have been bliss, if they had been practically instructed in the latter. John Colmenero was one of these common soldiers who became installed in a Commandery (Encomienda). When the missionaries visited his plantation, they found that the laborers had not the slightest notions of Christianity. They examined John upon the subject, and discovered to their horror that he did not know even how to make the sign of the cross. "What have you been teaching these poor Indians?" they asked him. "Why, that they are all going to the Devil! Won't your signin santin cruces help to teach them that?"[U]
[Footnote U: Llorente, Tom. I. p. 180.]
No doubt it would; for we know how serviceable in that way Ovando found it, when he plotted to seize the beautiful Anacaona, who governed the province of Xaragua in Hayti. This he did, and also gave the signal for a dreadful massacre of her subjects, whom he had beguiled to a military spectacle, by lifting his hand to the cross of Alcantara that was embroidered on his dress.
Colmenero had not a head for business like that other Spaniard who baptized all the inhabitants of a village and took away their idols of gold, for which he substituted copper ones, and then compelled the natives to purchase them of him at so many slaves per idol.
"Come, then, caciques and Indians, come!" This was the ordinary style of proclamation. "Abandon your false gods, adore the God of the Christians, profess their religion, believe in the gospel, receive the sacrament of baptism, recognize the King of Castile for your king and master. If you refuse, we declare war upon you to kill you, to make you slaves, to spoil you of your goods, and to cause you to suffer as long and as often as we shall judge convenient,"[V] and for the good of your souls.
[Footnote V: Llorente, Tom. I. p. 28.]
In 1542, Charles V. procured a bull from Pope Paul III. restoring the Indians to their natural freedom: this he confirmed and despatched to the island. Las Casas, the Protector of the Indians, had carried his point at last, but the Indians were beyond protection. The miserable remnant were no longer of consequence, for the African had begun to till the soil enriched by so much native blood. Thus ends the first chapter of the Horrors of San Domingo.
Schoelcher reminds us that the traveller may read upon the tomb of Columbus at Seville: "Known worlds were not enough for him: he added a new to the old, and gave to heaven innumerable souls."
[To be continued.]
METHODS OF STUDY IN NATURAL HISTORY.
A few miles from the southern extremity of Florida, separated from it by a channel, narrow at the eastern end, but widening gradually toward the west, and rendered every year more and more shallow by the accumulation of materials constantly collecting within it, there lies a line of islands called the Florida Keys. They are at different distances from the shore, stretching gradually seaward in the form of an open crescent, from Virginia Key and Key Biscayne, almost adjoining the main-land, to Key West, at a distance of twelve miles from the coast, which does not, however, close the series, for sixty miles farther west stands the group of the Tortugas, isolated in the Gulf of Mexico. Though they seem disconnected, these islands are parts of a submerged Coral Reef, concentric with the shore of the peninsula and continuous underneath the water, but visible above the surface at such points of the summit as have fully completed their growth.
This demands some explanation, since I have already said that no Coral growth can continue after it has reached the line of high-water. But we have not finished the history of a Coral wall, when we have followed it to the surface of the ocean. It is true that its normal growth ceases there, but already a process of partial decay as begun that insures its further increase. Here, as elsewhere, destruction and construction go hand in hand, and the materials that are broken or worn away from one part of the Reef help to build it up elsewhere. The Corals which form the Reef are not the only beings that find their home there: many other animals—Shells, Worms, Crabs, Star-Fishes, Sea-Urchins—establish themselves upon it, work their way into its interstices, and seek a shelter in every little hole and cranny made by the irregularities of its surface. In the Zoological Museum at Cambridge there are some large fragments of Coral Reef which give one a good idea of the populous aspect that such a Reef would present, could we see it as it actually exists beneath the water. Some of these fragments consist of a succession of terraces, as it were, in which are many little miniature caves, where may still be seen the Shells or Sea-Urchins which made their snug and sheltered homes in these recesses of the Reef.
We must not consider the Reef as a solid, massive structure throughout. The compact kinds of Corals, giving strength and solidity to the wall, may be compared to the larger trees in a forest, which give it shade and density; but between these grow all kinds of trailing vines, ferns and mosses, wild flowers and low shrubs, that till the spaces between the larger trees with a thick underbrush. The Coral Reef also has its underbrush of the lighter, branching, more brittle kinds, that fill its interstices and fringe the summit and the sides with their delicate, graceful forms. Such an intricate underbrush of Coral growth affords an excellent retreat for many animals that like its protection better than exposure to the open sea, just as many land-animals prefer the close and shaded woods to the open plain: a forest is not more thickly peopled with Birds, Squirrels, Martens, and the like, than is the Coral Reef with a variety of animals that do not contribute in any way to its growth, but find shelter in its crevices or in its near neighborhood.
But these larger animals are not the only ones that haunt the forest. There is a host of parasites besides, principally Insects and their larvae, which bore their way into the very heart of the tree, making their home in the bark and pith, and not the less numerous because hidden from sight. These also have their counterparts in the Reef, where numbers of boring Shells and marine Worms work their way into the solid substance of the wall, piercing it, with holes in every direction, till large portions become insecure, and the next storm suffices to break off the fragments so loosened. Once detached, they are tossed about in the water, crumbled into Coral sand, crushed, often ground to powder by the friction of the rocks and the constant action of the sea.
