Charles Frederick Holder.

The Californian (Volume 4) online

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barely sufficient clothing for their

pable of holding a half-dozen people,
was swung out from the wharf by a
derrick, where it hung above us like
some huge monster ready to swoop
down at any moment and bear us away.
Meanwhile the ocean rolled in with
tremendous force. Each advancing
wave bore us high upon its crest, so
that one moment our heavily freighted
craft rose to a level with the floor of
the wharf, giving us j ust time enough
to exchange glances with the crowd in
waiting when down we fell for forty


bodies — some were carrying pet mon-
keys and parrots ; there were a num-
ber of children delighted or frightened
as the case might be ; there were
dogs and trunks and provisions and
baskets and bundles filling in every
inch of available space. In short, we
looked like a crew who had saved
what they could in a hurried escape
from shipwreck.

Arriving at the wharf the boat
bumped close to a forest of iron girders
against which the giant waves dashed
furiously and were churned into masses
of white foam. With great difficulty
the lighter was made fast to the wharf.
Then an iron crate much like a canary
bird's cage on a large scale, and ca-

feet or more. This performance was
repeated several times ; then a cry of
warning was heard and the iron cage
dropped into the boat upon a pile of

A scramble now ensued among the
passengers and in a very short space
of time six of them entered the cage,
were borne aloft and deposited in
safety upon the wharf. As the waves
surged back and forth the taut hawser
— that one of the two by which the boat
was secured to the wharf — shivered
and groaned as it tightened under the
severe strain, while the other wet and
dripping squirmed among the miscella-
neous cargo like a sea-serpent ; and
when its turn came to hold us in check,



heads were adroitly ducked under to
avoid accident. One old Peruvian
gentleman lost his hat during a scurry
of this kind, whereupon he coolly
opened his valise, took from it a clean
white towel, enveloped his head in it,
and then carefully pinned the two ends
snugly under his chin.

When it came our turn to be hauled
heavenward we held on to the iron
bars of the cage, and our hearts beat
quickly, especially at that supreme
moment when, just before swinging
inward, we hung suspended in mid-
air high above the roaring sea. A
young man stood on the wharf with
his "detective" in hand and above the
tumult of w T ind and wave w r e could
hear him calling out :

' ' One moment, please ; look pleas-
ant!" — and the camera had claimed
us for its own. Once safely ashore
it was great sport to watch the others.
Some of the women, and men too for
that matter, were pale with fear, but
most of the passengers enjoyed the
excitement thoroughly.

We now dropped into an eating-
house near at hand but failed to make
a favorable impression upon the pro-
prietor. It was nearing the hour of
his noonday siesta and no amount of
entreaty or money would induce him
to deviate from his daily practice.
He could not understand why anybody
in his right mind should wish to ram-
ble about the streets in the middle of
the day, and it is a favorite saying
among the natives that " only dogs
and gringos go out at noonday."

We went into several cafe's and res-
taurants but it was always the same :
" No, seiior ;?iada de comer. Nothing to

" For my part," said one of the
party in desperation, " I am just about
starved ; I could eat a buzzard." But
even that privilege was denied him
and the rest of us as well. Not but
that there were enough to go round.
In every direction we could see the
ugly black birds with feathers askew
napping their scrawny wings among
the cocoanut trees and house tops, or

walking the streets with a mincing,
awkward gait. But here as in most
southern countries buzzards are util-
ized as street scavengers and it is
against the law to kill them. At one
time during our walk three of these
wretched creatures joined us, evident-
ly trying, as some one suggested, to
palm themselves off as members of our

We were finally advised to apply at
a hotel farther up the town, and start-
ing in the direction indicated we had a
delightful walk of a mile or more. The
vegetation on every side was luxuri-
ant and beautifully green. There were
jungles of gigantic ferns and bamboos,
and sometimes we came upon pools of
water in which gorgeous blossoms of
the tilandsiac and crimson azaleas were
reflected with marvelous distinctness.
There were mahogany, mango and
mata-palo trees, among which the
bamboo, or coyles houses with roofs of
palm leaves nestled cosily and looked
delightfully cool and inviting. Just
beyond the town were fincas of coffee,
tobacco and sugar cane, while way in
the distance the conical peaks of the
twin volcanoes rose far to skyward,
and even as we watched them seemed
to change color in the soft atmosphere
from an exquisite blue to that of a
delicate emerald green. Occasionally
iguanas, which are regarded by the
natives as a great delicacy in the way
of food, were frightened from their
noonday sunning and wriggled off
into the slippery grass.

