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ROAMING



THROUGH



THE



WEST



INDIES




HARRY A. FRANCK



X




THE LIBRARY ,

OF

THE UNIVERSITY'
OF CALIFORNIA

LOS ANGELES

IN MEMORY OF
EDWIN CORLE

PRESENTED BY
JEAN CORLE



ROAMING THROUGH
THE WEST INDIES



ROAMING THROUGH
THE WEST INDIES



BY

HARRY A. FRANCK

Author of "A Vagabond Journey Around the World,"

"Zone Policeman 88," "Vagabonding

Down the Andes," etc., etc.




BLUE RIBBON BOOKS

NEW YORK



Copyright, 1920, by
THE CENTUBY Go.



PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

PRINTED BY THE CORNWALL PRESS, INC.
CORNWALL, N. Y.



TO

MY WIFE, RACHEL,

WITH WHOM THIS WAS THE BEGINNING
OF A FAR LONGER JOURNEY, AND

TO

MY SON, HARRY,
WHO JOINED US ON THE WAY



2035404



FOREWARNING

Some years ago I made a tramping trip around the world for my own
pleasure. Friends coaxed me to set it down on paper and new friends
were kind enough to read it. Since then they have demanded more
at least so the publishers say but always specifying that it shall be on
foot. Now, I refuse to be dictated to as to how I shall travel; I will
not be bullied into tramping when I wish to ride. The journey here-
with set forth is, therefore, among other things, a physical protest
against that attempted coercion, a proof that I do not need to walk
unless I choose to do so. To make broken resolutions impossible, I
picked out a trip that could not be done on foot. It would be difficult
indeed to walk through the West Indies. Then, to make doubly sure,
I took with me a newly acquired wife and we brought back a newly
acquired son, though that has nothing to do with the present story.

I will not go so far as to say that I abjured footing it entirely. As a
further proof of personal liberty I walked when and where the spirit
moved me and the element underfoot was willing. But I wish it
distinctly understood from the outset that this is no " walking trip."
Once having broken the friends who flatter me with their attention of
expecting me to confine myself to the prehistoric form of locomotion
I shall probably fake to the road again to relieve a chronic foot -itch.

The following pages do not pretend to " cover " the West Indies.
They are made up of the random pickings of an eight-months' tour of
the Antilles, during which every island of importance was visited, but
they are put together rather for the entertainment of the armchair
traveler than for the information of the traveler in the flesh. While the
latter may find in them some points to jot down in his itinerary, he
should depend rather on the several thorough and orderly books that
have been written for his special benefit.

HARRY A. FRANCK.



TABLE OF CONTENTS

CHAPTER PAGE

I OVERLAND TO THE WEST INDIES 3

THE AMERICAN WEST INDIES
II RANDOM SKETCHES OF HAVANA .25

III CUBA FROM WEST TO EAST 50

IV THE WORLD'S SUGAR-BOWL 76

V UNDER THE PALM-TREE OF HAITI 106

VI THE DEATH OF CHARLEMAGNE 128

VII HITHER AND YON IN THE HAITIAN BUSH 149

VIII THE LAND OF BULLET-HOLES 189

IX TRAVELS IN THE CIBAO 207

X SANTO DOMINGO UNDER AMERICAN RULE 229

XI OUR PORTO Rico 256

XII WANDERING ABOUT BORINQUEN 280

XIII IN AND ABOUT OUR VIRGIN ISLANDS 304

THE BRITISH WEST INDIES

XIV THE CARIBBEE ISLANDS . 339

XV " LITTLE ENGLAND " 360

XVI TRINIDAD, THE LAND OF ASPHALT 381

XVII AFRICAN JAMAICA 403

THE FRENCH WEST INDIES AND THE OTHERS

XVIII GUADELOUPE AND DEPENDENCIES 439

XIX RAMBLES IN MARTINIQUE 449

XX ODDS AND ENDS IN THE CARIBBEAN 475

ix



ROAMING THROUGH THE
WEST INDIES



ROAMING THROUGH THE
WEST INDIES f :

CHAPTER I

OVERLAND TO THE WEST INDIES

WE concluded that if we were to spend half a year or more
rambling through the West Indies we would get sea-water
enough without taking to the ships before it was necessary.
Our first dream was to wander southward in the sturdy, if middle-
aged, gasolene wagon we must otherwise leave behind, abandoning it for
what it would bring when the mountains of central Cuba grew too diffi-
cult for its waning vigor. But the tales men told of southern highways
dampened our ardor for that particular species of adventure. They
were probably exaggerated tales. Looking back upon the route from
the eminence of automobile-infested Havana, we are of the impression
that such a trip would have been marred only by some rather serious
jolting in certain parts of the Carolinas and southern Georgia, and a
moderately expensive freight-bill from the point where lower Florida
turns to swamps and islands. If our people of the South carry out the
ambitious highway plans that are now being widely agitated, there is no
reason that the West Indian traveler of a year or two hence should
hesitate to set forth in his own car.