After a time, an immense quantity of such materials is formed about a Coral Reef; tides and storms constantly throw them up on its surface, and at last a soil collects on the top of the Reef, wherever it has reached the surface of the water, formed chiefly of its own debris, of Coral sand, Coral fragments, even large masses of Coral rock, mingled with the remains of the animals that have had their home about the Reef, with sea-weeds, with mud from the neighboring land, and with the thousand loose substances always floating about in the vicinity of a coast and thrown upon the rocks or shore with every wave that breaks against them. Add to this the presence of a lime-cement in the water, resulting from the decomposition of some of these materials, and we have all that is needed to make a very compact deposit and fertile soil, on which a vegetation may spring up, whenever seeds floating from the shore or dropped by birds in their flight take root on the newly formed island.
There is one plant belonging to tropical or sub-tropical climates that is peculiarly adapted by its mode of growth to the soil of these islands, and contributes greatly to their increase. This is the Mangrove-tree. Its seeds germinate in the calyx of the flower, and, before they drop, grow to be little brown stems, some six or seven inches long and about as thick as a finger, with little rootlets at one end. Such Mangrove-seedlings, looking more like cigars than anything else, float in large numbers about the Reef. I have sometimes seen them in the water about the Florida Reef in such quantities that one would have said some vessel laden with Havana cigars had been wrecked there, and its precious cargo scattered in the ocean.
In consequence of their shape and the development of the root, one end is a little heavier than the other, so that they float unevenly, with the loaded end a little lower than the lighter one. When they are brought by the tide against such a cap of soil as I have described, they become stranded upon it by their heavier end, the rootlets attach themselves slightly to the soil, the advancing and retreating waves move the little plant up and down, till it works a hole in the sand, and having thus established itself more firmly, steadied itself as it were, it now stands upright, and, as it grows, throws out numerous roots, even from a height of several feet above the ground, till it has surrounded the lower part of its stem with a close net-work of roots. Against this natural trellis or screen all sorts of materials collect; sand, mud, and shells are caught in it; and as these Mangrove-trees grow in large numbers and to the height of thirty feet, they contribute greatly to the solidity and compactness of the shores on which they are stranded.
Such caps of soil on the summit of a Coral Reef are of course very insecure till they are consolidated by a long period of accumulation, and they may even be swept completely away by a violent storm. It is not many years since the light-house built on Sand Key for the greater security of navigation along the Reef was swept away with the whole island on which it stood. Thanks to the admirably conducted Investigations of the Coast-Survey, this part of our seaboard, formerly so dangerous on account of the Coral Reefs, is now better understood, and every precaution has been taken to insure the safety of vessels sailing along the coast of Florida.
I cannot deny myself the pleasure of paying a tribute here to the high scientific character of the distinguished superintendent of this survey, who has known so well how to combine the most important scientific aims with the most valuable practical results in his direction of it. If some have hitherto doubted the practical value of such researches,—and unhappily there are always those who estimate intellectual efforts only by their material results,—one would think that these doubts must be satisfied now that the Coast-Survey is seen to be the right arm of our navy. Most of the leaders in our late naval expeditions have been men trained in its service, and familiar with all the harbors, with every bay and inlet of our Southern coasts, from having been engaged in the extensive researches undertaken by Dr. Bache and carried out under his guidance. Many, even, of the pilots of our Southern fleets are men who have been employed upon this work, and owe their knowledge of the coast to their former occupation. It is a singular fact, that at this very time, when the whole country feels its obligation to the men who have devoted so many years of their lives to these investigations, a proposition should have been brought forward in Congress for the suspension of the Coast-Survey on economical grounds. Happily, the almost unanimous rejection of this proposition has shown the appreciation in which the work is held by our national legislature. Even without reference to their practical usefulness, it is a sad sign, when, in the hour of her distress, a nation sacrifices first her intellectual institutions. Then more than ever, when she needs all the culture, all the wisdom, all the comprehensiveness of her best intellects, should she foster the institution that have fostered them, in which they have been trained to do good service to their country in her time of need.
Several of the Florida Keys, such as Key West and Indian Key, are already large, inhabited islands, several miles in extent. The interval between them and the main-land is gradually filling up by a process similar to that by which the islands themselves were formed. The gentle landward slope of the Reef and the channel between it and the shore are covered with a growth of the more branching lighter Corals, such as Sea-Fans, Coral-lines, etc., answering the same purpose as the intricate roots of the Mangrove-tree. All the debris of the Reef, as well as the sand and mud washed from the shore, collect in this net-work of Coral growth within the channel, and soon transform it into a continuous mass, with a certain degree of consistence and solidity. This forms the foundation of the mud-flats which are now rapidly filling the channel and must eventually connect the Keys of Florida with the present shore of the peninsula.
Outside the Keys, but not separated from them by so great a distance as that which intervenes between them and the main-land, there stretches beneath the water another Reef, abrupt, like the first, on its seaward side, but sloping gently toward the inner Reef, and divided from it by a channel. This outer Reef and channel are, however, in a much less advanced state than the preceding ones; only here and there a sand-flat large enough to afford a foundation for a beacon or a lighthouse shows that this Reef also is gradually coming to the surface, and that a series of islands corresponding to the Keys must eventually be formed upon its summit. Some of my readers may ask why the Reef does not rise evenly to the level of the sea, and form a continuous line of land, instead of here and there an island. This is accounted for by the sensitiveness of the Corals to any unfavorable circumstances impeding their growth, as well as by the different rates of increase of the different kinds. Wherever any current from the shore flows over the Reef, bringing with it impurities from the land, there the growth of the Corals will be less rapid, and consequently that portion of the Reef will not reach the surface so soon as other parts, where no such unfavorable influences have interrupted the growth. But in the course of time the outer Reef will reach the surface for its whole length and become united to the inner one by the filling up of the channel between them, while the inner one will long before that time become solidly united to the present shore-bluffs of Florida by the consolidation of the mud-flats, which will one day transform the inner channel into dry land.
