A Trip to Cuba
HAVANA—THE JESUIT COLLEGE.
THE gentlemen of our party go one day to visit the Jesuit College in Havana, yclept “ Universidad de Belen.” The ladies, weary of dry goods, manifest some disposition to accompany them. This is at once frowned down by the unfairer sex, and Can Grande, appealed to by the other side, shakes his shoulders, and replies, “ No, you are only miserable women, and cannot be admitted into any Jesuit establishment whatever.” And so the male deputation departs with elation, and returns with airs of superior opportunity, and is more insufferable than ever at dinner, and thereafter.
They of the feminine faction, on the other hand, consult with more direct authorities, and discover that the doors of Belen are in no wise closed to them, and that everything within those doors is quite at their disposition, saving and excepting the sleeping-apartments of the Jesuit fathers,—to which, even in thought, they would on no account draw near. And so they went and saw Belen, whereof one of them relates as follows.
The building is spacious, inclosing a hollow square, and with numerous galleries, like European cloisters, where the youth walk, study, and play. We were shown up-stairs, into a pleasant reception-room, where two priests soon waited on us. One of these, Padre Doyaguez, seemed to be the decoy-duck of the establishment, and soon fastened upon one of our party, whose Protestant tone of countenance had probably caught his attention. Was she a Protestant ? Oh, no!— not with that intelligent physiognomy!— not with that talent! What was her name? Julia (pronounced Hulia). Hulia was a Roman name, a Catholic name ; he had never heard of a Hulia who was a Protestant;—very strange, it seemed to him, that a Hulia could hold to such unreasonable ideas. The other priest, Padre Lluc, meanwhile followed with sweet, quiet eyes, whose silent looks had more persuasion in them than all the innocent cajoleries of the elder man. Padre Doyaguez was a man eminently qualified to deal with the sex in general, —a coaxing voice, a pair of vivacious eyes, whose cunning was not unpleasing, tireless goodhumor and perseverance, and a savor of sincerity. Padre Lluc was the sort of man that one recalls in quiet moments with a throb of sympathy,—the earnest eyes, the clear brow, the sonorous voice. One thinks of him, and hopes that he is satisfied,—that cruel longing and more cruel doubt shall never spring up in that capacious heart, divorcing his affections and convictions from the system to which his life is irrevocably wedded. No. keep still, Padre Lluc! think ever as you think now, lest the faith that seems a fortress should prove a prison, the mother a step-dame,—lest the high, chivalrous spirit, incapable of a safe desertion, should immolate truth or itself on the altar of consistency.
Between those two advocates of Catholicity, Hulia Protestante walks slowly through the halls of the University. She sees first a Cabinet of Natural History, including minerals, shells, fossils, and insects, all well-arranged, and constituting a very respectable beginning. Padre Lluc says some good words on the importance of scientific education. Padre Doyaguez laughs at the ladies’ hoops, which he calls Malakoffs, as they crowd through the doorways and among the glass cases; he repeats occasionally, “Hulia Protestante?" in a tone of mock astonishment, and receives for answer, “Sí, Hulia Protestante.” Then comes a very creditable array of scientific apparatus,—not of the order employed by the judges of Galileo, —electric and galvanic batteries, an orrery, and many things beside. The library interests us more, with some luxurious classics, a superb Dante, and a prison-cage of forbidden works, of which Padre Lluc certainly has the key. Among these were fine editions of Rousseau and Voltaire, which appeared to be intended for use ; and we could imagine a solitary student, dark-eyed and pale, exploring their depths at midnight with a stolen candle, and endeavoring, with self-torment, to reconcile the intolerance of his doctrine with the charities of his heart. We imagine such a one lost in the philosophy and sentiment of the “ Nouvelle Héloise,” and suddenly summoned by the convent-bell to the droning of the Mass, the mockery of Holy Water, the fable of the Real Presence. Such contrasts might be strange and dangerous. No, no, Padre Lluc! keep these unknown spells from your heart,—let the forbidden books alone, instead of the