The rail-routes from the northeastern states are three in number,
converging into one at something over five hundred miles from the end
of train travel. Those to whom haste is necessary or more agreeable
than leisure may cover the distance from our greatest to our southern-
most city in forty-eight hours, and be set down in Havana the following
dawn. But with a^few days to spare the broken journey is well worth
the enhanced price and trouble. A truer perspective is gained by
following the gradual change that increasing length of summer gives
the human race rather than by springing at once from the turmoil of
New York to the regions where winter is only a rumor and a hear-say.
In the early days of October the land journey southward is like the
running backward of a film depicting nature's processes. The rich

3



4 ROAMING THROUGH THE WEST INDIES

autumn colors and the light overcoats of Pennsylvania advance gradu^
ally to the browning foliage and the wrapless comfort of the first
autumn breezes, then within a few hours to the verdant green and
simpler garb of full summer. There are reservations, however, in the
change of human dress, which does not keep pace with that of the
landscape. Our Southerners seem to be ruled in sartorial matters
rather by the dictators of New York fashions than by the more fitting
criterion of nature, and the glistening new felt fedora persists far
beyond the point where the lighter covering would seem more suitable
to time and place.

To the Northerner the first item of interest is apt to be the sudden
segregation of races in the trains leaving Washington for the South.
From the moment he surreptitiously sheds his vest as he rumbles
across the Potomac the traveler finds his intercourse with his African
fellow-citizens, be they jet black or pale yellow, circumscribed by an
impregnable wall that is to persist until all but a narrow strip of his
native land has shrunk away behind him. Only as superior to inferior,
as master to servant, or as a curiosity akin to that of the supercilious
voyager toward the " natives " of some foreign land, is his contact
henceforth with the other race. Stern placards point out the division
that must be maintained in public buildings or conveyances ; custom
serves as effectually in private establishments ; the very city directories
fetch up their rear with the " Colored Department."

The tourist's first impression of Richmond will largely depend on
whether his train sets him down at the disreputable Main Street station
or at the splendid new Union Depot on the heights of Broad Street.
Unfortunately, the latter is as yet no more nearly " union " than it is,
in spite of a persistent American misnomer, a " depot," and his
chances of escaping the medieval landing-place are barely more than
" fifty-fifty." But his second notion of the erstwhile capital of the
Confederacy cannot but be favorable, unless his tastes run more to the
picturesque than to modern American civilization. He may at this
particular season grumble at a sweltering tropical heat that appears
long before he bargained for it, but the hospitable Richmonder quickly
appeases his wrath in this regard by explaining that some malignant
cause, ranging from the disturbance of the earth's orbit by the war
just ended to a boiling Gulf Stream, has given the South the hottest
autumn in I hesitate to say how many decades. Nor, if he is new
to the life below Mason and Dixon's Line, will he escape a certain
surprise at finding how green is still the memory of the Confederacy.



OVERLAND TO THE WEST INDIES 5

The Southerner may have forgiven, but he has not forgotten, nor
does he intend that his grandchildren shall do so.

In that endless stretch of sand, cotton, and pine-trees which is
locally known as " Nawth Cahlina, sah," there are other ways of pass-
ing the time than by watching the endless unrolling of a sometimes
monotonous landscape. One can get into conversation, for instance,
with the train-crew far more easily than in the more frigid North, and
listen for hours to more or less verdant anecdotes, which the inimitable
Southern dialect alone makes worth the hearing. Or, if wise enough to
abandon the characterless cosmopolitan Pullman for the local atmos-
phere of the day coach, one may catch such scraps as these of special
interest to big-game hunters from the lips of fellow-passengers:

" Say, d' you hear about Bud Hampton ? "

" What Bud done now ? "

" Why, las' week Bud Hampton shot a buck niggah 't weighed ovah
two hunderd pound ! "

This particular species of quarry seemed to grow blacker with each
succeeding state. The two urchins in one-piece garments who lugged
our hand-bags up the slope in Columbia made coal seem of a pale
tint by comparison. At the corner of a main street so business-bent
as to require the constant attention of a traffic policeman they steered us
toward the door of a somewhat weather-worn establishment.