What is now the rate of growth of these Coral Reefs? We cannot, perhaps, estimate it with absolute accuracy, since they are now so nearly completed; but Coral growth is constantly springing up wherever it can find a foothold, and it is not difficult to ascertain approximately the rate of growth of the different kinds. Even this, however, would give us far too high a standard; for the rise of the Coral Reef is not in proportion to the height of the living Corals, but to their solid parts which never decompose. Add to this that there are many brittle delicate kinds that have a considerable height when alive, but contribute to the increase of the Reef only so much additional thickness as they would have when broken and crushed down upon its surface. A forest in its decay does not add to the soil of the earth a thickness corresponding to the height of its trees, but only such a thin layer as would be left by the decomposition of its whole vegetation. In the Coral Reef, also, we must allow not only for the deduction of the soft parts, but also for the comminution of all these brittle branches, which would be broken and crushed by the action of the storms and tides, and add, therefore, but little to the Reef in proportion to their size when alive.
The foundations of Fort Jefferson, which is built entirely of Coral rock, were laid on the Tortugas Islands in the year 1846. A very intelligent head-work man watched the growth of certain Corals that established themselves on these foundations, and recorded their rate of increase. He has shown me the rocks on which Corals had been growing for some dozen years, during which they had increased at the rate of about half an inch in ten years. I have collected facts from a variety of sources and localities that confirm this testimony. A brick placed under water in the year 1850 by Captain Woodbury of Tortugas, with the view of determining the rate of growth of Corals, when taken up in 1858 had a crust of Maeandrina upon it a little more than half an inch in thickness. Mr. Allen also sent me from Key West a number of fragments of Maeandrina from the breakwater at Fort Taylor; they had been growing from twelve to fifteen years, and have an average thickness of about an inch. The specimens vary in this respect,—some of them being a little more than an inch in thickness, others not more than half an inch. Fragments of Oculina gathered at the same place and of the same age are from one to three inches in length; but these belong to the lighter, more branching kinds of Corals, which, as we have seen, cannot, from their brittle character, be supposed to add their whole height to the solid mass of the Coral wall. Millepore gives a similar result.
Estimating the growth of the Coral Reef according to these and other data of the same character, it should be about half a foot in a century; and a careful comparison which I have made of the condition of the Reef as recorded in an English survey made about a century ago with its present state would justify this conclusion. But allowing a wide margin for inaccuracy of observation or for any circumstances that might accelerate the growth, and leaving out of consideration the decay of the soft parts and the comminution of the brittle ones, which would subtract so largely from the actual rate of growth, let us double this estimate and call the average increase a foot for every century. In so doing, we are no doubt greatly overrating the rapidity of the progress, and our calculation of the period that must have elapsed in the formation of the Reef will be far within the truth.
The outer Reef, still incomplete, as I have stated, and therefore of course somewhat lower than the inner one, measures about seventy feet in height. Allowing a foot of growth for every century, not less than seven thousand years must have elapsed since this Reef began to grow. Some miles nearer the main-land are the Keys, or the inner Reef; and though this must have been longer in the process of formation than the outer one, since its growth is completed, and nearly the whole extent of its surface is transformed into islands, with here and there a narrow break separating them, yet, in order to keep fully within the evidence of the facts, I will allow only seven thousand years for the formation of this Reef also, making fourteen thousand for the two.
This brings us to the shore-bluffs, consisting simply of another Reef exactly like those already described, except that the lapse of time has united it to the main-land by the complete filling up and consolidation of the channel which once divided it from the extremity of the peninsula, as a channel now separates the Keys from the shore-bluffs, and the outer Reef, again, from the Keys. These three concentric Reefs, then, the outer Reef, the Keys, and the shore-bluffs, if we measure the growth of the two latter on the same low estimate by which I have calculated the rate of progress of the former, cannot have reached their present condition in less than twenty thousand years. Their growth must have been successive, since, as we have seen, all Corals need the fresh action of the open sea upon them, and if either of the outer Reefs had begun to grow before the completion of the inner one, it would have effectually checked the growth of the latter. The absence of an incipient Reef outside of the outer Reef shows these conclusions to be well founded. The islands capping these three do not exceed in height the level to which the fragments accumulated upon their summits may have been thrown by the heaviest storms. The highest hills of this part of Florida are not over ten or twelve feet above the level of the sea, and yet the luxuriant vegetation with which they are covered gives them an imposing appearance.
But this is not the end of the story. Travelling inland from the shore-bluffs, we cross a low, flat expanse of land, the Indian hunting-ground, which brings us to a row of elevations called the Hummocks. This hunting-ground, or Everglade as it is also called, is an old channel, changed first to mud-flats and then to dry land by the same kind of accumulation that is filling up the present channels, and the row of hummocks is but an old Coral Reef with the Keys or islands of past days upon its summit. Seven such Reefs and channels of former times have already been traced between the shore-bluffs and Lake Okee-cho-bee, adding some fifty thousand years to our previous estimate. Indeed, upon the lowest calculation, based upon the facts thus far ascertained as to their growth, we cannot suppose that less than seventy thousand years have elapsed since the Coral Reefs already known to exist in Florida began to grow. When we remember that this is but a small portion of the peninsula, and that, though we have not yet any accurate information as to the nature of its interior, yet the facts already ascertained in the northern part of this State, formed like its Southern extremity of Coral growth, justify the inference that the whole peninsula is formed of successive concentric Reefs, we must believe that hundreds of thousands of years have elapsed since its formation began. Leaving aside, however, all that part of its history which is not susceptible of positive demonstration in the present state of our knowledge, I will limit my results to the evidence of facts already within our possession; and these give us as the lowest possible estimate a period of seventy thousand years for the formation of that part of the peninsula which extends south of Lake Okee-cho-bee to the present outer Reef.
