Myths & Legends of our New Possessions & Protectorate
by Charles M. Skinner
1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

Myths & Legends Of Our New Possessions & Protectorate

By Charles M. Skinner

Philadelphia & London J. B. Lippincott Company 1900



In the Caribbean PAGE

The Mysterious Islands 23 The Buccaneers 33 The Boat of Phantom Children 46 Early Porto Rico 48 The Deluge 55 How Spaniards were Found to be Mortal 56 Ponce 58 Water Caves 61 How a Dutchman Helped the Spaniards 65 The Ghost of San Geronimo 67 Police Activity in Humacao 71 The Church in Porto Rico 74 The Mermaids 78 The Aborigines 83 The Caribs 88 Secret Enemies in the Hills 92 Sacred Shrines 98 Tobacco 103 The Two Skeletons of Columbus 106 Obeah Witches 108 The Matanzas Obeah Woman 113 How Havana Got its Market 121 The Justice of Tacon 127 The Cited 133 The Virgin's Diamond 141 A Spanish Holofernes 144 The Courteous Battle 150 Why King Congo was Late 153 The Chase of Taito Perico 156 The Voice in the Inn 163

In the Pacific

Finding of the Islands 177 Ancient Faiths of Hawaii 178 The Giant Gods 188 The First Fire 189 The Little People 190 The Hawaiian Iliad 194 The Hawaiian Orpheus and Eurydice 201 The Rebellion of Kamiole 206 The Japanese Sword 212 Lo-Lale's Lament 217 The Resurrections of Kaha 220 Hawaiian Ghosts 224 The Three Wives of Laa 225 The Misdoing of Kamapua 226 Pele's Hair 233 The Prayer to Pele 234 Lohiau and the Volcano Princess 237 A Visit of Pele 239 The Great Famine 243 Kiha's Trumpet 248 How Moikeha Gained a Wife 252 The Sailing of Paao 254 The Wronged Wife 256 The Magic Spear 259 Hawaiian Witches 262 The Cannibals 267 The Various Graves of Kaulii 270 The Kingship of Umi 273 Keaulumoku's Prophecy 276 The Tragedy of Spouting Cave 277 The Grave of Pupehe 283 The Lady of the Twilight 285 The Ladrones 286 Old Beliefs of the Filipinos 290 Animal Myths 300 Later Religious Myths and Miracles 304 Bankiva, the Philippine Pied Piper 315 The Crab Tried to Eat the Moon 317 The Conversion of Amambar 319 The Bedevilled Galleon 322 Two Runaways from Manila 329 The Christianizing of Wong 333 The Devil's Bridge 335 The Great Earthquake 339 Suppressing Magic in Manila 345 Faith that Killed 348 The Widow Velarde's Husband 351 The Grateful Bandits 352


Gate of the Walled City of Manila Frontispiece A Cuban Residence Page 146 Down the Valley came Pouring a Flood of Lava Page 232 Avenue of Palms, Hawaii Page 262


The Mysterious Islands

Somewhere—anywhere—in the Atlantic, islands drifted like those tissues of root and sedge that break from the edges of northern lakes and are sent to and fro by the gales: floating islands. The little rafts bearing that name are thick enough to nourish trees, and a man or a deer may walk on them without breaking through. Far different were those wandering Edens of the sea, for they had mountains, volcanoes, cities, and gardens; men of might and women lovelier than the dawn lived there in brotherly and sisterly esteem; birds as bright as flowers, and with throats like flutes, peopled the groves, where luscious fruit hung ready for the gathering, and the very skies above these places of enchantment were more serene and deep than those of the storm-swept continents. Where the surges creamed against the coral beaches and cliffs of jasper and marble, the mer-people arose to view and called to the land men in song, while the fish in the shallows were like wisps of rainbow.

It was the habit of these lands never to be where the seeker could readily find them. Some legends pertaining to them appear to do with places no farther from the homes of the simple, if imaginative, tellers than the Azores, Canaries, and Cape Verdes; but others indicate a former knowledge of our own America, and a few may relate to that score or so of rocks lying between New England and the Latin shores; bare, dangerous domes and ledges where sea fowl nest, and where a crumbling skeleton tells of a sailor who outlived a wreck to endure a more dreadful death from cold and thirst and hunger. Some of these tales reach back to the Greek myths: survivals of the oldest histories, or possibly connected America with the old world through voyages made by men whose very nations are dead and long forgotten; for the savages and ogres that inhabited these elusive islands may be European concepts of our Indians. But in the earlier Christian era all was mystery on those plains of water that stretched beyond the sunset. It was believed that as one sailed toward our continent the day faded, and that if the mariner kept on he would be lost in hopeless gloom.

Perhaps the most ancient story in the world tells of the sinking of Atlantis. When the Egyptian priest told it to Solon it was already venerable beyond estimate; yet he recounted the work and pleasures of the Atlantans, who were a multitude, who drank from hot and cold springs, who had mines of silver and gold, pastures for elephants, and plants that yielded a sweet savor; who prayed in temples of white, red and black stone, sheathed in shining metals; whose sculptors made vast statues, one, representing Poseidon driving winged horses, being so large that the head of the god nearly touched the temple roof; who had gardens, canals, sea walls, and pleasant walks; who had ten thousand chariots in their capital alone; the port of twelve hundred ships. They were a folk of peace and kindness, but as they increased in wealth and comfort they forgot the laws of heaven; so in a day and a night this continent went down, burying its millions and its treasures beneath the waters. A few of the inhabitants escaped to Europe in their ships; a few, also, to America. It has been claimed that Atlantis may still be traced in an elevation of the ocean floor about seven hundred miles wide and a thousand miles long, its greatest length from northeast to southwest, and the Azores at its eastern edge—mountain tops not quite submerged. As some believe, it was from this cataclysm that has sprung the world-wide legend of a deluge.

From some of the enchanted lands, perhaps near the American shore, Merlin went to England, piled the monoliths of Stonehenge on Salisbury moor, and after gaining respect and fear as a magician and prophet, sailed back across the waste. The Joyous Island of Lancelot; the island where King Arthur wrestled and bested the Half Man; Avalon, the Isle of the Blest, where Arthur lived in the castle of the sea-born fairy, Morgan le Fee, were probably near the British or Irish coasts.

Many days' sail from Europe was the Island of Youth. A daring Irish lad reached it, borne by a horse as white as the foam, that never sank. He paused on the way to slay a giant who held a princess in his enchantment, and reached, at length, a land where birds were so many that the trees shook with the burden of them, and the air rang with their song. There, with his wife and a merry band of youths and maids, he spent a hundred years—one long joy of killing; for from dawn till dark the deer met death at his hand, bleeding from the stroke of dart and knife. A floating spear was found near the shore one day, rusted and scarred with battle, and as he grasped it memories of old wars returned to him, so that he was sick with longing to go home and hurl the cutting metal through the ribs of his enemies and see the good red flood burst from their hearts. He remounted his white steed and reached Ireland, careless of the happiness he had left: for those who deserted the island might never return. He reached his home to find men grown too small and mean to fight him, which probably means that he had waxed so great as to make them seem like dwarfs. Appalled at this change, dismayed at the loss of all chance for battle, he sank to the earth. His age came suddenly upon him, and he died.

In one of the great Irish monasteries lived St. Brandan, of the holy brotherhood that tilled the soil, taught the permitted sciences, copied and illumined the works of the early Christians, fed four hundred beggars daily, though living on bread, roots, and nuts themselves, lodging and studying in unwarmed cells of stone. Once in seven years the people saw from shore the island of Hy-Brasail. The monks tried to stop its wanderings by prayer and by fiery arrows, yet without avail. Kirwan claimed to have landed on it, and he brought back strange money that he said was used by its people. So late as 1850 Brasail Rock remained on the British Admiralty chart, to show how hard tradition dies. The appearance of this phantom land made Brandan long to explore the realm of mystery wherefrom it had emerged. He hoped to find even the Promised Island of the Saints, when at last he was able to leave the convent where he had endured so many hardships and embarked on Mernoc's ship; blessed region where fruit was borne on every tree, flowers on every bush; region strewn with precious stones and full of perfume that clung to one's garments for weeks, like an odor of sanctity.