Confessions of Jean Jacques, read the Confessions of St, Augustine,—read the new book, in three volumes, on the Immaculate Conception, which you show me with such ardor, telling me that Can Grande, which, in the vernacular, is Parker, has spoken of it with respect. Beyond the Fathers you must not get, for you have vowed to be a child all your life. Those clear eyes of yours are never to look up into the face of the Eternal Father; the showbox of the Church must content them, with Mary and the saints seen through its dusty glass,—the august figure of the Son,: who sometimes reproved his mother, Crowded quite out of sight behind the woman, whom it is so much easier to dress up and exhibit. What is this other book which Parker has read ? Padre Doyaguez says, u Hulia, if you read this, you must become a Catholic.” Padre LIue says, “ If' Parker lias read this book, I cannot conceive that he. is not a Catholic.” The quick Doyaguez then remarks, “ Parker is going to Rome to join the Romish Church.” Padre Lluc rejoins, “ They say so.” Hulia Protcstante is inclined to cry out, “ The day that Parker becomes a Catholic, I, too, will become one”; but, remembering the rashness of vows and the fallibility of men, she does not adopt that form of expressing Never. Parker might, if it pleased God, become a Catholic, and then the world Would have two Popes instead of one.
We leave at last the disputed; ground of the library and ascend to the observatory, which commands a fine view of the city, and a good sweep of the heavens for the telescope, in which Padre Lluc seemed especially to delight. The observatory is commodious, and is chiefly directed by an attenuated young priest, with a keen eye and hectic cheek ; another was occupied in working out mathematical tables;—for these Fathers observe the stars, and are in scientific correspondence with astronomers in Europe. This circumstance gave us real pleasure on their account,—for science, in all its degrees, is a positive good, and a mental tonic of the first importance. Earnestly did we, in thought, commend it to those wearied minds which have undergone the dialectic dislocations, the denaturalizations of truth and of thought, which enable rational men to become first Catholics and then Jesuits. For let there be no illusions about strength of mind, and so on,—this is effected by means of a vast machinery. As, in the old story, the calves were put in at one end of the cylinder and taken out leather breeches at the other, or as glass is cut and wood carved, so does the raw human material, put into the machine of the Catholic Church, become fashioned according to the will of those who guide it. Hulia Protestante ! you have a free step and a clear head ; but once go into the machine, and you will come out carved and embossed according to the old traditional pattern,—you as well as another. Where the material is hard, they put on more power,—where it is soft, more care ; wherefore I caution you here, as I would in a mill at Lowell or Lawrence,—Don’t meddle with the shafts,—don’t go too near the wheel,—in short, keep clear of the machinery. And Hulia does so ; for, at the last attack of Padre Doyaguez, she suddenly turns upon him and says, “ Sir, you are a Doctriuary and a Propagandist.” And the good Father suffers her to depart in peace. But first there is the chapel to be seen, with its tawdry and poor ornamentation,—and the dormitories of the scholars, with long double rows of beds and mosquito-nettings. There are two of these, and each of them has at one end a raised platform, with curtains and a bed, where rests and watches the. shepherd of the little sheep. Lastly, we have a view of the whole flock, assembled in their play-ground, and one of them, looking up, sees his mother, who has kindly accompanied our visit to the institution. Across the distance that separates us, we see his blue eyes brighten, and, as soon as permission is given, he bounds like a young roe to her arms, shy and tender, his English blood showing through his Spanish skin,—for he is a child of mixed race. We are all pleased and touched, and Padre Lluc presently brings us a daguerreotype, and says, “ It is my mother.” To us it is an indifferent portrait of an elderly Spanish woman,—but to him, how much ! With kindest mutual regard we take leave,—a little surprised, perhaps, to see that Jesuit priests have mothers, and remember them.
SAN ANTONIO DE LOS BAÑOS.
"Far from my thoughts, vain world, begone!”
