The West Indies and the Spanish Main


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(1859)



INTRODUCTORY.

I am beginning to write this book on board the brig
——, trading
between Kingston, in Jamaica, and Cien Fuegos, on the southern coast
of Cuba. At the present moment there is not a puff of wind, neither
land breeze nor sea breeze; the sails are flapping idly against the
masts; there is not motion enough to give us the command of the
rudder; the tropical sun is shining through upon my head into the
miserable hole which they have deluded me into thinking was a cabin.
The marine people—the captain and his satellites—are bound to
provide me; and all that they have provided is yams, salt pork,
biscuit, and bad coffee. I should be starved but for the small
ham—would that it had been a large one—which I thoughtfully
purchased in Kingston; and had not a kind medical friend, as he
grasped me by the hand at Port Royal, stuffed a box of sardines into
my pocket. He suggested two boxes. Would that I had taken them! It is now the 25th January, 1859, and if I do not reach Cien Fuegos
by the 28th, all this misery will have been in vain. I might as well
in such case have gone to St. Thomas, and spared myself these
experiences of the merchant navy. Let it be understood by all men
that in these latitudes the respectable, comfortable, well-to-do
route from every place to every other place is viâ the little Danish
island of St. Thomas. From Demerara to the Isthmus of Panamá, you go
by St. Thomas. From Panamá to Jamaica and Honduras, you go by St.
Thomas. From Honduras and Jamaica to Cuba and Mexico, you go by St.
Thomas. From Cuba to the Bahamas, you go by St. Thomas—or did when
this was written. The Royal Mail Steam Packet Company dispense all
their branches from that favoured spot. ....

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