Seventeen priests set sail in the coracle, or boat of basket work covered with leather. They had no fear, for they were holy men, and in those days Christians were immune from peril. Not long before a company of nuns had been blown across the sea and back again, seated on a cloak that rode the waves like a ship. After forty days Brandan's company found a group of islands peopled by courteous natives. Next they disembarked on what they thought to be a rock to cook a dinner, but it was no rock; it was a whale, that, feeling the sting of flame through his thick hide, rushed off for two miles, carrying their fire on his back. They hastily re-entered their boat before the monster had gained much headway and ere long reached the Paradise of Birds, where they enjoyed the music made by thousands of little creatures with their wings—a music like fiddling. After this came visits to a den of griffins; to a land of grapes such as the Norsemen told about; to a mountain country aflame with the forges of one-eyed people, or cyclops. Twice, on Easter Sunday, they put lambs to death, and so, being blessed for the sacrifice, were allowed to reach the Island of Saints, where an angel bade them take all the precious stones they wished, as they had been created for holy people, but to attempt no exploration beyond that point. No men appeared; still, in order to leave the impress of their calling, St. Malo, one of the company, dug up a giant who had died several years before, preached to him and baptized him. These reformatory services revived the giant a little, though he was pretty far gone, and he died again as soon as the priest stopped preaching. St. Brandan went back to Clonfert, where three thousand monks joined him in good works, and mendicants swarmed from all over the land to benefit by their labor. He often told the people and the brethren of the wonders he had seen in lands Columbus was to rediscover nine hundred years later, and he dwelt with marvelling on the mercy of God as shown to Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Christ, who was encountered in the northern seas, lying naked on an iceberg in silent delight. St. Brandan recognized him by portraits he had seen and hailed him. Judas then told his story; he was roasting in hell when the Lord remembered that once in Joppa this disciple had thrown his cloak over the shoulders of a leper who was agonized by a wind that blew sharp sand into his sores. An angel was sent to tell the doomed one that for this mercy he would be allowed, for one hour in every year, to breathe the wholesome air of the upper world, and stretch his scorched body on the ice. Moved by this tenderness toward the most despised of men, St. Brandan bowed and prayed, just as Judas, with despair in his upturned face, slipped down again to the deeps of fire.

Some men of Ross, Ireland, had killed their king, despite his successful wars against his rival monarchs, some of whose kingdoms were as large as a township. For this offense the heir to the throne, or his advisers, decreed that sixty couples should be set adrift on the ocean, to meet what fate they might. A guard was put along the shore to keep them from landing again, and an easterly gale blew them quickly out of sight of their relatives and friends. For years none dared to seek for them. Conall Ua Corra, of Connaught, had prayed in vain to the Lord for children, so in anger he prayed to the devil, and three boys were born to his wife. The neighbors jeered at them as the fiend's offspring, and harassed them and made them bitter. They said, one to the other, "If we are really sons of Satan we will justify these taunts," and collecting all the vicious boys of their village they robbed farmers, ruined churches, killed men who resisted plunder, and were about to murder their father when they were warned in a vision of the eternal punishment they would endure in blazing sulphur pits if they did not repent. Their father had long regretted his hasty prayer to the evil one, and had tried to regain the good-will of heaven by industry, and by giving freely of his substance to the sick and pauperized. By advice of St. Finnen, to whom they confessed, the boys repaired the churches they had injured and mourned the victims of their brutality; yet, as the people doubted their conversion, they resolved to leave the country and go to some land where they would not be constantly exposed to the danger of breaking their good resolves by reproaches and attacks. Where to go? It was suggested by some designing neighbor that if they were to search for the one hundred and twenty exiles they would be doing a service to heaven and the world. This suggestion was promptly acted on. In a frail coracle they swept the sea, discovering strange lands, in one of which the half-forgotten people of Ross were found, living so contentedly that few of them cared to go back. The most exciting incidents of the voyage were the three meetings with the Island of Satan's Hand, a lone rock in icy waters, where fogs always brooded. At the will of a malignant demon it changed its place from time to time, and it was the hand of this monster, a vast, rude shape looming out of the mist, which endangered all the ships that passed, for it struck at them,—as it did at the coracle of these three voyagers,—injuring hulls, tearing sails, or knocking the crews overboard, when it did not send them to the bottom. If the blow fell short it made the sea boil and sent billows rolling for a mile. Some of the shore folk said it was icebergs that the shipmen saw; but icebergs never sailed so far from the pole, they answered. Despite its wandering habit, the map-makers eventually agreed on a site for this rock of the smiting hand, calling it Satanaxio. It can be seen on charts of the eighteenth century.

A thousand years before Columbus it was reported that tropic islands had been discovered and ruled by Archbishop Oppas, of Spain, who was fain to leave his country because he had betrayed his king to the Moors. He found a race friendly and gentle, sharing with one another whatever was given to them, as not knowing selfishness. This prelate burned his ships, that his people might not return, laid off the largest island into seven bishoprics, and, impressing the natives into his service, built churches and convents, for there were women in his company whom he placed in nunneries. This island, which figures on early maps as Antillia and as Behaim, was known also as the Land of the Seven Cities, from its seven bishoprics. When Coronado heard of the pueblos of Arizona and New Mexico, he may have confounded them with the towns of Oppas, and to this day the seven cities of Cibola are a legend of our desert. Harold's Norsemen were told by the wild Skraelings of Maine of a pale-faced people farther south, who walked in processions, carrying white banners and chanting.

Near Florida was the island of Bimini, with its fountain of youth. Juan and Luis Ponce de Leon sought it vainly among the Bahamas, then crossed to Florida and kept up the search among the pine barrens, the moss-bearded cypresses, the snaky swamps, and alligator infested rivers. The Indians, strong, active, healthy with their simple, outdoor life, their ignorance of wine and European diseases, seemed so favored that the Spaniards believed they must have bathed in the magic fountain and drank its waters. Green Cove Spring, near Magnolia, is the one where Luis bathed, hoping that he had found at last the restorative fountain; but an angry Indian shot a poisoned arrow through his body, and neither prayers nor water stayed long the little life that was in him. So the spring is in the unfound Bimini, after all.

The Buccaneers

How the free traders in the West Indies became smugglers, how by easy stages they passed from the profession of illicit dealing to piracy, are matters that concern history rather than legend. Their name of buccaneers comes from buccan, an Indian word signifying a smoke-house, in which beef and other meats were dried; as one of the earliest enterprises of the rovers was the stealing of Spanish cattle in San Domingo, and the drying of their flesh in the native buccans for use at sea.

A general hatred or jealousy of Spain, that was shared by the English, Dutch, and French, led to the first privateering expeditions. Indeed, throughout the seventeenth century the pirates operated principally against Spain, and were tolerated because of the injury they did to her ships, her people, her property, and her trade. Having finally ruined her commerce, they sacked her colonies, and, the lust for blood and treasure having been roused to a sort of madness, they cast off patriotic allegiances and became mere robbers and outlaws. The history of the successes of L'Ollonois, Morgan, Davis, and the rest, is an exciting though painful one, inasmuch as all sense of right and mercy seems to have been crushed in the breasts of these men by their brutal business. For a handful of dollars they were ready to wreck a city, reduce even its ruins to ashes, slaughter women and babes, and cut the throats of the aged. They were as harsh and treacherous toward one another as they were toward peaceable men, and for acts of rebellion against a leader they were killed off-hand, while it was customary, also, to butcher a sailor whenever a chest of treasure was buried, and place his body on or in the chest, that his ghost might guard it and terrify intruders. Yet the ultimate influence of the buccaneers was for good, inasmuch as they wrested a part of the rich Antilles from the cruel and ignorant Spaniard and gave it to more enlightened powers.

When the freebooting days were at their height there was no harbor of safety between Rio and Halifax; but there was, in every town the rascals visited, an element that profited by their robberies: the keepers of inns, brothels, and gaming-houses, and, lastly, the royal governors. These bloody-fingered varlets would sack a church, get tipsy on the communion wine, and demand the blessing of the priests on the next enterprise of the same kind they had in contemplation. With the chalices, candlesticks, and altar furnishings, they would go to the nearest city, where they were sure of finding this friendly element, and riot away the last piece of metal in their pockets; or, if pipes of wine were among the prizes, any island would serve for a long debauch. Devil's Island, the place of Dreyfus's captivity, was a popular rendezvous, though it is so named not because of these gatherings, but because of a particularly unmanageable prisoner who was once confined there.