So much for the duration of the Reefs themselves. What, now, do they tell us of the permanence of the Species by which they were formed? In these seventy thousand years has there been any change in the Corals living in the Gulf of Mexico? I answer, most emphatically, No. Astraeans, Porites, Maeandrinas, and Madrepores were represented by exactly the same Species seventy thousand years ago as they are now. Were we to classify the Florida Corals from the Reefs of the interior, the result would correspond exactly to a classification founded upon the living Corals of the outer Reef to-day. There would be among the Astraeans the different species of Astraea proper, forming the close round heads,—the Mussa, growing in smaller stocks, where the mouths coalesce and run into each other as in the Brain-Corals, but in which the depressions formed by the mouths are deeper,—and the Caryophyllians, in which the single individuals stand out more distinctly from the stock; among Porites, the P. Astroides, with pits resembling those of the Astraeans in form, though smaller in size, and growing also in solid heads, though these masses are covered with club-shaped protrusions, instead of presenting a smooth, even surface like the Astraeans,—and the P. Clavaria, in which the stocks are divided in short, stumpy branches, with club-shaped ends, instead of growing in close, compact heads; among the Maeandrinas we should have the round heads we know as Brain-Corals, with their wavy lines over the surface, and the Manacina, differing again from the preceding by certain details of structure; among the Madrepores we should have the Madrepora prolifera, with its small, short branches, broken up by very frequent ramifications, the M. cervicornis, with longer and stouter branches and less frequent ramifications, and the cup-like M. palmata, resembling an open sponge in form. Every Species, in short, that lives upon the present Reef is found in the more ancient ones. They all belong to our own geological period, and we cannot, upon the evidence before us, estimate its duration at less than seventy thousand years, during which time we have no evidence of any change in Species, but on the contrary the strongest proof of the absolute permanence of those Species whose past history we have been able to trace.
Before leaving the subject of the Coral Reefs, I would add a few words on the succession of the different kinds of Polyp Corals on a Reef as compared with their structural rank and also with their succession in time, because we have here another of those correspondences of thought, those intellectual links in Creation, which give such coherence and consistency to the whole, and make it intelligible to man.
The lowest in structure among the Polyps are not Corals, but the single, soft-bodied Actiniae. They have no solid parts, and are independent in their mode of existence, never forming communities, like the higher members of the class. It might at first seem strange that independence, considered a sign of superiority in the higher animals, should here be looked upon as a mark of inferiority. But independence may mean either simple isolation, or independence of action; and the life of a single Polyp is no more independent in the sense of action than that of a community of Polyps. It is simply not connected with or related to the life of any others. The mode of development of these animals tells us something of the relative inferiority and superiority of the single ones and of those that grow in communities. When the little Polyp Coral, the Astraean or Madrepore, for instance, is born from the egg, it is as free as the Actinia, which remains free all its life. It is only at a later period, as its development goes on, that it becomes solidly attached to the ground, and begins its compound life by putting forth new beings like itself as buds from its side. Since we cannot suppose that the normal development of any being can have a retrograde action, we are justified in believing that the loss of freedom is in fact a stage of progress in these lower animals, and their more intimate dependence on each other a sign of maturity.
There are, however, structural features by which the relative superiority of these animals may be determined. In proportion as the number of their parts is limited and permanent, their structure is more complicated; and the indefinite multiplication of identical parts is connected with inferiority of structure. Now in these lowest Polyps, the Actiniae, the tentacles increase with age indefinitely, never ceasing to grow while life lasts, new chambers being constantly added to correspond with them, till it becomes impossible to count their numbers. Next to these come the true Fungidae. They are also single, and though they are stony Corals, they have no share in the formation of Reefs. In these, also, the tentacles multiply throughout life, though they are usually not so numerous as in the Actiniae. But a new feature is added to the complication of their structure, as compared with Actiniae, in the transverse beams which connect their vertical partitions, though they do not stretch across the animal so as to form perfect floors, as in some of the higher Polyps. These transverse beams or floors must not be confounded with the horizontal floors alluded to in a former article as characteristic of the ancient Acalephian Corals, the Rugosa and Tabulata. For in the latter these floors stretch completely across the body, uninterrupted by vertical partitions, which, if they exist at all, pass only from floor to floor, instead of extending unbroken through the whole height of the body, as in all Polyps. Where, on the contrary, transverse floors exist in true Polyps, they never cut the vertical partitions in their length, but simply connect their walls, stretching wholly or partially from wall to wall.
In the Astraeans, the multiplication of tentacles is more definite and limited, rising sometimes to ninety and more, though often limited to forty-eight in number, and the transverse floors between the vertical partitions are more complete than in the Fungidae. The Porites have twelve tentacles only, never more and never less; and in them the whole solid frame presents a complicated system of connected beams. The Madrepores have also twelve tentacles, but they have a more definite character than those of the Porites, on account of their regular alternation in six smaller and six larger ones; in these also the transverse floors are perfect, but exceedingly delicate. Another remarkable feature among the Madrepores consists in the prominence of one of the Polyps on the summit of the branches, showing a kind of subordination of the whole community to these larger individuals, and thus sustaining the view expressed above, that the combination of many individuals into a connected community is among Polyps a character of superiority when contrasted with the isolation of the Actiniae;. In the Sea-Fans, the Halcyonoids, as they are called in our classification, the number of tentacles is always eight, four of which are already present at the time of their birth, arranged in pairs, while the other four are added later. Their tentacles are lobed all around the margin, and are much more complicated in structure than those of the preceding Polyps.