We met several Indian women
dressed in white with blue shawls
over their shoulders and baskets or
water-jars on their heads. They
looked exceedingly picturesque ■ in
their simple attire and always greeted
us with smiles and a gracious "Buenos
dias, senores; buenos dias todos. ' '

Finally the hotel was reached and
after a five-minute search we found
the proprietor. He was stretched out
at full 'length in a hammock and
looked bored to death at the very
sight of us. We made known our
wants without hesitation and for a



full minute the man stared at us in
blank amazement. Then when he
realized the full extent ot the task we
were about to impose upon him his
muscles relaxed, and he sank down
farther in his hammock, a picture of
abject misery. After a while he
recovered his voice and insisted over
and over again that there wasn't a
thing to eat in the whole house. For
a while our case appeared hopeless.
But we finally hit upon the happy
plan of naming over various articles
of food separately, and pinning the
man down to a positive si or no as to
whether he had, or had not, that
one particular commodity about the
premises. The poor fellow fairly
writhed under this severe cross-
questioning, but in every instance
confessed in the affirmative ; and so,
realizing at last that there was no
possible escape he set about his
unwelcome task.

While waiting for breakfast some of
the gentlemen played billiards on a
three-legged table, while the rest of
the party amused themselves by
drinking lime-ade and watching the
antics of a spider monkey which ran
up and down a long rope that was sus-
pended from the ceiling of the veranda.

In about an hour breakfast was
served and this is our bill of fare :


Rolls (without butter).

Soup of Eggs and Cheese.

Stewed Beef with Lime Juice.

Pickled Ham.


Alligator Pears.

Fried bananas.

Boiled Eggs.

Omelette with Vegetables.

Pisco (wine).

Native Cheese.


When the meal was ended we vis-
ited the market. This is one of the
things to do upon arriving at a coast
town . All the products of the country
roundabout are for sale at the mar-
kets, and it was always a delight to
leave the glaring sun and heat out-
side, and step into these low-roofed
buildings with their cool pavements

and shadowy corners, and wander
among the queer people and queerer
merchandise with which the places
are crowded. The market at San Jose
was no exception to the rule. Of
course we bought some shells, and
odd-looking fans, which the natives
used to blow their fires with ; some
dolls and tula?iios — curious carved
utensils employed in making froth on
cups of chocolate ; some miniature
water-jars, and then we wandered out
upon the main plaza.

The plaza was bordered with some
of the tallest cocoanut trees we had
ever seen, while in the center of the
square was an immense tree known as
the ceiba. Attracted by some music,
we walked in its direction, and stopped
in front of the house from which the
sound proceeded. A man saw us
coming and very cordially invited us
in. He wore a white garment which
was very short in the arms and legs,
and might have been taken for a
bathing suit, except for the very
apparent fact that it had not been near
the water for a long, long time.

Once inside the house we found a
number of people assembled. They
nodded and grinned at us familiarly,
as though it was only a few years ago
that we were all girls and boys
together. Three men were playing
upon a mari??iba. This instrument is
like the zylophone, except that a series
of wooden pipes, which produce a
mellow, droning sound, are inserted
beneath the keyboard. The performers
beat upon the instrument with sticks
which have heavy knobbed ends. The
interior of the hut was picturesquely
dirty. The furniture consisted of a
bed (merely a long box filled with
dirt), a cot, over which a piece of
bright yellow matting had been
thrown, and several canvas camp
chairs, very much soiled, and laboring
apparently under some organic trouble
which prevented us from relying with
too much confidence upon their sup-
port. A canopy of cobwebs, prob-
ably the accumulation of years, was
suspended from the palm-leaf ceiling.