HOWEVER enchanting Havana may prove, when seen through the moonlight of memory, it seems as good a place to go away from as any other, after a stifling night in a net, the wooden shutters left open in the remote hope of air, and admitting the music of a whole opera-troupe of dogs, including bass, tenor, soprano, and chorus. Instead of bouquets, you throw stones, if you are so fortunate as to have them,—if not, boot-jacks, oranges, your only umbrella. You are last seen thrusting frantic hands and feet through the iron bars, your wife holding you back by the flannel night-gown which you will persist in wearing in this doubtful climate. At last it is over,—the fifth act ends with a howl which make's you hope that some one of the performers has come to grief. But, alas ! it is only a stage denouement, whose hero will die again every night while the season lasts. You fall asleep, but the welcome cordial has scarcely been tasted when you are aroused by a knock at the door. It is the nieht-porter, who wakes you at five by appointment, that you may enjoy your early coffee, tumble into a hired volante, and reach, half dead with sleep, the station in time for the train that goes to San Antonio.
Now, whether you are a partisan of early rising or not, you must allow that sunrise and the hour after is the golden time of the day in Cuba. So this hour of starting,—six o’clock,—so distasteful in our latitudes, is a matter of course in tropical climates. Arriving at the station, you encounter new tribulations in the registering and payment of luggage, the transportation of which is not included in the charge for your ticket Your trunks are recorded in a book, and, having paid a real apiece for them, you receive a paper which entitles you to demand them again at your journey’s end. The Cuban railways are good, but dear,—the charge being ten cents a mile; whereas in our more favored land one goes for three cents, and has the chance of a collision and surgeon’s services without any extra payment. The cars hare windows which are always open, and blinds which are always closed, or nearly so. The seats and backs of seats are of cane, for coolness,—hardness being secured at the same time. One reaches San Antonio in an hour and a half, and finds a pleasant village, with a river running through it, several streets of good houses, several more of bad ones, a cathedral, a cockpit, a volante, four soldiers on horseback, two on foot, a market, dogs, a bad smell, and, lastly, the American Hotel.— a house built in a hollow square, as usual,—kept by a strong-minded woman from the States, whose Yankee thrift is unmistakable, though she has been long absent from the great centres of domestic economy.
Mrs. L-, always on the watch for arrivals, comes out to receive us. We are very welcome, she hints, as far as we go; but why are there not more of us? The smallest favors should be thankfully received, but she hears that Havana is full of strangers, and she wonders, for her part, why people will stay in that hot place, and roast, and stew, and have the yellow fever, when she could make them so comfortable in San Antonio. This want of custom she continues, during our whole visit, to complain of. Would it be uncharitable for is to aver that we found other wants in her establishment which caused us more astonishment, and which went some way towards accounting for the deficiency complained of? wants of breakfast, wants of dinner, wants ot something good for tea, wants of towels, wants of candles, wants of ice, or, at least, oi the cooling jars used in the country. Charges exorbitant,—the same as in Havana, where rents are an ounce a week, and upwards; volantes difficult,—Mrs. L. having made an agreement with the one livery-stable that they shall always be furnished at most unreasonable prices, of which she, supposably, pockets half. On the other hand, the village is really cool, healthy, and pretty; there are pleasant drives over dreadful roads, if one makes up one’s mind to the volante, and delightful river-baths, shaded by roots of palm-tree thatch. One of the best of these is at the foot of Mrs. L.’s inelosure, and its use is included in the privileges of the house. The water is nearly tepid, clear, and green, and the little fish tloat hither and thither in it,—though men of active minds are sometimes reduced to angle for them, with crooked pins, for amusement. At the hour of one, daily, the ladies of the house betake themselves to this refreshment; and there is laughing, and splashing, and holding of hands, and simulation of all the Venuses that ever were, from the crouching one of the bath, to the triumphant Cytherea, springing for the first, time from the wave.