The governors of some of the West Indies were as keen on the scent of the sea-robbers as the latter were in the chase of merchant-men, and they were unable to see a good many sad goings-on when a few pieces-of-eight were held before their eyes. Gaming was no disgrace in those times, nor was hard drinking, nor coarse speech, and even piracy had a sort of sanction when the victims were people of a nation with whom the buccaneers were at war. Many tales of gamesters' luck are told, but a couple will suffice. Vent-en-Panne, a Frenchman, had received five hundred crowns as his share of a robbery, and on the first night ashore, at Kingston, Jamaica, he staked and lost it all, with three hundred more that a reckless comrade had lent to him. Though penniless, he was not discouraged. He became a wine-drawer and pipe-lighter in the tavern, and with a few pennies received for tips he bet on the cards again. This time he won, and his fortune mounted to twelve thousand crowns. With this amount in hand he felt he could be virtuous, so he took ship for home, intending to settle in Paris and fulfil the ambition of every honest Frenchman,—to own a furnished room, fish in the Seine, and hear the bands play. He got only as far as Barbadoes, for at that island a rich Jew came aboard, persuaded him to play for a small amount, and lost everything to Vent-en-Panne,—money, houses, sugar, and slaves. The fever was on them both, however, and so soon as the Jew could borrow a little his luck also turned, and Vent-en-Panne was stripped of every sou,—even the clothes he wore. Paris became an iridescent dream, and the gambler found his way to the Tortugas, where he doubtless shipped with Morgan, Teach, or some other of the scourges of the Spanish main.

Two rovers are credited with beating the governor of Jamaica at another game, after they had lost to him a matter of ten thousand crowns,—the earnings of several weeks faithfully devoted to privateering. In order to continue the game (to their complete beggary), the fellows had borrowed from acquaintances in Kingston, who, seeing no way to get their money back, decided to have them imprisoned for debt. Hearing of this plan, the elder of the precious pair reported to the governor that he had a negro whom he would like to sell, cheap, in order to pay his debts and start in a mechanic trade, such as he had followed in years gone by. The governor bade him have the fellow brought in, and finding him to be a sturdy, intelligent man, with a skin as black as the ten of clubs, he bought him and set him at work. Next day the negro had disappeared. Notice and offers of reward were sent to all parts of the island, but nothing came of it. The two ex-pirates followed a peaceful and thriving trade of making keys, possibly for burglars, and in a few years had saved enough to enable them to return to England. Before sailing they called on the ex governor, who had drank and gambled himself into poverty, and emptied a fistful of gold before him.

"That's for the nigger, with interest," said one.

"The nigger? What, the one that ran away?" asked the governor.

"Oh, he didn't run far. Here he is." And the speaker clapped his companion on the shoulder. "He had only to curl his hair with a hot iron and rub charcoal on his chops to deceive a governor."

The tickled old fellow drank their health and wished them a safe journey, out of Jamaica.

While luck seemed to bide with the rovers, it was not always smooth sailing on the Spanish seas. Now and then the buccaneers attacked an innocent looking ship that waited until they had come within musket-reach, when it ran up the Spanish standard, opened a dozen ports, and let fly at them with hot-shot and a hail of bullets. Now and again a mutiny would occur, and the victorious either forced the defeated to walk the plank or marooned them on some desolate sand key to perish of thirst and sunstroke.

Blackbeard's men once found a fishing-vessel drifting off the Burmudas and eagerly boarded her to look for treasure. In a minute they tumbled out of the cabin and scrambled into the sea like the swine possessed of devils. The vessel had but one living man on board, and he had not many hours of life before him, while corpses strewn about the floor were spotted with small-pox. Half of the pirate crew were slain by the pestilence.

When Roberts was cruising off Surinam a supposed war-ship bore down on him in a fog. He pelted her with all his guns, but she kept her way unheeding. The fog then breaking showed that it was not a frigate, but a sloop, which had been magnified by the mist, and he quickly grappled her and sent his men to see what manner of ship she was. Ten or twelve Spaniards lying about the deck with their throats cut proved that some other buccaneer had been before him. As the men were about to leave their floating charnel-house to hold her way whither the gales might send her, a furious swearing in Spanish caused them to shiver and look back. Were the dead speaking? Had some crazed sailor escaped, and was he gibbering from the roundtop? No: it was a parrot in the rigging, and he was saying all he knew.

Montbar, having discovered a company of Spanish on one of the Windward Islands, went ashore with guns, knives, and axes, and destroyed them all, except one. This man told how he and his fellows had been put ashore. They were the crew of a slaver, and were on their way from Africa to Cuba with a cargo of slaves, when the ship began to leak badly. The carpenter, accompanied by several of the more intelligent of the blacks, made a careful inspection of the hold, yet could find no leak; so the constant inflow, that kept all hands at the pumps, was at length declared to be the devil's work. The slaves wailed and wrung their hands, the captain swore and prayed, the crew toiled to exhaustion. When it seemed as if the ship could not float for another day the island appeared ahead, and quickly loading arms, provisions, and water into the boats, the Spaniards abandoned ship and left the negroes to their fate. Great was their surprise and dismay when the slaves ran, cheering, over the deck, hoisted all sail, and squared away for the eastward, the vessel rising higher in the water as her former crew sat watching her. These blacks, who were confined in the hold, had got possession of knives with which they cut through the outer planking, causing the ship to leak alarmingly. They had also fitted plugs to these leaks, and packed them with oakum, so that when the carpenter made his rounds no water came in. As soon as he returned to the deck the holes were opened again, for it was known that the Antilles were near, and the scheme to frighten their captors to land was successful. These facts the crew learned from the negro cook, who had accompanied them to shore.

The devil, who was supposed in this case to have been the enemy instead of the ally of the slavers, often mixed in the affairs of a class that must have filled him with admiration. Some of the pirates are reported to have placed themselves entirely in the hands of the foe of the human race, swearing on strange objects to give their souls to him, and formally burying a Bible on shore as a token that they were through forever with religion and mercy. Yet they were a superstitious lot, fearful of signs and portents, and do not, therefore, appear to have been trusting subjects of His Satanic Majesty. They always had an ear and a coin for a fortune-teller, and early in the eighteenth century there were negroes and Indians in the West Indies and the tropic Americas who openly practised that trade and art of witchcraft for which their white brethren in Salem had been hanged. Their principal customers were pirates and buccaneers, who went to them for a forecast of fortune, and also bought charms that would create fair winds for themselves and typhoons for their enemies. These witches kept open ears in their heads, and information carelessly dropped by the outlaws they sold for an aftermath of gain to the Spaniards, who found truth in so many of the prophesies that they respected the soothsayers and fully believed that the English were the chosen of the fiend.

Among the most trusted of the witches was a withered Indian woman of Nassau, the capital of the Bahamas. She was close upon her fifth score of years before she departed this life, but the rumor that she had lived in New Providence since the flood was not denied, for it made her the more regarded. Her best commodity was strings. For a large price she would sell a string in which she had tied several knots, each one of which represented the particular wind that the captain might wish to prosper him on his way. Captain Condent was a blaspheming corsair from the wicked town of New York, who had left that port as quartermaster on a merchant-man and next morning had appeared with a battery of pistols and had calmly taken the ship out of the hands of her officers. This fellow had bought a string from the witch that carried him to the Cape Verdes and back to America, but when he had cut off all the knots, except two or three, he feared that he might run out of winds altogether; so he put upon certain servants of the Lord the task for which he had paid the servant of the devil. He had with him two or three Spanish monks whom he had stolen in the Cape Verdes, though what he wanted of them neither he nor they could have guessed. They were having a most unhappy time of it. Now and then the scallawag sailors would force them upon all fours, and sitting astride their backs would compel them to creep about the deck, pretending to be horses, while Condent whipped them smartly with the rope's end. Thinking to save his precious twine, he ordered these monks to pray for favoring winds, and he kept them on their marrow bones petitioning from daylight until sunset. Often they would fall exhausted and voiceless. At last, believing that the wind peddler of Nassau had more power over the elements than a shipload of monks, he threw the wretched friars overboard, and, as luck would have it, the wind he wanted came whistling along a few minutes after.

He came to the end of his string at Zanzibar, where he was caught in a tremendous storm, and was in hourly peril of destruction. His masts had cracked, his sails had split, his water barrels had gone by the board. It was time to hold the witch to her bargain. He swung the cord about his head three times, called the woman's name, and although eight thousand miles of sea and continent lay between them, she heard the call. The string was pulled through his fingers so smartly that it made them burn, and was whisked out of sight in the wind and the spray. Within an hour the gale abated. Next day Condent attempted to make his way by dead reckoning, but whenever he went wrong a bird flew in his face, and a ship crowded with skeletons approached him in the mist. He presently gained the Isle of Bourbon, or Reunion, where his stealings enabled him to cut such a figure in society that he married into the family of the governor and died in an odor of—well, maybe it was sanctity. At all events, he died.

