A. B. (Alfred Burdon) Ellis.

West African islands online

. (page 2 of 22)
Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Burdon) EllisWest African islands → online text (page 2 of 22)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

shed in his behalf, an exploit which is unequalled
in ancient or modern history. In a few weeks he was
able to assume an appearance so formidable as again
to threaten the destinies of Europe. From this it
was evident that the French nation preferred him
as a ruler to the other candidates for the throne ;
but Britain and the allies declined to allow
France to enjoy the first prerogative of indepen-
dence, namely, the choice of a form of government,
rejected Napoleon's proposals for peace, and forced
upon him a war in which fifty thousand lives were
sacrificed. This has been defended on the grounds
that there was no security in the Emperor's promises,
but the worst was to follow after Waterloo. In
Napoleon's letter of the 14th of July to the Prince


Regent, the day before lie surrendered himself to
Captain Maitland, of the Belleroplion^ in Aix Roads,
he says : " I come, like Themistocles, to seat myself
on the hearth of the British people. I place myself
under the protection of its Prince and laws, which
I claim of your Royal Highness, as the most just,
the most brave, and most generous of my enemies."
The appeal, however, was made to men more obdurate
than Artaxerxes, and Castlereagh had no such idea
of generosity. The protection which was sought
from Great Britain, and which had always been
granted to political exiles and even political criminals,
was refused to the greatest military leader that the
world has ever seen, and he was sent to break his
spirit for nearly six years in the solitude of St.
Helena, where his exile was embittered by the petty
tyrannies of the Governor, Sir Hudson Lowe.
Gibbon says, in speaking of the Romans when they
first commenced to degenerate : " When a nation
loses its generosity, it is a proof of its being on the
decline." It is to be hoped, then, that the ungenerous
treatment of our fallen foe was due rather to the
influence of the men who governed the country, than
to loss of princij)le in the nation at large, though
upon the latter all the odium will necessarily fall.

To the westward of Ladder Hill, whose summit
may be reached, by those who do not care to climb


Jacob's Ladder, by a zigzag road, lies Friar's Valley ;
so called from an isolated piece of columnar basalt,
which, on account of its supposed resemblance to a
capuchin, is called the Friar Rock. A legend tells
us that the place where this rock now stands was
once the site of a church, the incumbent of which
was a man universally beloved and of wonderful
piety. Naturally such a man would be marked down
by the powers of darkness for their prey, and the
priest one day met an Arcadian shepherdess, tending
her goats on the adjoining hill, now known as *' Goat
Pound Ridge." Struck by her marvellous grace and
beauty, the priest stopped and regarded her with
admiring eyes ; and she, encouraged by his kind and
benign aspect, begged him in a winning voice to
assist her in collecting her flock, which had strayed
far over the hillside, and which she was too tired
to run after herself. The gallant priest at once
went to the assistance of beauty in distress, collected
the goats together, and assisted her in driving them
part of the way to her home. The shepherdess
beguiled the time with artless conversation, and
thanked the priest so eloquently with her lustrous
€yes, that when he finally left her and returned to his
own home, he could think of nothing but the en-
thralling loveliness of his new acquaintance.

Of course, after this first meeting, the priest



continually met the fair shepherdess by accident
in his rambles amongst the hills ; and the ac-
quaintance ripened so rapidly under the warm sun
of St. Helena, that before long he made a declaration
of love. The damsel, however, if poor, was virtuous,
and would listen to no amorous appeal which was
not backed up by a small golden circlet and the
magic word ''marriage;" and the infatuated priest
at length promised to break his vow of celibacy, and
lead her to the altar. The shepherdess, however,
then put a new difficulty in his way. She vowed
that she could never espouse him unless he renounced
his own faith and adopted hers ; but what that was,
the legend has neglected to inform us. The " easy
descent " having been commenced, the priest did not
make much difficulty about this new condition, and
the wedding-day was fixed.

For some incomprehensible reason the marriage
was to take place in the church of which the priest
was incumbent, though why they should choose a
place of worship belonging to a religion in which she
did not believe, and which he had abjured, is not
stated ; and on the fateful day, the bride, accom-
panied by her attendant bridesmaids, met the
renegade priest at the altar. Perhaps he was going
to perform the marriage ceremony himself, or perhaps
he had obtained the services of some accommodating


brother professional ; but, anyhow, just as the ring
was being slipped upon the taper finger of the
shepherdess, a fearful crash resounded, the earth
opened, a suffocatingly sulphurous cloud veiled the
scene for a few minutes, and when it had cleared
away, every vestige of the church and wedding-party
had disappeared, nothing remaining but the gaunt
figure of the renegade priest, turned into stone.

St. Helena seems to have been particularly un-
fortunate in the garrisons which were selected for it
by the East India Company, for the quiet island was
seriously disturbed by four mutinies. The first
occurred in 1684, when a portion of the troops
mutinied, and, being joined by some disaffected
colonists, ventured to attack the fort. They were,
however, repulsed ; and the ringleaders being
captured, one of them was hanged and four banished
from the island. This lenient punishment perhaps
contributed to the second mutiny, for six years later,
in 1690, nearly the entire garrison mutinied, and
murdered the G-overnor, Captain Joshua Johnson.
The mutineers then seized all the adherents of the
Government, and confined them on board a ship
in the harbour ; and having spiked all the guns in
the fortifications and destroyed all the ammunition,
they then removed all the specie and spoil upon
which- they could lay their hands to another vessel,

c 2


and sailing away in her, escaped. The third mutiny
broke out in 1783, when two hundred of the troops
marched with drums beating and colours flying to
attack the fort. The guns of that work were,
however, so well served by the few men who
remained faithful, that the mutineers were soon
driven back and dispersed. Ninety-nine of them,
being tried by court-martial, were condemned to
death, but the sentence was only carried into
execution upon ten of them. The fourth mutiny
occurred in the early part of the present century, and
was not of so serious a nature as the others.

The most extraordinary place in St. Helena is
Sandy Bay, with its fantastic masses of rock piled
up in chaotic confusion, and unsoftened by any veil
of trees or bushes. Yet this sterile bay was once
densely wooded also, goats and hogs having wrought
the same havoc here as elsewhere, and it is said that
the older inhabitants can still remember the time
when Sandy Bay was almost covered with groups
of dead trees, standing gauntly erect with splintered
and broken limbs, and buried knee-deep in the
drifted sand. Two of the most striking objects
in this bay are Lot and his wife, Mrs. Lot
in short ; two isolated masses of columnar basalt, the
former 197 feet, and the latter 160 feet high. It is
not generally known that St. Helena was the scene


of some of the incidents narrated in the Old Testa-
ment, but these, and Jacob's Ladder, prove that such
is the case. It appears that Mr. Lot, surprised at
the sudden cessation of the wagging of his wife's
tongue, she having been walking behind, grumbling
and carrying most of the household furniture in the
way of mats and calabashes on her head, turned
round to look after her, and was himself transformed
into basalt. The word "salt" in our translations is
evidently an error. In the course of years of oral
tradition, " basalt " would become corrupted into
" baysalt," and finally into " salt." The metamor-
phosis of Mr. Lot is not mentioned in the book of
Genesis, but it is an evident omission, as here he is.
The height of the two victims fully bears out the
statement that " there were giants in the earth in
those days," and is a wonderful refutation of the
theories of those hypercritical Hebraists who would
have us believe that the word rendered " giants " in
the above text does not denote persons of unusual
stature, but rather "the fallen" or "the violent,"
and that the word ylya

2 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22

Online LibraryA. B. (Alfred Burdon) EllisWest African islands → online text (page 2 of 22)