Such are the resources of the house. Those of the neighborhood are various. Foremost among them is the cafetal, or coffee-plantation, of Don Juan Torres, distant a league from the village, over which league of stone, sand, and rut you rumble in a volunte dragged by three horses. You know that the volante cannot upset; nevertheless you experience some anxious moments when it leans at an obtuse angle, one wheel in air, one sticking in a hole, the horses balking and kicking, and the postilion swearing his best. But it is written, the volante shall not upset,—and so it does not. Long before you see the entrance to the plantation, you watch the tall palms, planted in a line, that shield its borders. An avenue of like growth leads you to the house, where barking dogs announce you, and Don Juan, an elderly gentleman in slippers and a Panama hat. his hair, face, and eyes all faded to one hue of grayness, comes out to accost us. Here, again, Hulia Protestante becomes the subject of a series of attacks, in a new kind. Don Juan first exhausts his flower-garden upon her, and explains all that is new to her. Then she must see his blind Chino, a sightless Samson of a Cooly, who is working resolutely in a mill. “Canta!” says the master, and the poor slave gives tongue like a hound on the scent. “Baila!” and, a stick being handed him, he performs the gymnastics of his country, a sort of war-dance without accompaniment. “El can!” and, giving him a broom, they loose the dog upon him. A curious tussle then ensues,— the dog attacking furiously, and the blind man, guided by his barking, defending himself lustily. The Chino laughs, the master laughs, but the visitor feels more inclined to cry, having been bred in those Northern habits which respect infirmity. A real dismisses the poor soul with a smile, and then begins the journey round the cafetal. The coffee-blossom is just in its perfection, and whole acres in sight are white with its flower, which nearly resembles that of the small white jasmine. Its fragrance is said to be delicious after a rain; but, the season being dry, it is scarcely discernible. As shade is a great object in growing coffee, the grounds are laid out in lines of fruit-trees, and these are the ministers of Ilulia’s tribulation; for Don Juan, whether in kindness or in mischief, insists that she shall taste, every unknown fruit,— and as he cuts them and hands them to her, she is forced to obey. First, a little negro shins up a cocoa-nuttree, and flings down the nut, whose water she must drink. One cocoa-nut she endures,— two,—but three? no,she must rebel, and cry out, “No mi gusta!” Then she must try a bitter orange, then a sour bitter one, then a sweet lemon, then a huge fruit of triple verjuice flavor. “ What is it good for?” she asks, after a shuddering plunge into its acrid depths. “Oh,” says the Don, "they eat it in the castors instead of vinegar.” Then come sapotas, mamey, Otaheite gooseberries. “ Does she like bananas ?” he cuts a tree down with his own hand, and sends the bunch of fruit to her volante;—“Sugar-cane?” he bestows a huge bundle of sticks for her leisurely rodentation;—he fills her pocket with coral beans for her children. Having, at last, exhausted every polite attention, and vainly offered gin, rum, and coffee, as a parting demonstration, Hulia and her partner escape, bearing with them many strange flavors, and an agonizing headache, the combined result of sun and acids. Really, if there exist anywhere on earth a society for the promotion and encouragement of good manners, it should send a diploma to Don Juan, admonishing him only to omit the vinegar-fruit in his further walks of hospitality.