It was a witch also that had foretold the march of the buccaneers across Panama isthmus, and her warning was considered of such importance that the Spanish troops and merchants were notified, though they made but a feeble resistance when the foray actually occurred.

One of the Spanish slavers bound for our coasts was overhauled by the English pirate Lewis. She was a fast sailer and had nearly escaped when Lewis ripped a handful of hair from his head, flung it to the wind, and shouted, "Ho, Satan, keep that till I come." Instantly the wind rose to a gale. In a few minutes the Spaniard was in the hands of the pirates, and the slaves, being only an encumbrance, were tossed overboard to the sharks, as one might fling away a damaged cargo. One of the black men was a dwarf, gnarly, wrinkled, misshapen, with eyes that blazed like a cat's in the dark. No sooner had this man been pushed over the side than he uttered an ear-splitting yell, and seemed to bound back to the deck. It was a cat, however, not a human being, that was seen to rush into the cabin, and it looked into Lewis's face with the same shining, menacing eyes that he had seen in the dwarf. A negro boy who had been spared to act as a servant for the captain having unconsciously roused his anger, Lewis rushed upon him with his sword, cut him through the heart and beat his corpse, the cat sitting by and squealing with glee at the sight. When a mate struck at the animal in a tort of disgust and fear, the creature leaped at him and almost blinded him with its claws. From that time the cat became Lewis's familiar; was before him at the table, on his pillow when he slept, on his shoulder when he gave orders. The crew agreed that it could be none other than the devil himself. On Lewis's last night alive, while he was quite drunk, the cat seemed to be whispering into his ear. He arose and staggered away, saying, "The devil says I shall be killed to-night." An hour later his ship was boarded by French pirates, and Lewis was despatched. After scratching the faces of nearly all the enemy, the cat ran up the mainmast, throwing off sparks and screeching, scrambled to the end of the topsail-yard, and leaped off into the night.

Morgan, the English sea robber, had captured a number of Spanish prisoners in Panama, among them a woman of beauty and distinction, who had been left without other protection than that of a faithless servant during her husband's absence in Peru. The dignity and refinement of his prisoner made a certain impression on Morgan. After he had put to sea a cabin was reserved for her, she was treated with respect by the crew, but a guard kept her in sight always. The gross nature of the pirate disclosed itself in a few days, when, fresh from a debauch and reeking with the odors of rum, he forced her cabin door and attempted to embrace her. She sprang back with a cry of loathing, and grasping a dagger swore that if he ever intruded himself in her presence again she would drive the weapon into her own heart, since she could never hope to reach his by any means, violent or gentle. In a fit of anger, the pirate ordered his sailors to cast her into the hold among the slaves and hostages, there to endure fever, crowding, hunger, and thirst.

A week or two later these lean, half-dead wretches were kicked out of their dark and stifling dungeon to be sold to some planters. A woman among them asked for a few words with Morgan. Haggard, tear-stained, ragged, neglected as she was, the captain did not at first recognize her as the one whom he had insulted by his show of love. When he did recall her name and state he asked indifferently what she wanted. She told him that an injustice had been done; that she had at first told him it was in her power to buy her liberty, believing it to be so; but her hope was destroyed, and she was so ill and wasted that she would be useless as a slave. As she was going on board of the ship she had whispered to a couple of Spanish priests telling them where her money was concealed, and asking them to pay her ransom with it. They also were under guard, but they persuaded one of the buccaneer officers to go with them, recovered the money, bought their own freedom with it, and ran away. Hearing this, Morgan sent the woman back to Panama, succeeded in capturing the priests, and sold them into slavery.

It is said of Morgan that he had a fire ship, which he would tow as close as possible to the fleets of his enemies, both to draw their fire and kindle a more disastrous one. What appeared to be its crew were logs of wood, placed upright between the bulwarks, each log surmounted by a hat. As to fire, it is recorded that Teach, or Blackbeard, now and then shut himself into his cabin and burned sulphur to prove to his crew that he was a devil. He used to tie his whiskers with red ribbons into pigtails that he tucked over his ears, and he looked the part. Yet he was less of a monster than L'Olonnais, who so hated Spaniards that he would not only slaughter his prisoners, but would bite their hearts like a savage beast after he had cut them out. Beside Blackbeard there was a Redbeard and a Bluebeard. All three of these gentlemen had castles in St. Thomas, and that of Bluebeard had a room in which it is alleged that he killed his wives after the fashion of his Eastern relative.

The Boat of Phantom Children

Sir Francis Drake, destroyer of many of the "invincible" ships of Spain, came to America with Sir John Hawkins, to subdue the Spanish colonies with the heaviest fleet he ever commanded. Though wrangles between the commanders made this expedition a comparative failure, still wherever the head of a don was seen, a cracking blow was struck at it. War was a crueller business then than it is to-day, in spite of our high explosives, our armored ships, our mighty guns, and our nimble tactics, and things were done that no captain would dare in these times; at least, no captain with a fear of the world's rebuke, or that of his own conscience. Just before Christmas, 1594, Drake was scourging the coast of Colombia, burning houses, and shipping and despoiling the towns. The people of one village near Rio de la Hache, having been warned of his coming, buried their little property, closed their houses, put fifty of their children on a fishing smack, while they hurriedly provisioned some boats to carry all the people to a distant cape, where they would remain in hiding until after Drake had destroyed their homes and passed on. The fisherman who owned the smack set sail too soon; he was separated from the others in a gale, and Drake, who then appeared, ran between him and the shore, and with a couple of shots drove him farther into the wild sea. The smack never returned. After the English had passed, the people watched for it, and, truly, on the next day, a boat was seen beating against the gale and trying to make the pier. As it came nearer, the parents saw their children holding out their arms and laughing. Then the outlines of the hull and sail grew dim, the children's forms drooped as if weary; and in another moment the vision had passed. Long was the grief and loud were the curses on the English. When Drake learned that he had fired on a harmless fishing vessel and driven a company of little ones away from land to be sunk in a tempest, he was filled with compunction and misgiving. The same vision that the parents had seen crossed the path of his own ships. Before every storm the boat of phantoms appeared, and when he sailed for Escudo and Porto Bello it followed him. Wearied with many wars, ill with tropical fever, repentant for this useless killing, he sank into a depression from which nothing could rouse him, and in January he died on his ship, at Nombre de Dios. His remains were consigned to a sailor's grave—the wide ocean—and as the ship moved on her way, the crew, looking back to the place where the body had gone down, saw the phantom smack rise from the deep, rush like a wind-blown wrack across the spot, and melt into the air as it neared the shore.

Early Porto Rico

Though Columbus made his first landing in Porto Rico at Naguabo, where the Caribs afterward destroyed a Spanish settlement, he gave its present name to the island when he put in Aguada for water. Charmed with the beauty of the bay, the opulence of vegetation, the hope of wealth in the river sands, he christened it "the rich port," and extending this, applied to the whole island the name of San Juan Bautista de Puerto Rico—St. John the Baptist of the Rich Port. The natives knew their island as Boriquen. Later came Ponce de Leon, who founded Caparra, now Pueblo Viejo, across the bay from San Juan, to which spot he shifted a little later and built the white house that may still be seen. San Juan is the oldest city of white origin in the Western world, except Santo Domingo, albeit Santiago de Cuba and Baracoa claim to be contemporary. The body of Ponce is buried in San Juan, in the church of Santo Domingo.

When this fair island was claimed by Spain, it had a population of over half a million, but Ponce at once set about the extinction of the native element. The populace was simple, affectionate, confiding, and in showing friendship for the invaders it invited and obtained slavery. It has been ingeniously advanced that the Spaniards disliked the natives because of the cleanliness of the latter. On account of the heat they wore no clothing, to absorb dirt and perspiration, and bathed at least once every day. In those times white people were frugal in the use of water, Spain being more pronounced against it than almost any other nation. Listen to one of the Spanish writers, though he is talking, not of our Indians, but of the Moors: "Water seems more needed by these infidels than bread, for they wash every day, as their damnable religion directs them to, and they use it in baths, and in a thousand other idle fashions, of which Spaniards and other Christians can make little account." We know that a Spanish queen refrained, not only from washing, but from changing her clothes for a whole year. The Porto Ricans were naked, but unaware of their nakedness, therefore they were moderately virtuous; at least, more virtuous than their conquerors. Had they been treated with justice and mercy they would have remained friendly to the white men, and would have been of great service to them in the development of the island. As early as 1512, Africans were shipped to the island to take the places, at enforced labor, of the Indians who had been destroyed. A religion was forced down the throats of the natives that they did not understand, especially as the friars preached it; and being unable at once to grasp the meaning or appreciate the value of discourses on the spiritual nature, the trinity, vicarious atonement, transubstantiation, and the intercession of saints, the soldiers, always within call, followed their custom when the congregations proved intractable: killed them.