According to the relative complication of their structure, these animals are classified in the following order:—
Halcyonoids: eight tentacles in pairs, lobed around the margin; always combined in large communities, some of which are free and movable like single animals.
Madrepores: twelve tentacles, alternating in six larger and six smaller ones; frequently a larger top animal standing prominent in the whole community, or on the summit of its branches.
Porites: twelve tentacles, not alternating in size; system of connected beams.
Astraeans: tentacles not definitely limited in number, though usually not exceeding one hundred, and generally much below this number; transverse floors. Maeandrines, generally referred to Astraeans, are higher than the true Astraeans, on account of their compound Polyps.
Fungidae: indefinite multiplication of tentacles; imperfect transverse beams.
Actiniae: indefinite multiplication of tentacles; soft bodies and no transverse beams.
If, now, we compare this structural gradation among Polyps with their geological succession, we shall find that they correspond exactly. The following table gives the geological order in which they have been introduced upon the surface of the earth.
Present, Halcyonoids. Pliocene, Miocene, } Madrepores. Eocene, / Cretaceous, Porites Jurassic, } and Triassic, } Astraeans. Permian, / Carboniferous, Devonian, } Fungidae Silurian, /
With regard to the geological position of the Actiniae we can say nothing, because, if their soft, gelatinous bodies have left any impressions in the rocks, none such have ever been found; but their absence is no proof that they did not exist, since it is exceedingly improbable that animals destitute of any hard parts could be preserved.
The position of the Corals on a Reef accords with these series of structural gradation and geological succession. It is true that we do not find the Actiniae in the Reef any more than in the crust of the earth, for the absence of hard parts in their bodies makes them quite unfit to serve as Reef-Builders. Neither do we find the Fungidae, for they, like all low forms, are single, and not confined to one level, having a wider range in depth and extent than other stony Polyps. But the true Reef-Building Polyps follow each other on the Reef in the same order as prevails in their structural gradation and their geological succession; and whether we classify them according to their position on the Reef, or their introduction upon the earth in the course of time, or their relative rank, the result is the same.
It would require an amount of details that would be tedious to many of my readers, were I to add here the evidence to prove that the embryological development of these animals, so far as it is known, and their geographical distribution over the whole surface of our globe, show the same correspondence with the other three series. But this recurrence of the same thought in the history of animals of the same Type, so that, from whatever side we consider them, their creation and existence seem to be guided by one Mind, is so important in the study of Nature, that I shall constantly refer to it in the course of these papers, even though I may sometimes be accused of unnecessary repetition.
What is the significance of these coincidences? They were not sought for by the different investigators, who have worked quite independently, while ascertaining all these facts, without even knowing that there was any relation between the objects of their studies. The succession of fossil Corals has been found in the rocks by the geologist,—the embryologist has followed the changes in the growth of the living Corals,—the zooelogist has traced the geographical distribution and the structural relations of the full-grown animals; but it is only after the results of their separate investigations are collected and compared that the coincidence is perceived, and alt find that they have been working unconsciously to one end. These thoughts in Nature, which we are too prone to call simply facts, when in reality they are the ideal conception antecedent to the very existence of all created beings, are expressed in the objects of our study. It is not the zooelogist who invents the structural relations establishing a gradation between all Polyps,—it is not the geologist who places them in the succession in which he finds them in the rocks,—it is not the embryologist who devises the changes through which the living Polyps pass as he watches their growth; they only read what they see, and when they compare their results they all tell the same story. He who reads most correctly from the original is the best naturalist. What unites all their investigations and makes them perfectly coherent with each other is the coincidence of thought expressed in the facts themselves. In other words, it is the working of the same Intellect through all time, everywhere.
When we observe the practical results of this sequence in the position of Corals on the Reef, we cannot fail to see that it is not a mere accidental difference of structure and relation, but that it bears direct reference to the part these little beings were to play in Creation. It places the solid part of the structure at the base of the Reef,—it fills in the interstices with a lighter growth,—it crowns the summit with the more delicate kinds, that yield to the action of the tides and are easily crushed into the fine sand that forms the soil,—it makes a masonry solid, compact, time-defying, such a masonry as was needed by the great Architect, who meant that these smallest creatures of His hand should help to build His islands and His continents.
THE AUTHOR OF "CHARLES AUCHESTER."
When Mr. Disraeli congratulated himself that in the "Wondrous Tale of Alroy" he had invented a new style, he scarcely deemed that he had but spun the thread which was to vibrate with melody under the hand of another. For in none of his magical sentences is the spell exactly complete, and nowhere do they drop into the memory with that long slow rhythm and sweet delay which mark every distinct utterance of Elizabeth Sheppard. Yet at his torch she lit her fires, over his stories she dreamed, his "Contarini Fleming" she declared to be the touchstone of all romantic truth, and with the great freights of thought argosied along his pages she enriched herself. "Destiny is our will, and our will is our nature," he says. Behold the key-note of those strangely beautiful Romances of Temperament of which for ten years we have been cutting the leaves!
In "Venetia," hint and example were given of working the great ores that lie in the fields about us; and when Elizabeth Sheppard in turn took up the divining-rod, it sought no clods of baser metal, but gold-veined masses of crystal and the clear currents of pure water-streams;—beneath her compelling power, Mendelssohn—Beethoven—Shelley—lived again and forever.