" This the best hotel ? " I queried, a bit suspicious that the weight
of their burdens had warped their judgment. " How about that one
down the street ? " It was a building of very modern aspect, looming
ten full stories into the brilliant Southern heavens.

" Dat ain' no hotel, sah," cried the two in one breath, rolling their
snow-white eyeballs, their black toes seeming to wriggle with pride at
the magnificence it presented, " dat 's de sky-scrapah! "

It was in Columbia that we felt for the first time irrevocably in
the South. Richmond had been merely an American city with a
Southern atmosphere; South Carolina's capital was the South itself,
despite its considerable veneer of modern Americanism. One must
look at three faces to find one indubitably white. Clusters of ma-
hogany-red sugar-cahes lolled in shady corners, enticing the black
brethren to exercise their powerful white teeth. Goats drowsed in
patches of sand protected from the insistent sunshine. Motormen
raised their caps with one hand and brought their dashing conveyances
to a sudden halt with the other at the very feet of their " lady acquaint-
ances," whose male escorts returned the greeting with equal solemnity.



6 ROAMING THROUGH THE WEST INDIES

I puzzled for some time to know what far-distant city this one, with
its red soil stretching away to suburban nothingness from the points
where the street paving petered out, with its goats and sugar-cane, its
variegated complexions, and frank contentment with life, was insistently
recalling to memory. Then all at once it came to me. Purged of its
considerable American bustle, Columbia would bear a striking resem-
blance to Asuncion, capital of far-off Paraguay. Even the wide-open
airiness of its legislative halls, drowsing in the excusable inoccupancy
of what was still mid-summer despite the calendar, carried the imagina-
tion back to the land of the Guarani.

An un-Northern spaciousness was characteristic of the chief hostelry,
with its ample chambers, its broad lounging-room, its generously
gaping spitoons, offering not too exacting a target to the inattentive
fire of Southern marksmanship. The easy-going temperament of its
management came as a relief from the unflinching rule-of-thumb back
over the horizon behind us. The reign of the old-fashioned " American
plan," synonymous with eating when and what the kitchen dictates
rather than leaving the guest a few shreds of initiative, had begun
again and was to persist for a thousand miles southward. But can
some trustworthy authority tell us what enactment requires that the
" choicest room " of the " best hotel" of every American city be
placed at the exact junction-point of the most successful attempt to
concentrate all its twenty-four hours of uproar? I ask not in wrath,
for time and better slumber have assuaged that, but out of mere
academic curiosity. In the good, old irresponsible days of my " hobo "
youth the " jungle " beyond the railroad yards was far preferable to this
aristocratic Bedlam.

The "sky-scrapah " loomed behind us for half an hour or more
across the mighty expanse of rolling sand-and-pine-tree world, with
its distance-purple tinge and its suggestion of the interior of Brazil,
which fled northward on the next lap of our journey. The cotton-
fields which interspersed the wilderness might have seemed patches of
daisies to the casual glance, rather sparse and thirsty daisies, for this
year the great Southern crop had sadly disappointed its sponsors.
Powder-dry country roads of reddish sand straggled along through
the endless stretches of scrub-pines, carrying here and there the sagging
buggy and gaunt and dust-streaked horse of former days. I relegate
the equine means of transportation to the past advisedly, for his
doom was apparent even in these sparsely cultivated and thinly peopled



OVERLAND TO THE WEST INDIES 7

regions. Before a little unpainted, wooden negro church that drifted
by us there clustered twenty-eight automobiles, with a bare half-dozen
steeds drooping limply on their weary legs in the patches of shade the
machines afforded them. King Cotton, abetted by his royal contempo-
raries overseas, has drawn no color-line in deluging his favors on
his faithful subjects. Forests of more genuine trees replaced the scrub
growth for long spaces farther on; here and there compact rectangles
of superlatively green sugar-cane contrasted with the dead-brown
patches of shriveled corn. In the smoking compartment of the coach
placarded " White " shirt-sleeves and open collars were the rule, but
the corresponding section of the " Colored " car indulged in no such
disheveled comfort. The negroes of the South seem more consistent
followers of Beau Brummel than their white neighbors.