It is said that the Spaniards acquired such ease in the slaying of Indians that they would crack a man's head merely to see if it would split easily or if their swords were keeping their edge, and that they varied their more direct and merciful slaughters by roasting one of the despised infidels occasionally. Slavery in damp mines, fevers in swamps, unaccustomed work, strain, anxiety, grief, insufficient food, lack of liberty, separation from friends and families, killed more than the sword. It was the same in all the conquered lands. In Hayti a million people were oppressed out of existence or slain outright in fifteen years, and but sixty-five thousand were left. In less than a century that island had not a single native. So in Porto Rico: not a man is to be found there to-day who is a pure-blooded aborigine. Even their relics and monuments, their traditions and history, were obliterated by their conquerors—the race that destroyed the libraries of the Moors and the picture records of the Aztecs. Few even of their burial places are known, although the Cave of the Dead, near Caguana, was so named because of the Indian skeletons found in it.

Some of the tools and implements of stone found on the island are so strange that one cannot even guess their purpose. Of the heavy stone collars that have been preserved, a priest holds that they were placed about the necks of the dead, that the devil might not lift them out of their graves, but this sounds like an invention of the church, for there is no proof that a belief in the devil existed among these people. They had a god, as well as minor spirits, and sang hymns to them; they had some crafts and arts, for they made canoes, huts, chairs, nets, hammocks, pottery, weapons, and implements, and, although the fierce Caribs vexed them now and again, they were accounted as the gentlest and most advanced of the native people in the Antilles. Speaking of the hammock, that is one of their devices that the world has generally adopted, and the name is one of the few Indian words that have survived the Spanish oppressions, though there are many geographic titles. Other familiar survivals are the words hurricane, canoe, tobacco, potato, banana, and a few other botanical names.

It is probable that these Boriquenos were allied in speech and custom, as well as in blood, to their neighbors the Haytiens, of whom saith Peter Martyr, "The land among these people is common as sun and water. 'Mine' and 'thine,' the seeds of all mischief, have no place among them. They are content with so little that in this large country they have more than plenty. They live in a golden world without toil, in open gardens, not intrenched, defended, or divided. They deal truly with one another, without laws, judges, or books. He that will hurt another is an evil man, and while they take no pleasure in superfluity, they take means to increase the roots that are their food—diet so simple that their health is assured." Still, it is known that in their defence against the marauding Caribs the Porto Ricans were courageous, and had become adept with arrow and club, and it was believed by some of the first explorers that they ate their captives.

The aborigines of Porto Rico probably differed little, if at all, from the Haytiens in their faith in an all-powerful, deathless god, who had a mother but no father, who lived in the sky and was represented on earth by zemes or messengers. Every chief had his zemi, carved in stone or wood, as a tutelary genius, to whom he addressed his prayers and who had a temple of his own. Zemes directed the wind, waves, rains, rivers, floods, and crops, gave success or failure in the hunt, and gave visions to or spoke with priests who had worked themselves into a rhapsodic state by the use of a drug (it may have been tobacco), in order to receive the message, which often concerned the health of a person or of a whole village. The Spaniards regarded these manitous as images of the devil, and in order to keep them the natives hid the little effigies from the friars and the troops. In the festivals of these gods there were dances, music, and an offering of flower-decorated cakes.

Hayti was the first created, the sun and moon came from the cave near Cape Haytien known as la voute a Minguet, through a round hole in the roof. Men came from another cave, the big ones through a large door, the little men from a smaller one. They were without women for a long time, because the latter lived in trees and were slippery; but some men with rough hands finally pulled four of them down from the branches, and the world was peopled. At first, the men dared to leave their cave only at night, for the sun was so strong it turned them to stone, though one man who was caught at his fishing by the sun became a bird that still sings at night, lamenting his fate. When a chief was dying in pain he was mercifully strangled,—though the common people were allowed to linger to their end,—and his deeds were rehearsed in ballads sung to the drum. There was a belief in ghosts, albeit they could not be seen in the light, unless in a lonely place, nor by many persons. When they did mingle with the people it was easy to distinguish them from the living, as they had no navel. What became of the wicked after death we do not know, but the good went to a happy place where they met those whom they loved, and lived among women, flowers, and fruits. During the day the departed souls hid among the mountains, but peopled the fairest valleys at night, and in order that they should not suffer from hunger the living were careful to leave fruit on the trees.

From these quaint and simple faiths the people were roused by the professors of a more enlightened one, who made their teaching useless, however, if not odious, to the brown people by their practises. It was an old belief, at least among the Haytiens, that a race of strangers, with bodies clad, would cross the sea and would reduce the people to servitude. This prophecy may have made them the more unwilling to yield to the Spaniards, in respect of religious faith, despite the signs and wonders that were shown to them. When chief Guarionex raided a Spanish chapel and destroyed the sacred images within, the shattered statues were buried in a garden, and the turnips and radishes planted there came up in the form of the cross. But even this did not convince the savages, whom it became necessary to burn, in order to smooth the way to reform.

The Deluge

Like many unschooled peoples, the Antillean tribes had their legend of a time when the earth was covered by a flood. The island of St. Thomas was one of the first to rise out of the sea. The Haytiens said that the deluge did not subside and that the present islands are the summits of mountains that formerly towered to a great height above the plains. Far back in the days when people lived more simply, and white men, with their abominable contrivings for work, had not even been invented, a cacique or chief of their island killed his son, who had tried to harm him, albeit when the lad was dead a natural affection prompted the father to clean his bones and conceal them in a gourd. Some time afterwards the cacique and his wife opened this vegetable tomb, to look on the mortal relics of their child, when a number of fish jumped out. Believing that he now had in the gourd a magic receptacle, from which he could take food at any time, the chief placed it on his roof, where mischief-makers might not reach it. While absent on a hunting-trip his four surviving sons took down the gourd to see what peculiar properties it had, and why it had been thus set apart. In passing it from one to the other it fell and was broken into little pieces. Instantly a vast quantity of water gushed from it, increasing in volume every instant. The water arose so that it reached their knees, and they had to climb the hills. Whales, sharks, porpoises, dolphins, and smaller creatures came swimming forth, and the flow of the water never ceased until the whole world was flooded, as we see it now, for the ocean came from that gourd.

How Spaniards were Found to be Mortal

The first Spaniards to reach the American islands were everywhere greeted as heavenly visitors, and the natives would not have been astonished had the caravels spread their sails—their wings, as they first were called—and flown into the clouds, carrying Columbus and his wrangling, jealous, sensual, gold-greedy company with him. Afterward they would have been more astonished than sorry. When the white men discovered this simple faith among the savages they encouraged it, for it induced the Indians to give up their wives, daughters, houses, weapons, and, above all else, their gold, to the strangers. The little bells and beads they gave in return were treasured because of their celestial origin and adored as fervently as the bones of saints are adored in some of the European churches. Everywhere and always the demand was for gold, and in the belief that the supply was going to last forever, Spain began to ruin herself with more industry than she had ever shown in peaceful callings. Her wars, her splendors, her vanities, her neglect of education and morality, bore their fruit when she pulled her flag down from the staff on Havana's Moro, and gave up her claims to the last foot of land in the Western world.

Ponce de Leon permitted the fiction that the Spaniards were angels—save the mark!—for it smoothed his progress in stripping the Porto Ricans of their poor little possessions, taking their lands for settlement, foraging over the island, forcing his religion upon them, and compelling them to serve him as miners, carriers, farmers, fishermen, and laborers. Many died because it was thought to be cheaper to work them to death and get fresh ones than to feed them. After a time the Indians began to have doubts, and when the friars enlarged on the glories of heaven, and described it as the abode of Spaniards, more of them than Hatuey were anxious to be allowed to go to the other place. They did not at first dare to attack the intruders, for what could men avail against gods, and of what use were spears and clubs against their thunderous arms and smashing missiles?