L,ater on the marimba was brought
out of doors and one of the gentlemen,
in company with a smiling senorita,
who wore a clean white dress and had
a mass of glossy black hair, danced
the panuelo. The natives were highly
entertained. They gradually emerged
from their doorways and laughed as
though the performance was the
drollest one they had seen for many
a day. In this instance evidently they
felt quite repaid for the loss of their
mid-day slumber.

Just as we were about to leave our
new friends, we heard a shout, and
two lads, scarcely more than ten years
of age, dashed down the street on
horseback in close pursuit of a bull.
They disappeared in a cloud of dust.

We now wandered back to the wharf
and sat for some time in front of the
Custom House, watching with untir-
ing interest the immense waves which
were still rolling in on the beautiful
beach. Each wave as it approached,
made a noise like a gathering whirl-
wind ; then with a thunderous roar,
it burst into a shower of spray, and for
moments afterward the air was filled
to a great height with glistening parti-
cles of water.

It was time now to embark for the
ship, so we walked to the end of the
wharf and found our cage in readiness.
We were swung out and dropped into
the launch without mishap. But we
were barely seated when a wave of
unusual violence bore in upon us and
propelled the launch forward with
such force that one of the hawsers
with a loud report burst in two. It
was a critical moment. Our oarsmen
with two exceptions were still on the
wharf, and these two were entirely
unequal to the calamity which threat-
ened us ; should the remaining rope
give way nothing could prevent the
boat being cast far upon the beach.
Fortunately, however, another rope
was flung from the wharf with all
possible haste and we were once more
made secure.

" What a magnificent view could
be had from the top of one of those
volcanoes!" exclaimed an enthusi-
astic member of our party when we
were once more safely on board the

"Yes," returned another with a
laugh ; ' ' and we should probably be
up there now enjoying it, if that other
rope had given 'way."




YES, sah, I war boaned free. I's
mighty proud o' dat fac'. Heap
o' niggers 'bout hyah 'sputes hit
but I knows dey's jes' coveshus. Fah
back's I kin min', my brudder Ephum
war alius tellin' me, "Us ain't shu
nuff slaves, us boaned free ; an' de
good Lawd gwine ter sen' de Yeah
o' Jubilee, an' us' 11 be de fus ter
go out o' bondage." An' when dad-
dy come, him telled us 'bout what
us us' ter be in de Noaf.

My poh ole daddy ! He hed pow'ful
bad luck an' he's plumb woh out.
Meldy an' me's makin' him'seasy's we
kin, out he grieves mightily. When
de colahed people comes in frum de fiel' ,
dey gathers, an' he talks to 'em; an' he
kin talk finer'n airy preachah I eber
come up on yit. He reads out'n de
Bible an' 'splains hit ter us, an' many
a one's 'sperienced 'ligion in dis hyah
cabin. He kin read writin' readin',
's well's readin' readin', an' ef any o'
de colahed people gits lettahs, dey
brings em ter daddy ter read foh 'em
— love lettahs mos'ly dat de gals gits
frum der sweet' arts.

Heap o' times he tells us 'bout dat
big, good Noaf kentry whar us libed.
Hit war in Fayette County, Illinois,
an' dey was daddy an' mammy an'
us chilluns — Ephum, him de biges',
den Alex, an' den me (li'l Caleb me
warden,) an' las' de baby li'l Lily
Bell. Dat li'l gal war de puttes' ting
ye eber laid eyes on, wif smoov skin,
an' sof, curly har, an' big eyesshinin'
like blackberries soon in de mawnin'
when de Jew's on 'em. She war jes'
like a graven image. I kin shet my
eyes now an' see de house us libed in's
plain's I kin dis hyah cabin when
dey's open, — jes' heah'n tell 'bout hit.
Hit war painted white, shu nuff paint,
none o'yer nigger whitewash 'bout
dem times. Dey war a gallery in
front, wif vines runnin' up, makin'
hit cool an' shady in de hottes' day ;
an' a flowah yard in front o'dat whar
de posies blowed putty much all de
yeah, I reckon ; an' a walnut tree
'longside de gate, whar us gethered
nuts when de fros' come. Inside de
house hit war all fixed nice like white
folks'. Dey war a shu nuff kyarpet
on de fron' room, an' dey was a big,
sof, white bed, wif a li'l one under
hit what dey call a trinnel bed dat dey
pulled out at night an' de chilluns
slep' in. 'Tvvixt de winders was a
stan' wif a big Bible layin' on hit, an'
de winders hed white curtains. Hit
war a fine house, an' us war's happy's
'possums in 'simmon time.