We take the Sunday to visit the nearest sugar-plantation, belonging to Don Jacinto Gonzales. Sun, not shade, being the desideratum in sugar-planting, there are few trees or shrubs bordering the sugar-fields, which resemble at a distance our own fields of Indian corn, the green of the leaves being lighter, and a pale blue blossom appearing here and there. Tiie points of interest here are the machinery, the negroes, and the work. Entering the sugar-house, we find the maquinista (engineer) superintending some repairs in the machinery, aided by another white man, a Cooly, and an imp of a black boy, who begged of all the party, and revenged himself with clever impertinence on those who refused him. The maquinista was a fine-looking man, from the Pyrenees, very kind and obliging. He told us that Don Jacinto was very old, and came rarely to the plantation. We asked him how the extreme heat of his occupation suited him, and for an answer he opened the bosom of his shirt, and showed us the marks of innumerable leeches. The machinery is not very complicated. It consists of a wheel and band, to throw the canes under the powerful rollers which crush them, and these rollers, three in number, all moved by the steam-engine. The juice flows into large copper caldrons, where it is boiled and skimmed. As they were not at work, we did not see the actual process. Leaving the sugar-house, we went in pursuit of the mayoral, or overseer, who seemed to inhabit comfortable quarters, in a long, low house, shielded from the sun by a thick screen of matting. We found him a powerful, thick-set man, of surly and uncivil manners, girded with a sword, and further armed with a pistol, a dagger, and a stout whip. He was much too important a person to waste his words upon us, but signified that the major-domo would wait on us, which he presently did. We now entered the negro quarter, a solid range of low buildings, formed around a hollow square, whose strong entrance is closed at nightfall, and its inmates kept in strict confinement till the morning hour of work comes round. Just within the doorway we encountered the trader, who visits the plantations every Sunday, to tempt the stray cash of the negroes by various commodities, of which the chief seemed to be white bread, calicoes, muslins, and bright cotton handkerchiefs, He told us that their usual weekly expenditure amounted to about twenty-five dollars. Bargaining with him stood the negrodriver, a tattooed African, armed with a whip. All within the court swarmed the black bees of the hive,—the men with little clothing, the small children naked, the women decent. All had their little charcoal fires, with pots boiling over them ; the rooms within looked dismally dark, close, and dirty; there are no windows, no air and light save through the ever-open door. The beds are sometimes partitioned off by a screen of dried palmleaf, but I saw no better sleeping-privilege than a board with a blanket or coverlet. From this we turned to the nursery, where all the children incapable ot work are kept; the babies are quite naked, and sometimes very handsome in their way, black ami shining, with bright eyes and well-formed limbs. No great provision is made for their amusement, but the little girls nurse them tenderly enough, and now and then the elders fling them a bit of orange or chaimito, for which they scramble like so many monkeys. Appeals are constantly made to the pockets of visitors, by open hands stretched out in all directions. To these “Nada”—“Nothing”—is the safe reply; for, if you give to one, the others close about you with frantic gesticulation, and you have to break your way through them with some violence, which hurts your own feelings more than it does theirs. On strict plantations this is not allowed; but Don Jacinto, like Lord Ashburton at the time of the Maine treaty, is an old man,—a very old man; and where discipline cannot be maintained, peace must be secured on any terms. We visit next the sugar-house, where we find the desired condiment in various stages of color and refinement. It is whitened with clay, iu large funnel-shaped vessels, open at the bottom, to allow the molasses to run off. Above are hogsheads of coarse, dark sugar; below is a huge pit of fermenting molasses, in which rats and small negroes occasionally commit involuntary suicide, and from which rum is made.—N. B. Rum is not a wicked word in Cuba; in Boston everybody is shocked when it is named, and in Cuba nobody is shocked when it is drunk.
And here endeth the description of our visit to the sugar-plantation of Don Jacinto, and in good time, too,—for by this it had grown so hot, that we made a feeble rush for the volante, and lay back in it, panting for breath. Encountering a negress with a load of oranges on her head, we bought and ate the fruit with eagerness, though the oranges were bitter. The jolting over three miles of stone and rut did not improve the condition of our aching heads. Arriving at San Antonio, we thankfully went to bed for the rest of the morning, and dreamed, only dreamed, that the saucy black boy in the boilinghouse had run after us, had lifted the curtain of the volante, screeched a last impertinence after us, and kissed his hand for a good-bye, which, luckily for him, is likely to prove eternal.
THE MORRO FORTRESS—THE UNIVERSITY OF HAVANA—THE BENEFICENZA.
THE Spanish government experiences an un willingness to admit foreigners into the Morro, their great stronghold, the causes of which may not be altogether mysterious, Americans have been of late especially excluded from it, and it was only by a fortunate chance that we were allowed to visit it. A friend of a friend of ours happened to have a friend in the garrison, and, after some delays and negotiations, an early morning hour was fixed upon for the expedition.