As the aggressions increased and became less and less endurable, Chief Agueynaba resolved, out of the soreness of his heart, to test this reputed immortality of his guests. A messenger, one Salzedo, was to be sent away from San Juan on some official errand, with a little company of natives as freighters and servants. This was Agueynaba's chance. He ordered his men to slip Salzedo into a river and hold him under water for a time. If he was an immortal this would not hurt him, and if he died, why—they would try very hard to bear up under the loss. While crossing the river—the spot is still shown—the men who bore Salzedo on their shoulders pitched him off and detained him beneath the surface for a couple of hours; then, fearing that he might be still alive and vicious, they put him on a bank and howled apologies to his remains for three days. By that time there was no longer a doubt about his deadness. Reports of this discovery traversed the island with the speed of a South American mail service, so that within a week people even forty miles away had heard about it. Thus encouraged to resistance by the discovery that white men were mortal, the populace fell upon their persecutors and troubled them, although after one defeat the Spaniards rallied and drove the Indians back to the mines.


When Ponce de Leon visited and conquered Porto Rico he heard of the elixir of life. It may not have been among the springs of that island, but the natives had a faith in it and some of them referred it to the Bahamas. Their possible reason for this was to persuade the white men to go there and look for it, for they were not popular in Porto Rico, and this was the more to be regretted in Ponce's case, because he was far from popular at home. At the court of Ferdinand and Isabella was a page who was handsome, spirited, and saucy. One of the daughters of the royal pair, wearied with the forms and ceremonies of her state, which, in the most punctilious court in Europe, were especially trying, found means to converse with this well-appearing, quick-witted scamp. A tattling courtier, recalling a faux pas of the last queen, and desiring no more scandals, reported that the princess had been seen to smile on the youngster. No guilt was proven upon him, but handsome pages were ill-chosen company for young women of blue blood.

Ponce de Leon was the page, and he was sent to the New World to discover something to the advantage of his own modesty, and incidentally to accumulate for shipment anything that might be useful to the Spanish treasury. He landed in Boriquen, as Porto Rico was then called, and began a general subjugation and slaughter of the natives. Some were slain in battle, but thousands were carried away and made to work in mines and on distant plantations, as slaves, until their health was destroyed, and they, too, were no longer an obstacle to Spanish control, though the lack of their hands was a hindrance to Spanish enterprise. Ponce took his share of the gold and treasure he had forced these unfortunates to supply, and went back to Spain with it. Sea air had spoiled his complexion, fighting had roughened his manners, slave-driving had made his voice coarse. Possibly, also, his princess had recovered from her disappointment. Maybe she had been married off to some nobody of Portugal, or France, or Austria, for state reasons, and had entered on the usual loveless life of royalty. Or she may have beguiled her maidenly solitude by drinking much wine of Oporto, Madeira, and Xeres with her dinner, thereby acquiring that amplitude of girth, that ruddiness of countenance, and that polish of nose, which add so little to romance. At all events, we hear nothing more of the affair.

In the course of years Ponce took to himself the gout, rheumatism, dyspepsia, and a few such matters, and he scolded his dresser more than usual because his clothes did not fit at the waist as they had done, once. He parted his hair with a towel, and it was grizzled where it curled about his neck and temples. Then he recalled the tales the Boriquenos had told of the bright waters that gushed from the earth amid banks of flowers,—waters so sweet that who drank would drink again, and with every draught would throw off years and pain until at last he was a youth once more,—a youth with hot blood, sparkling eyes, lithe muscles; a youth who saw the world full of beauty and adventure. Ah, to be once more as he was when the princess beamed on him; to throw away his cares, his ails, his conscience, his regrets; to sing and dance, to ruffle it with other cavaliers, to dice, to drink, to feast, to win the smiles of ladies! It was a joy worth trying to attain.

He sailed once more, an older, sober man. He discovered Florida, bathed in its springs, drank from its flower-edged streams, but to no avail. Bimini, the place of the living waters, evaded him. Boriquen, renamed Porto Rico, could offer no more. But, though his living presence passed, the first building on the island—the White House, near San Juan—remains, and he left his name in the town that was first among the Antillean cities to raise the flag of a republic that should wave over the continent he had helped to discover and colonize:—the city of Ponce.

Water Caves

As in most of the Spanish American countries, so in Porto Rico, ghosts are common,—so common that in some towns the people hardly turn to look at them; and if on a wild night in the hurricane season they hear them gibbering at their doors, they patter an ave or throw a piece of harness at the disturbance, and sleep again. Ponce, for instance, has a number of these spooks, such as the man who searches for his hidden money, and the child with a snowy face that knocks on the panes, then stares fixedly in, with corpse eyes, at the windows. Best known among these supernatural citizens are two lovers who "spoon" on dark nights, and are faintly outlined on the landscape as figures of quivering, smoky blue. Their favorite haunt is their death-place, eight miles from Ponce, in a hollow among limestone hills, now environed by a coffee plantation. Here are found three basins—results of erosion, most likely—that are described as natural bath-tubs. The middle and largest of these pools is partly filled with silt, probably occluding the entrance to a cavern which formerly opened into it, a fathom or so below the water-surface. This cave was the hiding-place of a native woman whose father had discovered her love for one of Ponce de Leon's soldiers. He forbade her to have anything to do with the enemies of his country, enlarged on their rapacity, cruelty, and treachery, and tried to create in her a sense of shame that she should have chosen a Spaniard, instead of a Boriqueno chief, for a lover. There were no locksmiths in the Antilles for love to laugh at, but there were spears and knives to fear, and the young couple, who seemed to be inspired by genuine affection, met at this lonely spot to do their courting. On the least suspicion of a hostile approach, the maid could slip into the water, enter the cave, and wait for an hour or a day, until the intruder had retired. However it happened nobody could tell,—or would,—but the Spaniard was found drowned one morning in that pool. He may have been found waiting there, by the angry parent, thrown in, on general principles, and held to the bottom by his steel arms and armor; or he may have been trying to find the cave in which his charmer had secreted herself, and while so engaged may have bumped his head against the rocky wall and stunned himself, or he may have been a poor swimmer and lost his wits and his wind. At all events, drowned he was, and the dusky virgin who loved him, seeing his form at the bottom of the water, sang her sorrow chant, dived in, and, holding to his body, perished wilfully at his side. Their love endures, and that is why their luminous shadows sit at the brink of the pool, with locked arms and meeting lips, to the disgust of voting women and confirmed bachelors.

This legend, with variants, is found in many parts of the world. There are two or three instances of it in the Hawaiian islands, and a tradition pertaining to Hayti is worth quoting here, as it refers to the same period and illustrates the same enmity between the white and native races. Near the city of San Domingo is, or was, a "water cave," so named because the entrance to it was several feet below the lake whose shore it undermines. When the young half-breed, Diaz, returned from Spain to his native island of Hispaniola in 1520, his mother, Zameaca, queen of the Ozamas, had disappeared, possibly killed outright by the Spaniards, or more slowly killed by enslavement at the mines in vainly trying to satisfy the rapacity of the white race for gold. Diaz, though partly of Spanish blood, was allied in his sympathies to the Indians. Hence, they planned to make him ruler. Their conspiracy was quelled for the time being, with such brutality that those natives who escaped death hated their tyrants with a deeper hatred than ever, and fixed them the more strongly in their resolution to be avenged. The leading chiefs and warriors of the Ozamas took refuge in the water cave, spying on their enemies and going about to make converts among the islanders at night. It was not long before the watchful Spaniards discovered that mischief was afoot, and there were reasons for believing that the chiefs had their hiding place not many miles from town. By following various suspects into the country, and noticing the time and way of their return, they became convinced that the leaders of the rebellion were somewhere near the lake.

A young woman, a slave in the family of the Spanish governor, was so often absent on mysterious errands that the authorities at last fixed on her as the one most likely to betray her countrymen. She was won to their purpose through her vanity. Her mistress had a comb of elaborate and curious workmanship, and to have one like it was the principal object in her existence. The governor told her that she should have this priceless treasure itself if she would tell him where the chiefs were meeting. To this act of treachery she finally agreed on condition that her lover, who was one of the chiefs, should be pardoned. That evening she carried bread and fruit to the lake, and sitting on the bank sang loudly for some minutes. The Spanish soldiers, who were watching from the shrubbery, were astonished to see a man rise like a seal from the water, swim to the shore, take the parcel from the girl's hands, exchange a few words with her, and disappear again beneath the surface. The song was a signal for one of the men to come out and receive the food, and it was heard through a crevice in the cave roof. Next day the girl sang again, and the whole company left the cave. They had no sooner gained the shore than the Spaniards sprang from the shrubbery and surrounded them. As they were led away to death, one of the chiefs levelled his finger at the girl and said, "I am going to a land of peace. You will never find the way to it." Her lover cast her off with bitter reproaches. Then, as the murderous volley pealed across the fields, and the rebellion was ended, her heart broke. She still sits at the lakeside in the evening, weeping over her comb.