The musician who perhaps inspired a profounder enthusiasm during his lifetime than any other ever did had been missed among men but a few years, when a little book was quietly laid upon his shrine, and he received, as it were, an apotheosis. Half the world broke into acclaim over this outpouring of fervid worship. But it was private acclaim, and not to be found in the newspapers. To those who, like the most of us in America, vainly hunger and thirst after the sweets of sound, the book was an initiation into the very penetralia of music, we mounted and rested in that sphere from the distastes of too practical life, long afterwards we seemed to hear the immortal Song of which it spoke, and our souls were refreshed. There followed this in a year—inscribed to Mrs. Disraeli, as the other had been to that lady's husband—"Counterparts": a novel which, it is not too much to say, it is impossible for human hand to excel;—superior to its predecessor, since that was but a memorial, while this was the elaboration of an Idea. Here the real author ceased awhile. Three succeeding books were but fancies wrought out, grafts, happy thoughts, very possibly enforced work; but there were no more spontaneous affairs of her own individuality, until the one entitled "Almost a Heroine." In this work, which treated of the possible perfection of marriage, the whole womanly nature of the writer asserted itself by virtue of the mere fact of humanity. After this came a number of juvenile stories, some commonplace, others infiltrated with that subtile charm which breathes, with a single exception, through all her larger books like the perfume of an exotic. Thus in the three novels mentioned we have all that can be had of Elizabeth Sheppard herself: in the third, her theory of life; in the second, her aspirations and opinions; in the first, her passion.
The orphaned daughter of an English clergyman, and self-dependent, in 1853 she translated her name into French and published "Charles Auchester,"—a book written at the age of sixteen. That name of hers is not the most attractive in the tongue, but all must love it who love her; for, if any theory of transmission be true, does she not owe something of her own oneness with Nature, of her intimacy with its depths, of her love of fields and flowers and skies, to that ancestry who won the name as, like the princely Hebrew boy, they tended the flocks upon the hills, under sunlight and starlight and ill every wind that blew? Never was there a more characteristic device than this signature of "E. Berger"; and nobody learned anything by it. At first it was presumed that some member of the house of Rothschild had experienced a softening of the brain to the extent implied by such effusion of genuine emotion, and it was rather gladly hailed as evidence of the weakness shared in common with ordinary mortals by that more than imperial family, the uncrowned potentates of the world,—the subject and method of the book being just sufficiently remote from every-day to preserve the unities of the supposition. Gradually this theory was sought to be displaced by one concerning a German baroness acquainted neither with Jews nor with music, humored as it was by that foreign trick in the book, the idioms of another tongue; but the latter theory was too false on its face to be tenable, and then people left off caring about it. It is perhaps an idle infirmity, this request for the personality of authors; yet it is indeed a response to the fact that there never was one who did not prefer to be esteemed for himself rather than for his writing,—and, ascending, may we love the works of God and not the Lord himself? However, none were a whit the wiser for knowing Miss Sheppard's name. It came to be accepted that we were to have the books,—whence was no matter; they were so new, so strange, so puzzling,—the beautiful, the quaint, and the faulty were so interwoven, that nobody cared to separate these elements, to take the trouble to criticize or to thank; and thus, though we all gladly enough received, we kept our miserly voices to ourselves, and she never met with any adequate recognition. After her first book, England quietly ignored her,—they could not afford to be so startled; as Sir Leicester Dedlock said, "It was really—really—"; she did very well for the circulating libraries; and because Mr. Mudie insists on his three volumes or none at all, she was forced to extend her rich webs to thinness. It is this alone that injures "Counterparts" for many;—not that they would not gladly accept the clippings in a little supplementary pamphlet, but dissertations, they say, delay the action. In this case, though, that is not true; for, besides the incompleteness of the book without the objectionable dissertation, (that long conversation between Miss Dudleigh and Sarona,) it answers the purpose of very necessary by-play on the stage during preparation for the last and greatest scene. But had this been a fault, it was not so much hers as the publishers'. Subject to the whims of those in London, and receiving no reply to the communication of her wishes from those in Edinburgh, she must have experienced much injustice at the hands of her booksellers, and her title-pages show them to have been perpetually changed. She herself accepts with delight propositions from another quarter of the globe; the prospect of writing for those across the water was very enticing to her; and in one of her letters she says,—"It is my greatest ambition to publish in America,—to have no more to do personally with English publishers"; and finding it, after serious illness, impossible to fulfil this engagement in season, the anxiety, regret, and subsequent gratitude, which she expressed, evinced that she had been unaccustomed to the courteous consideration then received.
Working constantly for so many years, she had yet known nothing of her readers, had felt her literary life to be an utter failure, had thrown a voice into the world and heard no echo; and when for the first time told of the admiration she elicited in this country and of one who rejoiced in her, her face kindled and she desired to come and be among her own people. Those who have failed to appreciate her can hardly be blamed, as it is owing entirely to their deficiency; but the cavillers—those who have ears and hear not—are less excusable. Almost a recluse,—declining even an interview with her publishers,—in ill-health, in poverty, and with waning youth, she poured out her precious ointment from alabaster boxes, and there were not wanting Pharisees. But hampered by precedent and somewhat barren of enthusiasms as are almost all productions now, how could we do aught but welcome this spontaneous and ever-fresh fountain bubbling into the sunlight, albeit without geometrical restrictions, and bringing as it did such treasures from its secret sources? Yet, welcomed or not, there is no record of any female prose-writer's ever having lived who possessed more than a portion of that genius which permeated Elizabeth Sheppard's whole being. Genius,—the very word expresses her: in harmony with the great undertone of the universe, the soul suffused with light. Flower-warmth and fragrance are on her page, the soft low summer wind seems to be speaking with you as you read, her characters are like the stars impersonated, and still, however lofty her nature, always and forever genial. You catch her own idiosyncrasy throughout, and believe, that, like Evelyn Hope, she was made of spirit, fire, and dew. When we remember the very slight effect ever visible to her of all her labor, there is something sad in the thought of this young soul, thrilled with its own fervors and buoyant in anticipation, sending forth the first venture. But then we recognize as well, that she was one of those few to whom creation is a necessity, that in truth she scarcely needed human response, and that when men were silent God replied.