We descended at Savannah in a hopeful frame of mind, for a recent
report announced it the most nearly reasonable in its food prices of the
fifty principal cities of our United States. Georgia's advantage in the
contest with starvation was soon apparent. At the desk of the hotel
overlooking a semi-tropical plaza the startled newcomer found staring
him in the face a dire threat of incarceration, in company with the
recipient, if he so far forgot himself as to offer a gratuity. There was
something strangely familiar, however, about the manner of the grand-
son of Africa who hovered about the room to which he had conducted
us, flecking away a speck of dust here, raising a curtain and lowering
it again to the self-same height over yonder. I had no desire to spend
even a short span of my existence in a Southern dungeon, along with
this dusky bearer of the white man's burdens. But he would have
made a most unsuitable spectator to the imperative task of removing
the Georgian grime of travel. Enticing him into a corner out of sight
of the key-hole I called his attention to the brilliancy of a silver coin.
Instead of springing to a window to shout for the police, he snatched
the curiosity in a strangely orthodox manner, flashed upon us a row
of dazzlingly white teeth, and wished us a pleasant evening. Possibly
I had read the anti-tipping ordinance too hastily; it may merely have
forbidden the public bestowal of gratuities.

A microscopic examination might possibly have proved that the
reckoning which was laid before us at the end of dinner showed
some signs of shrinkage ; to the naked eye it was quite as robust as
its twin brothers to the North. But of course the impossibility of
leaving a goodly proportion of the change to be cleared away with
the crumbs would account for Savannah's low cost of living. The



8 ROAMING THROUGH THE WEST INDIES

lengthening of the ebony face at my elbow as I scraped the remnants
of my bank-note together might have been due to the exertions of the
patent-leather shoes that sustained it to contain more than their fair
share of contents. But it seemed best to make sure of the source of
dismay ; we might have to eat again before we left Savannah.

" I understand you can't accept tips down here in Georgia ? " I
hazarded, reversing the usual process between money and pocket. The
increasing elongation of the waiter's expression branded the notion a
calumny even sooner than did his anxious reply :

"Ah been taking 'em right along, sah. Yes, sah, thank you, sah.
Dey did try to stop us makin' a livin', sah, but none of de gen'lemans
do'n ferget us."

I can highly commend the anti-tipping law of Georgia ; it gives one
a doubled sense of adventure, of American freedom from restraint,
reminiscent of the super-sweetness of stolen apples in our boyhood days.

We liked Savannah ; preferred it, perhaps, to any of the cities of our
journey southward. We liked the Southern hospitality of its churches,
consistent with their roominess and their wide-open windows. We
were particularly taken with the custom of furnishing fans as well as
hymn-books, though we may have wondered a bit whether the segrega-
tion of the colored people persisted clear beyond St. Peter's gate.
We were especially grateful to the genius of Oglethorpe, who had made
this a city of un-American spaciousness, with every other cross street
an ample boulevard, which gave the lungs and the eyes a sense of
having escaped to the open country. Perhaps it was these wooded
avenues, more than anything else, that made us feel we were at last
approaching the tropics, where life itself is of more real importance than
mere labor and business. Had we settled there, we should quickly
have attuned ourselves to the domesticity of her business customs,
breakfast at nine, dinner from two to four, giving the mind harrassed
with the selling of cotton or the plaints of clients time to compose
itself in household quiet, supper when the evening breezes have wiped
out the memory of the scorching sun. We liked the atmosphere of
genuine companionship between the two sections of the population,
despite the line that was sternly drawn between them where social
intercourse might otherwise have blended together. The stately tread
of the buxom negro women bearing their burdens on heads that seemed
designed for no other purpose fitted into the picture our imaginations
persisted in painting against the background of the old slave-market,



OVERLAND TO THE WEST INDIES 9

with its barred cells, in defiance of the assertion of inhabitants that not a
black man had ever been offered for sale there.