How a Dutchman Helped the Spaniards

Had any Dutchman been charged with intending a kindness to the dons when his country was smarting under the Spanish scourge he would have offered the life of some distant relative to disprove the accusation. Without a guess that he could be injuring his own land and enriching that of his enemy, an innocent magistrate of Amsterdam did that for which he would afterward have submitted to the abuse of his friends, and if sackcloth and ashes had been in vogue he would have worn them. It all came about through his wish to be pleasant to a Frenchman, the same being Louis XIV. He sent to this monarch a curiosity in the form of a young coffee-tree, thinking, no doubt, that a warm corner could be found for it in the Jardin des Plantes among the orchids and cacti, and little recking that Louis had a Spanish father-in-law. At that time Holland enjoyed, in her colonies, almost a monopoly of the coffee trade of the world, but that one little tree broke her monopoly, just as one little leak in her dikes led to the eating away of miles of earthen wall and an in-rush and devastation of the sea.

For Louis was more clever than some other kings, almost clever enough to have been in trade, or else he had smart advisers. He had slips cut from the coffee tree, and ere many moons had passed a promising dozen of young plants were ready for shipment to Martinique, the new French colony in the Antilles. A botanist was sent in charge of them, it being the purpose of Louis to turn the island into a coffee plantation and be free of obligation to Holland. The voyage was long, because of head winds and storms, and the precious plants were in peril. Long before the American shores were reached the water supply had run low, and there was much suffering; yet the loyal botanist gave up half of his daily allowance in order that his coffee-trees should live. Salt water would have killed them, and in those days ships had no distilling apparatus. Martinique was reached in safety, however, the little trees struck their roots into congenial soil, and thus the seeds, such as first yielded their aroma to a surprised and gratified Abyssinian chief more than a thousand years before, now spring from the strong earth of the Western world. Whether Spaniards stole some of these trees, or bought them, or whether they got away by accident, certes, they reached Porto Rico, and so became a source of pleasure and profit to people whom the Dutchman did not have in mind when he made his little gift to King Louis. It is believed that all the coffee raised in Batavia for the Dutch also grew from a handful of seeds that had been sent from Arabia to Java. And, oh, that ever the time should have come when France had to buy coffee from her own plant in Porto Rico, and send to that same island for logwood to make claret with,—the kind she sells to New York for bohemian tables d'hote!

The Ghost of San Geronimo

The castle of San Geronimo, San Juan de Porto Rico, was founded a century ago. It occupies a rocky point at the east end of San Juan Island, and year by year had been strengthened until, when the American ships appeared in the offing, it was thought important enough to garrison. Six guns were emplaced, two other gun mounts were found by our troops when they entered, and a hole was discovered extending from a dungeon fifteen feet toward the breastworks. This had been freshly dug, and, it is believed, was devised for the storage of explosives, that the citadel might be blown up when the boys in blue entered to take possession. That the fort was abandoned without resorting to this revengeful and unmilitary act may be due to the ghost. He would naturally be in evidence at such a time, and would do what he could to thwart the schemes of his enemies. For he gave his body to the worms fifty years or more ago. In the flesh he was a revolutionist, and had been dreaming vain things about liberty for his beloved island. It is not recorded that he ever harmed any one, or that his little insurrection attained the dignity of anything more than a rumor and an official chill, but the Spaniards caught him, threw him into the dark prison of this castle, and after he had undergone hunger, thirst, and illness, they went through their usual forms of trial and condemned him to death. This among the civilized would have meant that he would be sent to the gallows or the garrote; but this victim was alleged to have accomplices, and quite likely he was suspected of having a small fund; for the first thing to do when you overthrow a government, or want to, is to pass the hat. To secure the names of his fellow-conspirators, but more especially their money, the revolutionist was therefore consigned to the torture chamber, where the rack, the thumb-screw, the hot irons, the whip, and other survivals of the Inquisition were applied. When the officers had extorted what they wanted, or had made sure there was nothing to extort, the poor, white wreck of a human being was delivered by the judges to an executioner, and a merciful death was inflicted.

Shortly after this occurrence the officers of the San Geronimo garrison began to request transfers, and the social set that had been formed in and near the castle was broken up. Gradually the troops thinned away, and although the works were kept in moderate repair and occasionally enlarged, the regular force was finally withdrawn, and even the solitary keepers who were left in charge died unaccountably. This was because the ghost of the tortured one pervaded its damp rooms and breathed blights and curses on the occupants. Its appearance was always heralded by a clatter of hoofs on the stone bridge leading into the court. The on-rush of spectre horses is variously explained, some believing that the dead man is leading an assault on the fort, others wondering if it may not be a conscience-smitten governor hurrying to rescue or reprieve his victim, and arriving too late,—a theory quite generally rejected on the ground that there never was that kind of a Spanish governor.

An American officer, who took up his home in San Geronimo after the occupation, was disturbed for three successive nights by the ghost, and on learning the tradition of the place he investigated the palace and brought to light the torture chamber with its rows of hooks and rings and chains about the walls. The piercing of its roof, so that the sun came in and the ghosts and malaria went out, the removal of the grim relics of mediaevalism, the cleaning and whitewashing of the apartments, have probably induced the spectre to take up his quarters elsewhere, for his old haunts are hardly recognizable, and he can have no grudge against the soldiers of a republic who carried out his plans with a perfection and promptness of which he could not have dreamed.

The climate of the West Indies has ever been favorable to the preservation of spirits, and this haunted castle of San Juan has counterparts in the island, and in other islands, and the ghosts are not always victims of the Spaniards, either. The appearance of spectres in the New World was almost contemporary with Columbus. Indeed, one of the most startling of supernatural appearances occurred in the town he founded,—the town of Isabella, Hayti, the first white man's city in America. It was created by the great navigator on his second voyage, but it remained for only a few years on the map. The dons whom he brought with him refused to work, even when the colony was starving, and reported him in Spain as a tyrant for asking them to put up their own shelters, cook their own food, and grind their own flour. They would not even work in the mines where gold could be seen in the river sands, because they had expected to pick up the metal in lumps, or force it from the natives in such quantities that each adventurer might return with a bushel. Hardship, illness, short commons, the need of occasional labor, the heart-breaks over the gold failure, the retaliations of the natives for the cruelties and injustices of the invaders, led to the rapid decline of the city of Isabella. Its foundations may still be visible; at least they were a few years ago; but it is peopled only by ghosts. Some years after it had been deserted, two Spaniards, who had been hunting in that part of the island, entered its ruined streets. They had heard from the Indians of strange, booming voices that echoed among its dead houses, but had dismissed this tale as invention or fancy. The sun was low and mists were gathering. As the hunters turned a corner they were astonished to see a company of cavaliers drawn up in double rank, as if for parade, sword on hip, plumed hats aslant, big booted, leather jacketed, grim, and silent. The two men asked whence they had come. The cavaliers spoke no word, but all together lifting their hats in salute, lifted their heads off with them, then melted into air. They were the dead of the fated town. The two spectators fainted with horror, and did not recover their peace of mind in many days.

Police Activity in Humacao

For three centuries a Spanish convict station was kept in Porto Rico. The unpleasant and undesirable found, not a welcome here, but a more congenial company than in the home land. Life was easier because one needed less food and clothes, and they were furnished by the authorities, anyway. What with the convicts and discontented slaves, it is a wonder that any sort of comfort or safety existed on the island, and especially that so much of pleasant social life was to be found in the cities. Those who knew Porto Rico in those days, however, say that class distinctions were not sharply marked; that the master was kind to the slave, and the slave felt as if he were a member of his master's family, rather than a dependent; that the two were often seen at the cockpit sitting elbow to elbow, kneeling side by side in the same church, greeting the same friends or cracking the heads of the same enemies before the church doors at Epiphany, and in the humbler homes sitting at the same table.

In those simple times the robber gangs were a great vexation. Killing was something to grow used to, and a disagreement over cards was liable to result in having one's head snipped off by a machete; but to be robbed of one's machete, or of one's jug of rum, or of one's only trousers, was a sad affliction, and soldiers and police were as active as Spanish functionaries could persuade themselves to be, in running down—or walking down—these outlaws. It is said that the detectives were especially amusing. They would go about in such obvious disguises, with misfit wigs, window-glass spectacles, and the costumes of priests or notaries, that a robber could barely keep his countenance when he met them in the street. The thief always escaped, either through the incompetence of the officers, or by sharing his profits with them.