Miss Sheppard's style was something very novel. Based, perhaps, on an admiration of one whose later exploits have dwarfed his earlier in the general estimation, there was yet no more resemblance than between the string-courses of a building and its sculptured friezes. Indeed, writing was not her virtual expression: this may be learned even in her peculiar way of loving Nature, for it was not so much Nature itself as Nature's effects that she prized; and between the work now performed and that awaiting her in some further life one feels the difference that exists between the soft clay model with its mild majesty, its power clogged and covered, and the same when it issues in the white radiance of marble. She does not seem to have been an extensive reader, and certainly no student, while she totally disregarded all rules and revision. Her sentences were so long that one got lost in them, and had finally to go back and clutch a nominative case and drag it down the page with him; there were ambiguities and obscurities in plenty: her thoughts were so bright that they darkened her words; one must go through a process of initiation,—but having mastered the style, one knew the writer. It was well worth while, this shrouding rhetoric, for beneath it were no reserves; superficially no one ever kept more out of sight, but the real reader could not fail to know that here he had the freedom of the author's nature: and although she somewhere said that a woman "thus intensely feminine, thus proud and modest, betraying herself to the world in her writings, is an exception, and one in the whole world the most rare," she knew not that she sketched herself in that exception. But there are not elsewhere to be found pages so drenched with beauty as hers; and for all her vague abstractions of language, and wide, suffused effects, she possessed yet the skill to present a picture, keenly etched and vividly colored, in the fewest words, when she chose. Not to mention Rose and Bernard, who, oddly enough, are a series of the most exquisite pictures in themselves, bathed in changing and ever-living light, let us take, for instance, Maria Cerinthia walking in the streets of Paris, having worn out her mantilla, and with only a wreath of ivy on her head,—or Clotilda at her books, "looking very much like an old picture of a young person sitting there,"—or the charming one of Laura's pas, which the little boy afterwards describes in saying, "She quite swam, and turned her eyes upward,"—or, better, yet, that portrait of a Romagnese woman: "of the ancient Roman beauty, rare now, if still remembered, with hair to her knees, wrapping her form in a veil vivid as woven gold, with the emerald eyes of Dante's Beatrice, a skin of yellow whiteness, and that mould of figure in which undulating softness quenches majesty,—the mould of the mystical Lucretia." There are sea-sketches scattered among these leaves which no painter's brush will ever equal, and morning and twilight gain new splendor and tenderness beneath her touch.
But, after all, this was not her style's chief excellence; she cared little for such pictorial achievements, and in presenting her fancies she often sacrificed outline to melody; it is necessary for you to feel rather than to see her meaning. What distinguished her yet more was the ability by means of this style to interpret music into words. Although this may not be correct practice, there was never a musical critic who did not now and then attempt it: musicians themselves never do, because music is to them nothing to see or to describe, but the air they breathe, and in fact a state of being. Do you remember that tone-wreath of heather and honeysuckle? "It was a movement of such intense meaning that it was but one sigh of unblended and unfaltering melody isolated as the fragrance of a single flower, and only the perfumes of Nature exhale a bliss as sweet, how far more unexpressed! This short movement, that in its oneness was complete, grew, as it were, by fragmentary harmonies, intricate, but most gradual, into another,—a prestissimo so delicately fitful that it was like moonlight dancing upon crested ripples; or, for a better similitude, like quivering sprays in a summer wind. And in less than fifty bars of regularly broken time—how ravishingly sweet I say not—the first subject in refrain flowed through the second, and they, interwoven even as creepers and flowers densely tangled, closed together simultaneously." And if you have not the book by you, will you pardon another,—the awful and eternal flow of the Mer de Glace?
"At first awoke the strange, smooth wind-notes of the opening adagio; the fetterless chains of ice seemed to close around my heart. The movement had no blandness in its solemnity; and so still and shiftless was the grouping of the harmonies, that a frigidity, actual as well as ideal, passed over my pores and hushed my pulses. After a hundred such tense yet clinging chords, the sustaining calm was illustrated, not broken, by a serpentine phrase of one lone oboe, pianissimo over the piano-surface, which it crisped not, but on and above which it breathed like the track of a sunbeam aslant from a parted cloud. The slightest possible retardation at its close brought us to the refrain of the simple adagio, interrupted again by a rush of violoncello-notes, rapid and low, like some sudden under-current striving to burst through the frozen sweetness. Then spread wide the subject, as plains upon plains of water-land; though the time was gradually increased. Amplifications of the same harmonies introduced a fresh accession of violoncelli and oboi contrasted artfully in syncopation, till at length the strides of the accelerando gave a glittering precipitation to the entrance of the second and longest movement.
"Then Anastase turned upon me, and with the first bar we fell into a tumultuous presto. Far beyond all power to analyze as it was just then, the complete idea embraced me as instantaneously as had the picturesque chillness of the first. I have called it tumultuous,—but merely in respect of rhythm:—the harmonies were as clear and evolved as the modulation itself was sharp, keen, and unapproachable. Through every bar reigned that vividly enunciated ideal, whose expression pertains to the one will alone in any age,—the ideal, that, binding together in suggestive imagery every form of beauty, symbolizes and represents something beyond them all.