The man who conducted us to the top of Savannah's " sky-scrapah "
for every Southern city we visited boasted one such link between
earth and heaven was still frankly of the " rebel " turn of mind for
all his youthfulness. He deplored the abolition of slavery. In the
good old days a " niggah " was as valuable as a mule to-day ; no owner,
unless he was a fool, would have thought of abusing so costly a posses-
sion any more than he would now his automobile. The golden age of
the negro was that in which he was inspected daily, as soldiers are,
and sternly held to a certain standard of outward appearance and
health. To-day not one out of ten of them was fit to come near a
white man. Laziness had ruined them; their native indolence and the
familiarity toward them of white men from the North had been their
downfall. The South had no fear of race riots, however ; those were
things only of the North, thanks to the Northerner's false notion of
the " nigger's " human possibilities. Why had the black laborers who
had raised this pride of Savannah to its lofty fifteen stories of height
always lifted their hats to him, their foreman, and addressed the North-
ern architects with the disrespect of covered heads? Wise men from
'* up east " soon learned the error of their ways in the treatment of the
" niggah," after a few weeks or months of Southern residence. Slav-
ery, in principle, was perhaps wrong, but it was the only proper system
with negroes. Besides, we should not forget that it was not the South
that had introduced slavery into the United States, but New England !

Many things, I knew, were chargeable to our northeastern states,
but this particular accusation was new to me. Yet this son of the
old South was a modern American in other respects, for all his out-worn
point of view. His civic pride, bubbling over in a boasting that was
not without a suggestion of crudity, alone proved that. Savannah was
destined to become sooner or later the metropolis of America; it was
already second only to New York in the tonnage of its shipping. I
cannot recall offhand any American town that is not destined some day,
in the opinion of its proudest citizens, to become the leader of our
commercial life, nor one which is not already the greatest something or
other of the entire country. No doubt this conviction everywhere
makes for genuine progress, even though the goal of the imagination
is but a will-o'-the-wisp. What breeds regret in my soul, however, is
the paucity of our cities that aspire to the place of intellectual leader-



io ROAMING THROUGH THE WEST INDIES

ship, as contrasted with the multitude of those which picture themselves
the foremost in trade and commerce.

Possibly Savannah will some day outstrip New York, but I hope not,
for it has something to-day the loss of which would be an unfortunate
exchange for mere metropolitan uproar and which even its own
leisurely ambitious people might regret when it was too late. This
view from its highest roof, with its chocolate-red river winding away
to the sea sixteen miles distant, and inland to swampy rice-fields and the
abodes of alligators, that can be reached only by " bateau," with its
palm-flecked open spaces and its freedom from smoke, raised the hope
that it might aspire to remain what it is now incontestably, a " city of
trees " and a pleasant dwelling-place.

There were suggestions in the over-languid manner of some of its
poorer inhabitants that the hookworm was prevalent in Savannah.
Well-informed citizens pooh-poohed the notion, asserting that " hook-
worm is just a polite Northern word for laziness." The particular
sore spot of the moment was the scarcity of sugar. From Columbia
onward it had been served us in tiny envelopes, as in war-days. That
displayed in store windows was a mere bait, for sale only with a corre-
sponding quantity of groceries. All of which was especially surprising
in a region with its own broad green patches of cane. The unsweetened
inhabitants explained the enigma by a reference to " profiteers," and
pointed out the glaringly new mansions of several of this inevitable
war-time gentry. Others asserted that the ships at the wharves across
the river were at that very moment loading hundreds of tons of sugar
for Europe and furnishing even Germany with an article badly needed
at home. An old darky added another detail that was not without its
significance :

" Dey 's plenty of sorghum an' merlasses right now, sah, but de white
folks dey cain't eat nothin' but de pure white."

Men of a more thoughtful class than our guide of the " sky-scrapah "
had a somewhat different view of the glories of the old South.

" Slavery," said one of them, " was our curse and in time would
have been our ruination. Not so much because it was bad for the
negroes, for it wasn't, particularly. But it was ruining the white
man. It made him a haughty, irresponsible loafer, incapable of con-
trolling his temper or his passions, or of soiling his hands with labor.
We have real cause to be grateful that slavery was abolished. But that
does not alter the fact that right was on our side in the war with



OVERLAND TO THE WEST INDIES n

the North the right of each State to dissolve its union with the
others if it chose, which was the real question at issue, rather than the
question of holding slaves, though I grant that we are better off by
sticking to the union. If the South had won, the United States would
be to-day a quarrelsome collection of a score of independent countries,
unprogressive as the Balkans."

On a certain burning question even the most open-minded sons of the



Online LibraryHarry A. (Harry Alverson) FranckRoaming through the West Indies / by Harry A. Franck .. → online text (page 1 of 51)