Daddy hearn tell a heap 'bout a
place what dey call Californy. De
folks tells him hit war mos' like de
New Jerusalem, wif streets o' shinin'
gol' an' rocks o' gol' rollin' roun' in
de roads, lookin' like dey war beggin'
folks ter pick 'em up. An' dey say
enybody 't hed a min' ter could go dar
an' git 'em, kase nobody didn't claim
'em moh'n nobody else ; so all ye hed




ter do war ter go dar an' take yer sack
an' fill hit up wif dem gol' rocks an'
tote hit long back home, an' den ye
could lib like a king arter dat. Daddy
hed ter woak tolablehard, an' he kep'
thinkin' dis hyah was a good chance
fer him, so him an' mammy would n't
hev ter woak s' hard, an' so dey could
give de larnin' ter der li'l chilluns.
Mammy war sorter skeered when he
talked 'bout gwine, for she hearn tell
how hit war a long way ter Californy ;
but he got so he war plumb sot on

Dey was a big crowd o' men gwine,
trios' ly white men, an' some on 'em
hed bosses what dey was carryin' long
ter sell arter dey got ter Californy, an'
daddy got a job at 'tendin' de hosses.

De day dey lef, us goed ter town
'long 'o daddy ter see 'em off, mammy
cry in' mos' all de way. De hul town
turn out an' goed wif 'em till dey
struck de pike. Daddy he kissed us
all an' de las' one li'l sis, dat putty
Iyily Bell. He say ter mammy not ter
take on so, fer he'd soon git back an'
den her an' li'l sis' an' us li'l boys'd
ride in a gol'n chariot. Dey war a
ole preachah dar what prayed fer 'em,
an' ax de Lawd ter bless 'em an' bring
'em back safe. Den dey was parted,
an' de Scripter was filled — one was
tuck an' anudderwaslef . Dem what
was lef goed back home, de wimmen
folks a cryin' an' de men folks lookin'
like dey wanted ter turn tracks de
udder way.

Dey was a long time gittin' ter
Californy. Dey start in de spring o'
de yeah, an' de snow was on de groun'
when dey sot foot in dat Ian'. Dey
had a hard time, shu, in dat jauney.
Some o' de men tuck a sort o'fevah,
an' foh on em died an' war burried in
dat lonesome place what dey call a
dezerd, wif nobody to preach de fun' el.
Lots o' hosses died an' lots moh turned
lame on 'em. An' at las', when dey
was gittin' nigh de een' o' der jauney,
dey like ter stahve ter deff, fer der
rations mos' guv out. Daddy ses
many's de day he's walked 'long,
drivin' a drove o' lame hosses, so hun-

gry he mos' drapped in his tracks, his
head achin' til hit 'peered like ef ye'd
tech hit, hit'd bus' like a moh'n ripe
pumpkin, de sun blazin' down on him
an' his feet like two big blistahs in de
burnin' san' — nary tree no whars,
nuthin' but san' an' sun. He ses
look like he'd go plumb 'stracted
when he'd think 'bout settin' on de
gallery at home, in de cool o' de even-
in', wif de win' blowin' 'twixt dem
green vines, an' Lily Bell a layin' in
his arms, so quiet like she alius war,
an' mammy gittin' suppah, an' de
smell o' de bacon an' de cracklin'
bread comin' tru de winder, jes nuff
ter make him hungrier. When daddy
think like dat, look like his senses war
gwine frum yim, shu ; but he nevah
die ner go 'stracted, but jes kep on
'crost dat red hot dezerd, long sight
wusser off 11 de Chillun o' Isr'l.