The fortis finely placed at the entrance of the harbor, and is in itself a picturesque object. It is built of a light, yellowish stone, which is seen, as you draw near, in strong contrast with the vivid green of the tropical waters. We approached it by water, taking a rowboat from the Alameda. As we passed, we had a good view of a daily Havana spectacle, the washing of the horses. This being by far the easiest and most expeditious way of cleaning the animals, they are driven daily to the sea in great numbers, those of one party being tied together; they disport themselves in the surge and their wet backs glisten in the sun. Their drivers, nearly naked, plunge in with them, and bring them safely back to the shore.
But for the Morro. We entered without difficulty, and began at once a somewhat steep ascent, winch the heat, even at. that early hour, made laborious. After some climbing, we reached the top of the parapet, and looked out from the back of the fortress. On this side, if ever on any, it will be taken,—for, standing with one’s back to the harbor, one sees, nearly on the right hand, a point where trenches could be opened with advantage. The fort is heavily gunned and garrisoned, and seems to be in fighting order. The outer wall is separated from the inner by a paved space some forty feet in width. The height of both walls makes this point a formidable one ; but scaling-ladders could be thrown across, if one had possession of the outer wall. The material is the coralline rock common in this part of the island. It is a soft stone, and would prove, it is feared, something like the cotton-bag defence of New Orleans memory,—as the balls thrown from without would sink In, and not splinter the stone, which for the murderous work were to be wished. A little perseverance, with much perspiration, brought us to a high point, called the Lantern, which is merely a small room, where the telescope, signal-book's, and signals are kept. Here we were received by an official in blue spectacles and with a hole in his boot, but still with that air of being the ehiefest thing on God’s earth common to all Spaniards. The best of all was that we brought a sack of oranges with us, and that the time was now come for their employment. With no other artillery than these did we take the very heart of the Morro citadel,—for, on offering them to the official with the hole, he surrendered at once, smiled, gave us seats, and sitting down with us, indeed, was soon in the midst of his half-dozenth orange. Having refreshed ourselves, examined the flags of all nations, and made all the remarks which our limited Spanish allowed, we took leave, redescended, and reembarked. One of our party, an old soldier, had meanwhile been busily scanning the points and angles of the fortress, pacing off distances, etc., etc. The result of his observations would, no doubt, be valuable to men of military minds. But the writer of this, to be candid, was especially engaged with, the heat, the prospect, the oranges, and the soldiers’ wives and children, who peeped out from windows here and there. Such trifling creatures do come into such massive surroundings, and trifle still!
Our ladies, being still in a furious mood of sight-seeing, desired to visit the University of Havana, and, having made appointment with an accomplished Cuban, betook themselves to the College buildings with all proper escort. Their arrival in the peristyle occasioned some excitement. One of the students came up, and said, in good English, “ What do you want? ” Others, not so polite, stared and whispered in corners. A message to one of the professors was attended with some delay, and our Cuban friend, having gone to consult with him, returned to say, with some embarrassment, that the professor would be happy to show the establishment to the ladies on Sunday, at two, P. M., when every male creature but himself would be out of it; but as for their going through the rooms while the undergraduates were about, that was not to be thought of. "Why not?” asked the ladies. “ For your own sake,” said the messenger, and proceeded to explain that the appearance of the skirted in these halls of learning would be followed by such ill-conduct and indignity of impertinence on the part of the shirted as might be intolerable to the one and disadvantageous to the other. Now there be women, we know, whose horrid fronts could have awed these sauey little Cubans into decency and good behavior, and some that we know, whether possessing that power or not, would have delighted in the fancied exercise of it. What strong-minded company, under these circumstances. would have turned back? "What bolting, tramping, and rushing would they not have made through the ranks of the astonished professors and students? The Anniversary set, for example, who sweep the pews of men, or, coming upon one forlorn, crush him as a boa does a sheepOur silly little flock only laughed, colored, and retreated to the volantes, where they held a council of war, and decided to go visit some establishment where possibly better manners might prevail.