"Here over the surge-like, but fast-bound motivo—only like those tost ice-waves, dead still in their heaped-up crests—were certain swelling crescendos of a second subject, so unutterably if vaguely sweet, that the souls of all deep blue Alp-flowers, the clarity of all high blue skies, had surely passed into them, and was passing from them again....
"It was not until the very submerging climax that the playing of Anastase was recalled to me. Then, amidst long ringing notes of the wild horns, and intermittent sighs of the milder wood, swept from the violins a torrent of coruscant arpeggi, and above them all I heard his tone, keen but solvent, as his bow seemed to divide the very strings with fire, and I felt as if some spark had fallen upon my fingers to kindle mine. As soon as it was over, I looked up and laughed in his face with sheer pleasure."
Nothing of the kind was ever half so delightful, if one excepts Mr. Dwight's translation of a Gondel-lied. As literal description it is wondrous, but as imagination it equals the music itself. Let us pause for an instant here and recall the singular inventive and combining grace with which a Spectacle is always given in these stories. It is well known that Mendelssohn contemplated an opera upon the "Tempest," although he did not live to execute the idea; but how charmingly is that taken and mingled with what he had already done in the "Midsummer-Night's Dream," at the festival of the Silver Wedding, when the lonely tones from age to age frozen on the cups of lilies, the orbed harmonies bound burning within the roses, the dreaming song thrilled along the veins of violets, intricate sounds hushed under green gloom of myrtle-leaves, mourning chords with which the cedars stood charged,—were all disenchanted and stole forth on longing wind-instruments and on the splendor of violins, "accumulating in orchestral richness, as if flower after flower of music were unsheathing to the sun"!
Yet the unlovely is not to be found within these covers: there was a quality in the writer's mind like that fervid, all-vivifying sunshine which so illumines the cities of the desert, so steeps the pavements, so soaks through the pores of solids, so sharpens angles and softens curves, as Fromentin tells us, that even squalor borrows brilliant dyes, and rags and filth lighten into picturesque and burnished glory. And this is well for the reader, as all have not time for philosophy, nor can all transmute pain into treasure. But for her, sweet sounds and sights abound in everything; bird and breeze and bee alike are winged with melody; the music of the sea satisfies her heart, and there "the artist-ear,—which makes a spectrum for all sounds that are not separate, distinguishes the self-same harmonies that govern the gradations of the orchestra, from deep to deep descending, until sounds are lost in sound as lights in light";—the trains have their thunderous music in her hearing; and the bells to which Cecilia listens seem to be ringing in the last day:—"The ravishing and awful sound of them, which is only heard by the few,—the passion in their rise and fall,—their wavering,—their rushing fulness,—drew off all consciousness: most like the latest and last passion,—the passion of death."
There seems to be no subject which this woman has not pondered deeply. Her theory of Temperament is an attendant fairy that does marvellous things for her, and not only apportions natures, but corresponding bodies, so that we can easily see how the golden age is to return again, when peradventure deceits shall be impossible, and all the virtues thrive by mere necessity under the reign of this perfected Science of the Soul. Yet, roam where she would, there were always two mysteries that allured her back again, as Thone's curt sentence told,—"Tonkunst und Arzenei"; and to these might be added Race, in defiance of Mr. Buckle. Assuredly the Hebrew owes acknowledgment to her, and not George Borrow, with all his weird learning, enters more deeply into the Burden of Egypt; Browning's appreciation of the gypsy standing alone beside hers,—Browning, between whose writings and her own a rich sympathy exists, both being so possessed of fulness. Yet verse could not chain her wide eloquence in its fetters; and whenever she attempted it, its music made her thought shapeless. There is one exception to this, however, and we give it below,—for, inartistic as this mould may seem, and amorphous as its ideas may be, it is the only instance of any rhymes fully translating the meaning of music, and it is as full of clinging pathos and melody as the great creation it paraphrases, and to which no words will quite respond.
"In gardens where the languid roses keep Perpetual sweetness for the hearts that smile, Perpetual sadness for the hearts that weep, Lonely, unseen, I wander, to beguile The day that only shines to show thee bright, The night whose stars burn wan beside thy light, Adelaida!
"Adelaida! all the birds are singing Low, as thou passest, where in leaves they lie; With timid chirp unto their soft mates clinging, They greet that presence without which they die,— Die, even with Nature's universal heart, When thou, her queen, dost in thy pride depart, Adelaida!
"Depart! and dim her beauty evermore; Go, from the shivering leaves and lily-flowers, That, white as saints on the eternal shore, Stand wavering, beckoning, in the moony bowers,— Beckon me on where their moist feet are laid In the dark mould, fast by the alder-shade, Adelaida!
"Adelaida! 'tis the Grave or Love Must fight for this great first, last mastery. I feed in faith on spicy gales above, Where all along that blue unchanging sky Thy name is traced;—its sweetness never fails To sound in streams of peace in spicy gales, Adelaida!
"Adelaida! woe is me, woe, woe! Not only in the sky, in starry gold, I see thy name,—where peaceful rivers flow, Not only hear its sweetness manifold; On every white and purple flower 'tis written, Its echo every aspen-quake hath smitten, Adelaida!
"Go farther! let me leave thee! I depart!— Who whispered I would linger by thy side? Who said it beat so warm, my feeble heart? Who told, I dared to claim thee as my bride? Who cried, I roamed without thee all the day And clasped thee in my dreams? Away, away, Adelaida!