At las' dey come ter dat ar Cali-
forny Promis' Lan'. But dey warn't
no gol'n streets dat daddy eber seed,
an' dey warn't no gol' rocks layin'
roun'. Him and some moh men goed
ter diggin fer 'em up on a big moun-
tain whar de snow war piled higher'n
a man's head. He come on a li'l now
an' agin, but nothin' long side o'
what he'd hearn tell on. How he
wanted ter git home ! He ses de good
Book ses dat de love fer gittin rich am
de bigges' root o' de tree what bears
all de bad doins dey is in de worl', an'
he's 'sperienced de truf o' dem words.

De snow got so deep dey could n't
git nowhars ter git rations, and dey
like ter stahve agin. Daddy ses he'd
bin glad ter quit livin', but stahvins
a drefful hard road ter turn off by.
Fer tree mon's he neber sot teeth on
nary bite o' bread, ner nuthin' but
fresh meat what they'd kill ; fer what
li'l meal dey was, was priced at two
dollahs fer a poun' weight, an' ahan'-
ful o' salt was wuth a han'ful o' gol'.
But he kep' a diggin' an' a delvin'
when he warn't moh 'n able ter stan'
on his feet, an' come spring o' de
yeah he war gittin' 'long tol'ble fair,
an' sorter spunked up an' kep' think-
in' ef he goed on like dat, meby de



day'd come when he'd hev nuff ter
carry him home. Hit made him feel
right strong ter think dat away. Ra-
tions warn't so spenshus den, an' dey
all livened up. But d'rectly hit begun
a rainin' stiddy, an' de snow what'd
bin pilin' up on dem mount' ns, hit
melt, an' de li'l branches was turned
ter rivahs an' come tearin' down de
mount' ins like teams o' run-away
mules, plowin' up ebery las' ting
'ception de solid rocks. All daddy's
woak o' dat turrible wintah stood
plumb in de way o' one o' dem gal-
lopin', smashin-up rivahs, an' arter
hit hed done goed by, better b'lieve
dey warn't no great sight ob hit lef.
He couldn't 's much's fin' de spot
whar he'd woaked an laid dem plans
'bout gittin home. Dat war 'fliction,

He tried ter go ter diggin' agin,
but he neber hed no luck ner no heart
fer hit, so he guv up an' got a job at
makin' brick, an' woak at dat stiddy
fer a full yeah. Den he ses ter his
sef how he war gwine ter start back
home, 'crost dat dezerd, ef he nevah
got mohn'n ten mile 'foh he died.
Arter a spell he hearn tell on a white
man what was hirin' han's fer woak
on a big ship, an' he got a job at
shovelin' coal on hit. He war on de
big ochun an' he hed to woakpow'ful,
but he nevah min' dat fer he war
comin' home, an' he war jes's happy
at dat 's ef he'd bin layin' in de sun
chawin' on sugar cane all de time.
He couldn't har'ly wait fer de ship
ter git ter New Yawk. Dat was de
name o' de town whar he lef de ship
an' struck out fer home. He kep'
won'rin ef de chilluns'd growed much
an' ef dey'd ricolec' him. Agin an'
agin when he war trampin' acrost de
kentry, woakin' a day now an' agin
ter git rations, he'd plan how he'd
meet us. At las' he struck de pike
dat run 'long nigh home, an' look
like den he'd got ter run, an' he
neber stop ter eat nuthin dat day.
He knowed he'd git dar long in de
cool o' de evenin' an' likely de chil-
luns 'd be play in' undah de walnut

tree by de gate, an' he kep' won'rin
ef dey'd come runnin' ter meet him,
an' ef L,ily Bell warn't big nuff ter
run wif de res'. Den he think how
mammy 'd come ter de doah, heahin'
de chilluns a yellin', an' how glad
she'd be, an' he'd say, "Keziah,
hyah's yer ole man, but I aint brung
no gol' back frum Californy ; all I's
brung 's my ole bones, an' dar aint
much meat lef on 'em. I's hedpow'-
ful bad luck, but I's gwine ter woak
right long hyar at home, an' I kin
make a livin' fer ye all, an' we aint
neber gwine to part nomoh." Den
he think how dey'd all go in so
happy, an' mammy 'd git suppah, an'
de neighbors' d come in moh'n likely,
hearn tell how he'd come back, an'
he'd tell 'em 'bout Californy an' what
he'd 'sperienced dar.