Returning on the Sunday, at the hour appointed, they walked through the deserted building, and found spacious rooms, the pulpits of the professors, the benches of the students, the Queen's portrait, a very limited library, and, for all consolation, some pleasant Latin sentences over the doors of the various departments, celebrating the solace and delights of learning. This was seeing the College, literally; but it was a good deal like seeing the lion’s den, the lion himself being absent on leave,—or like visiting the hippopotamus in Regent’s Park on those days in which he remains steadfastly buried in his tank, and will show only the tip of a nostril for your entrance-fee. Still, it was a pleasure to know that learning was so handsomely housed ; and as for the little rabble who could not be trusted in the presence of the sex, we forgave them heartily, knowing that soberer manners would one day come upon them, as inevitably as baldness and paternity.
Let me here say, that a few days in Havana make clear to one the seclusion of women in the East, and its causes. Wherever the animal vigor of men is so large in proportion to their moral power, as in those countries, women must be glad to forego their liberties for the protection of the strong arm. One master is better for them than many. Whatever tyranny may grow out of such barbarous manners, the institution springs from a veritable necessity and an original good intention. The Christian religion should change this, which is justifiable only in a Mohammedan country. But where that religion is so loosely administered as in Cuba, where its teachers themselves frequent the cockpit and the gaming-table, one must not look for too much of its power in the manners and morals of men.
The Beneficenza was our next station. It is, as its name signifies, an institution with a benevolent purpose, an orphan asylum and foundling hospital in one. The State here charitably considers that infants who are abandoned by their parents are as much orphaned as they can become by the interposition of death,— nay, more. The death of parents oftenest leaves a child with some friend or relative; but the foundling is cut off from all human relationship.—he belongs only to the hand that takes him up, when he has been left to die. Despite the kind cruelty of modern theories, which will not allow of suitable provision for the sufferer, for fear of increasing the frequency of the crime by which he suffers, our hearts revolt at the miserable condition ot those little creatures in our great cities, confounded with hopeless pauperism in its desolate asylums, or farmed out to starve and die. They belong to the State, and the State should nobly retrieve the world’s offence against them. Their broken galaxy shows many a bright star here and there. Such a little wailing creature has been found who has commanded great actions and done good service among men. Let us, then, cherish the race of foundlings, of whom Moses was the first and the greatest. The princess who reared him saw not the glorious destiny which lay hid, as a birth-jewel, in his little basket of reeds. She saw onlv, as some of us have seen, a helpless, friendless babe. When he dedicated to her his first edition of the Pentateuch—But, nay, he did not; for neither gratitude nor dedications were in fashion among the Jews.
We found the Beneficenza spacious, well-ventilated, and administered with great order. It stands near the sea, with a fine prospect in view, and must command a cool breeze, if there be any. The children enjoy sea-bathing in summer. The superintendent received us most kindly, and presented us to the sisters who have charge of the children, who were good specimens of their class. We walked with them through the neat dormitories, and observed that they were much more airy than those of the Jesuit College, lately described. They all slept on the sackings of the cots, beds being provided only in the infirmary. In the latter place we found but: two inmates,_ one suffering from ordinary Cuban fever, the other with ophthalmia.—N. B. Disease of the eyes does not seem to he common in Cuba, in spite of the tropical glare of the sun; nor do people nurse and complain of their eyes there, as with us. We found a separate small kitchen for the sick, which was neat and convenient. The larger kitchen, too, was handsomely endowed with apparatus, and the superintendent told us, with a twinkle in his eye, that the children lived well. Coffee at six, a good breakfast at nine, dinner at the usual hour, bread and coffee before bed-time;—this seemed very suitable as to quantity, though differing from our ideas of children’s food; but it must be remembered that the nervous stimulus of coffee is not, found to be excessive in hot climates; it seems to be only what Nature demands,—no more. The kind nun who accompanied us now showed us, with some pride, various large presses, set in the wall, and piled to the top with clean and comfortable children’s clothing. We came presently to where the boys were reciting their catechism. An ecclesiastic was hearing them;—they seemed ready enough with their answers, but were allowed to gabble off the holy words in a manner almost unintelligible, and quite indecorous. They were bright, Healthylooking little fellows, ranging apparently from eight to twelve in age. They had good play-ground set off for them, and shady galleries to walk up and down in. Coming from their quarter, the girls’ department seemed quiet enough. Here was going on the eternal task of needlework, to which the sex has been condemmed ever since Adam’s discovery of his want of wardrobe. Oh, ye wretched, foolish women! why will ye forever sew? "We must not only sew, but be thankful to sew; that little needle being, as the sentimental Curtis has said, the only thing between us and the worst that may befall.”