But there was one fellow who made such trouble that the police began to chafe beneath the public criticism. To impugn their honor did not hurt them much, though they ruffled a good deal under it, but to threaten them with reduction of pay or removal was a serious matter; so the chief of the San Juan constabulary bestirred himself, after a particularly daring robbery had occurred in his bailiwick, the rogue making off with six thousand dollars' worth of jewelry. He got safely away from town and was traced to Humacao, where his footprints were found leading to the door of a small, tumble-down, deserted house, and none of these prints could be seen with toes pointing away from it. The chief dismissed his men and prepared to conduct a siege. He had a dagger, a machete, two pistols, and a gun, with a box of ammunition. Thus equipped he went to the front door, gave it a sounding whack with the flat of his machete, and bawled, "Open, in the name of the law!"

There was no response, so he struck his weapon impatiently against the panels two or three times and called on the bandit to emerge and give himself up. Again there was no reply. A bolder move was necessary. He pushed open the window, crouching down outside, that he might not become a target for the fellow, who was probably lurking in the dark interior, and after calling on him for a third time to appear and go to jail, he thrust his firearms in and began to blaze in all directions over the floor.

After emptying the pistols and gun he shouted, "If you don't come out I'll blow you to the bad place, for I have one hundred and fifty cartridges here, and I can surely shoot you."

All this time the robber had been lying on the floor, just below the window, very flat and very still. As the chief did not show himself to take aim, but reached up from his kneeling position and fired at random, the bold, bad man in-doors began to feel a return of confidence. He waited until a second fusillade was over, when he slipped softly through the back door, went around to the front, waited until a third volley had been fired, when he pounced on the chief from behind, and in a trice had a stout rope around him. In a few seconds more he had the astonished and indignant functionary tied securely to one of the posts of the veranda. Then, calmly taking possession of the weapons, he lifted his hat, wished the officer a very good day and a pleasant siesta, and sauntered off to some other town where the police were still less active.

The Church in Porto Rico

If the Spanish colonies have been immoral, it must be granted that they have been religious. This fact has made them easier to govern, for the words of the priests and friars have been accepted as divinely inspired at times when, as a matter of fact, they have been inspired only by the governor or the garrison colonel. The church in the colonies is nothing like the modern and American institution that we know. It is a survival from the Middle Ages. Yet it has shown shrewdness in Porto Rico, Cuba, and the Philippines, its prosperity proving that the Spaniard can be a thrifty mortal whether he wears a monkish cowl or a military uniform. Much money has been demanded by the church, but much of it has been honestly spent in the beautifying of altars and the dressing of the statues. Our Lady of the Remedies, in the Church of La Providencia, San Juan, for example, wears a cloak worth fifteen hundred dollars, and is emblazoned with twenty thousand dollars' worth of jewels; but then, she is the patron of the island. The priests have been quick to see an advantage in benefits or disasters and have often impressed the natives by lessons drawn from natural phenomena. Thus, in 1867, a conspiracy for the overthrow of Spanish rule had been organized, and violence was hourly expected: but on the eve of an uprising the island was shaken by an earthquake. The priests made the most of this, assuring the natives that it was a warning from heaven never to interfere with Spaniards; so the insurrectos stealthily laid down their arms and stole away to their various substitutes for employment, leaving their Lexington unfought.

In one way this willingness to keep out of fights has been a bad thing for the island, because insurrection became a matter of business with some of the natives. They used it as a mode of blackmail. These insurrectos would throw a wealthy planter into a state of alarm by pretending to hold meetings on his premises. He knew that if the authorities got wind of this it might go hard with him, for if he were suspected of being a member of a lodge of the White Saber or the Red Hand, it could mean imprisonment, perhaps death; so he paid the revolution something to move on and occur on some other man's land. By levying thus on fear and policy a few members of an alleged junta managed to live quite comfortably without work, and it is whispered that the padres of certain villages received their share of the reluctant tributes.

Porto Rico has been the place of abode of some noted fathers of the church, including two martyrs who were canonized by Pius IX. as saints: Charles Spinola and Jerome de Angelis. They left Portugal for Goa in 1596, but having been blown far out of their course, they put in at this island to repair their ship, and there for two months they preached with success. On their return to Lisbon they were captured by English pirates, who treated them kindly, however, and set them safely down in London. They reached Portugal eventually, and ended their work in Japan, where the people killed them. These and other saints receive the prayers of the people on stated occasions, for in Porto Rico the saints have not only their special days, but their special crops, and guard them from special injuries. Thus, the farmer prays to St. James, it is said, when he asks for deliverance from tobacco-worms, while he must address St. Martial if he wants to free his field from ants.

Of the holy hermits who have resided on the island, several have dwelt in the caves where Caribs or Arawaks buried their dead, but the best-known shrine is that of Hormigueros. The Church of Our Lady of Monserrate, which crowns a hill and is a conspicuous landmark, is said to have been copied from the chapel of a Benedictine monastery in Barcelona, which is famous in Spain for its statue of the Virgin, carved by St. Luke and carried to Barcelona in the year 50 by St. Peter. The Monserrate church was founded in 1640 by a poor farmer. He had been ploughing over the hill-top, though weak with fever, and before he could finish his work he fell to the ground exhausted. After he had partly recovered, and had gone back to the plough, he turned a tile up from the earth, on which was engraved a portrait of the Virgin, and no sooner had he taken this object into his hands than his pain, his fever, his lassitude disappeared. Convinced that the relic was sacred, he carried it to his priest, and on that very day he gave the land he had ploughed for a votive church. It has become the best known sanctuary in Porto Rico, for the large painting of the Virgin, copied from the smaller portrait on the tile, is just as potent as the original in curing diseases. In the last half-century a hundred miracles have been performed, and the silver and golden arms, legs, ears, eyes, fingers, feet, livers, and hearts that have been given to the church, in thanks and testimony, amount in value to sixty thousand dollars; for a patient who has been cured or helped is expected to send a little model, in precious metal, of the part of him that needed mending. At intervals these offerings are melted up for the altar service and decorations, and few churches in America have such resplendent candlesticks, chalices, draperies and vestments. The altar is of silver plates, and the gold cross upon it weighs thirteen pounds. Pilgrims to Hormigueros go from all parts of the West Indies. They are lodged, free of charge, in an old house behind the church, each cripple or invalid receiving a bed and chair, but no food. The pilgrims must supply their own sustenance. On entering the church, in procession, they are sprinkled with water from the Jordan, and then kneel before the cross, where the cures are worked.

The Mermaids

In dime museums and county fairs one may still find among the "attractions" a mermaid, dried and stuffed, consisting of the upper half of a monkey artlessly joined to the lower half or two-thirds of a codfish, the monkey's head usually adorned with a handful of oakum or horse-hair. When this kind of thing was first exhibited by the lamented P. T. Barnum, it is just possible that some bumpkin really believed it to be a mermaid, but the invention has become so common of late that it is found in the curio-shops of every town, and as an eye-catching device is often put into show-cases by some merchant who deals in anything rather than mermaids. Trite and ridiculous as this patchwork appears, it symbolizes a belief of full three thousand years. Men have always been prone to fill with imaginations what they have never sounded with their senses, and it is to this tendency we owe poetry and the arts. The sea was a mystery, and is so still. It was easy to people its twilight depths with forms of grace and beauty and power, for surely the denizens taken from it were strange enough to warrant strange beliefs.

And so the old faith in men and women who lived beneath the water was passed down from generation to generation, and from race to race, changing but little from age to age. Ulysses stopped the ears of his crew with wax that they should not hear the sirens luring them toward the rocks as his ship sailed by, and knowing the magic of their song had himself bound to the mast, so, hearing the ravishing music, he might not escape if he would. In a later day we hear of the Lorelei singing on her rock, striking chords on her golden harp, and, as the raptured fisherman steered close, with eyes filled by her beauty and ears by her music, he had a moment's consciousness of a skull leering at him and harsh laughter clattering in echoes along the shore; then his boat struck and filled, and the dark flood curtained off the sky. Wagner has made familiar the legend of the Rhine daughters, singing impossibly under the river as they swim about the reef of gold,—the treasure stolen by the gnome, Alberich, who in that act brought envy, strife, greed, and injustice into the world, and accomplished the destruction of the gods themselves. The wild tales of Britain and Brittany, of thefts and revenges by the sea-creatures, are among the oldest of their myths, and when we cross to our side of the sea, the ocean people are close in our wake and they follow us through the fresh waters and far out in the Pacific.

1  2  3  4  5  6     Next Part
Home - Random Browse