When he lef de pike an' struck
'crost de fiels' he knowed ebery step
o' de way, an' he soon come in sight
o' de house. He could see de wal-
nut tree, but dey warn't no chilluns
playin' undah hit ; but he ses to his
se'f how meby de chilluns war down
to de branch a fishin'. When he
come nigh he neber see nobody roun',
an' hit didn't look nohow like hit
uster. Dey warn't no flow T ahs in de
yard, an' de vines war broke down
ofl'n de gallery, an' de gate war hang-
ing on by one hinge. De place look
mighty desolate, but he thinks how
he'll fix hit all up nice agin. When
he goed up de steps he war mighty
flustrated, an' he stood a good bit
tryin' ter sorter quiet down like. He
ses how he wouldn't open de doah
an' go in, fear o' skeerin' mammy, so
he rap, an' look like his heart rap
louder'n his han'. D'rec'ly a woman
daddy neber seed 'foh opened de doah.
He war so tuck back he jes' hed bref
nuff lef ter say, " Whar Kezia Merri-
fiel?" De woman, she ses, "Kezia
Merrifiel haint libed hyah fer a yeah
come nex' month. Her an de chil-
luns goed off, an' nobody haint neber
hearn tell on 'em since."

My poo' daddy ! He neber min'
nuthin' moh arter dem words fer a



long spell, an' he ses dey telled him
he war out 'n his head fer's much's a
yeah. When he come back ter his
right senses he war in de poo' house,
but he warn't gwine ter stay dar ; he
laid off ter fin' his fambly ef hit tuck
him all his life.

Kphum's many a time telled me
how us come to leave dat ar Fayette
County, Illinois. He ses dat daddy
lef mammy some money, but hit soon
goed. She washed an' hired out
cookin', an' Ephum an' Alex dey
woak de gyarden in de summah time,
but us got woser an' woser off, an'
heap o' times dey warn't nuffin fer
us ter eat, an' me an' Lily Bell 'd cry
kase us so hungry, an' mammy 'd cry
too kase she couldn't git nuffin fer
us. Dey was sumpum de mattah wif
Lily Bell ; peered like her li'l legs
was sorter weak so she could n't neber
stan' on 'em. Mammy'd try ter learn
her ter stan', but dem li'l legs'd jes'
double up like dar warn't no bones
in 'em. Mammy she wanted ter carry
her ter de doctah, but doct'rin' takes
money. Us uster tote her roun', an'
I reckon us lobed her
moh'n ef she could a
walked her own se'f.

Arter a long spell a
white man what goed to
Californy de same time's
daddy, come back, an'
he ses how daddy war
daid. He sayed he nevah
seed him, but a man as
helped ter bury him
telled him 'bout hit. Den
mammy she knowed she
mus' go somewhars ter
git moh woak ter do, an'
while she war planum'
dat away a white gen'l'-
man come 'long one day
an' axed fer a drink
o'watah an' could he res'
a bit on de gallery. He
war nice spoken an' he
ax her 'bout her fambly
an' she up an' tol' him
'bout daddy gwine ter
Californy an' dyin', an'

how she war layin' off ter go some-
whars ter git woak so's she could bring
up her chilluns nice an' give 'em larn-
in'. He sayed hit war lucky fer her
he'd stopped by dat day fer he war jes'
look in' for a good woman fer a house-
keepah. Him an' his wife was gwine
off on a tower an' dey wanted some-
body dey could trus' ter take keer o'
dar house. He sayed she could bring
all de chilluns 'long an' dey'd all hab
a good home an' meby he could git

Online LibraryCharles Frederick HolderThe Californian (Volume 4) → online text (page 36 of 120)