These incipient women were engaged in various forms of sewing,—the most skilful in a sort of embroidery, like that which forms the border of pina handkerchiefs. A few were reading and spelling. One poor blind girl sat amongst them, with melancholy arms folded, and learned nothing,—they told us, nothing; for the instruction of the blind is not thought of in these parts. This seemed piteous to us, and made us reflect how happy are our blinds, to say nothing of our deafs and dumbs. Idiocy is not uncommon here, and is the result of continual intermarriage between near relations; but it will be long before they will provide it with a separate asylum and suitable instruction.
But now came the saddest part of the whole exhibition,—a sight common enough in Europe, but, by some accident, hitherto unseen by us. Here is a sort of receptacle, with three or four compartments, which turns on a pivot. One side of it is open to the street, and in it the wretched parent lays the more wretched baby,—ringing a small bell, at the same time, for the new admittance; the parent vanishes, the receptacle turns on its pivot,—the baby is within, and, we are willing to believe, in merciful bands.
The sight of this made, for the first time, the crime real to me. I saw, at a flash, the whole tragedy of desertion,— the cautious approach, the frightened countenance, the furtive act, and the great avenging pang of Nature after its consummation. What was Hester Prynne’s pillory, compared to the heart ot any of those mothers? I thought, too, of Rousseau, bringing to such a place as this children who had the right to inherit divine genius, and deserting them for the sordid reason that he did not choose to earn their bread,—the helpless mother weeping at home, and begging, through long years, to be allowed to seek and reclaim them.
Well, here were the little creatures kindly eared for; yet what a piteous place was their nursery! Some of the recent arrivals looked as if ill-usage had been exhausted upon them before they were brought hither. Blows and drugs and starvation had been tried upon them, but, with the tenacity of infancy, they clung to life. They would not die;—well, then, they should live to regret it. Some of them lay on the floor, deformed and helpless; the older ones formed a little class, and were going through some elementary exercise when we passed. The babies had a large room allotted to them, and I found the wet-nurses apportioned one to each child. This appeared a very generous provision, as, in such establishments elsewhere, three and even four children are given to one nurse. They had comfortable cribs, on each of which was pinned the name of its little inmate, and the date of its entrance;—generally, the name and age of the child are found written on a slip of paper attached to its clothing, when it is left in the receptacle. I saw on one, “Ceeilio, three weeks old.” He had been but a few days in the establishment.
Of course, I lingered longest in the babies’ room, and longest of all near the crib of the little Cecilio. He was a pretty baby, and seemed to me the most ill-used of all, because the youngest, “Could they not bear with you three weeks, little fellow?” I said. “I know those at whose firesides such as you would have been welcome guests. That New York woman whom 1 met lately, young, rich, and childless,—I could commend you to her in place of the snarling little spaniel fiend who was her constant care and companion.”
But here the superintendent made a polite bow, saying,—“And now your Worships have seen all ; for the chapel is undergoing repairs, and cannot be visited.” And so we thanked, and departed.