A Trip to Cuba


A HOT and dusty journey of some six hours brought us to Matanzas at high noon. Our companions were Cubans, Spaniards, Americans, and game-chickens, that travel extensively in these parts, sometimes in little baskets, with openings for the head and tail, sometimes in the hands of their owners, secured only by a string fastened to one foot and passed over the body. They seem to be objects of tender solicitude to those who carry them ; they are nursed and fondled like children, and at intervals are visited all round by a negro, who fills his mouth with water, and squirts it into their eyes and under their feathers. They are curiously plucked on the back and about the tail, where only the long tail-feathers are allowed to grow. Their tameness in the hands of their masters is quite remarkable ; they suffer themselves to be turned and held in any direction. But when set down, at any stage of the journey, they stamp their little feet, stretch their necks, crow, and look about them for the other cock with most belligerent eyes. As we have said that the negro of the North is an ideal negro, so we must say that the game-cock of Cuba is an ideal chicken, a fowl that is too good to be killed, — clever enough to fight for people who are too indolent and perhaps too cowardly to fight for themselves,—in short, the gladiator of the tropics.

Well, as we have said, we and they arrived at our journey’s end in the extreme heat of the day ; and having shown our paper and demanded our trunks, we beat an instantaneous retreat before the victorious monarch of the skies, and lo! the Ensor House, dirty, bare, and comfortless, was to us as a fortress and a rock of defence.

Here I would gladly pause, and, giving vent to my feelings, say how lovely I found Matanzas. But ever since Byron’s time, the author is always hearing the public say, “Don’t be poetical,” etc., etc.; and in these days both writer and reader seem to have discovered that life is too short for long descriptions,—so that, when the pen of a G. P. R. James, waiting for the inspirations of its master, has amused itself with sketching a greater or less extent of natural scenery, the rule of the novel-reader is invariably, “Skip landscape, etc., to event on thirty-second page.” Nevertheless, I will say that Matanzas is lovely,—with the fair harbor on one hand and the fair hills on the other, sitting like a mother between two beautiful daughters, who looks from one to the other and wonders which she loves best. The air from the water is cool and refreshing, the sky is clear and open, and the country around seems to beckon one to the green bosom of its shades. “Oh, what a relief after Havana!” one says, drawing a full breath, and remembering with a shudder the sickening puffs from its stirring streets, which make you think that Polonius lies unburied in every house, and that you nose him as you pass the door and window-gratings. With this exclamation and remembrance, you lower yourself into one of Mr. Ensor’s rocking-chairs,—twelve of which, with a rickety table and a piano, four crimson tidies and six white ones, form the furniture of the Ensor drawing-room, —you lean your head on your hand, close your eyes, and wish for a comfortable room with a bed in it. A tolerable room you shall have ; but for a bed, only a cot-bedstead with a sacking bottom,—further, nothing. Now, if you are some folks that I know, you will be able to establish very comfortable repose on this slender foundation, Nature having so amply furnished you that you are your own feather-bed, bolster, sofa-cushion, and easy-chair, a moving mass of upholstery, wanting only a frame to be set down in and supported. But if you should be one of Boston’s normal skeletons, pinched in every member with dyspepsia, and with the mark of the beast neuralgia on your forehead, then your skin will have a weary time of it, holding your bones, and you will be fain to entreat with tears the merciful mediation of a mattress.

Now I know very well that those of my readers who intend visiting Cuba will be much more interested in statistics of hotels than in any speculations, poetical or philosophical, with which I might be glad to recompense their patience. Let me tell them, therefore, that the Ensor House is neither better nor worse than other American hotels in Cuba. The rooms are not very bad, the attendance not intolerable, the table almost commendable. The tripe, salt-fish, and plantains were, methought, much as at other places. There were stews of meat, onions, sweet pippins, and ochra, which deserve notice. The early coffee was punctual ; the tea, for a wonder, black and hot. True, it was served on a bare pine table, with the accompaniment only of a bit of dry bread,—no butter, cake, nor dulces. But Mr. Ensor has heard, no doubt, that sweet things are unwholesome, and is determined, at whatever cost to his own feelings, to keep them out of the way of his guests, who are, for the time, his children. Then there is an excellent English servant called John, whom, though the fair Ensor did berate him, we must enumerate among the comforts of the establishment. There is a dark corner about volantes, which they are disposed to order for you at a very unreasonable profit ; but as there are plenty of livery stables at hand, and street volantes passing all the time, it will be your own fault, if you pay six dollars where you ought to pay three.

The first thing to be done at Matanzas is to drive out and see the Cumbre, a hill in the neighborhood, and from it the valley of the Yumori. The road is an improvement on those already described,—the ruts being much deeper and the rocks much larger ; the jolting is altogether more complete and effective. Still, you remember the doctrine that the volante cannot upset, and this blind faith to which you cling carries you through triumphantly. The Cumbre is lofty, the view extensive, and the valley lovely, of a soft, light green, like the early leaves and grass of spring, dotted everywhere with the palms and their dark clusters. It opens far, far down at your feet, and on your left you see the harbor quiet and bright in the afternoon sun, with a cheering display of masts and pennons. You would look and linger long, but that the light will wane, and you are on your way to Jenks his sugar-plantation, the only one within convenient distance of the town. Here the people are obviously accustomed to receive visitors, and are decently, not superfluously, civil. The major-domo hands you over to a negro who speaks English, and who salutes you at once with, “Good-bye, Sir ! ” The boiling here is conducted in one huge, open vat. A cup and saucer are brought for you to taste the juice, which is dipped out of the boiling vat for your service. It is very like balm-tea, unduly sweetened ; and after a hot sip or so you return the cup with thanks. A loud noise, as of cracking of whips and of hurrahs, guides you to the sugar-mill, where the crushing of the cane goes on in the jolliest fashion. The building is octagonal and open. Its chief feature is a very large horizontal wheel, which turns the smaller ones that grind the cane. Upon this are mounted six horses, driven by as many slaves, male and female, whose exertions send the wheel round with sufficient rapidity. This is really a novel and picturesque sight. Each negro is armed with a short whip, and their attitudes, as they stand, well-balanced on the revolving wheel, are rather striking. They were liberal of blows and of objurgations to the horses ; but all their cries and whipping produced scarcely a tenth of the labor so silently performed by the invisible, noiseless slave that works the steam-engine. From this we wandered about the avenues, planted with palms, cocoas, and manifold fruit-trees,—visited the sugar-fields, where many slaves were cutting the canes and piling them on enormous ox-carts, and came at last to a great, open field, where many head of cattle were quietly standing. Our negro guide had not been very lavish or intelligible in his answers to our numerous questions. We asked him about these cattle. “Dey cows,” he replied. We asked if they gave milk, and if butter was made on the plantation, He seemed quite puzzled and confused, and finally exclaimed,—“Dat cows no got none wife.” Coming nearer, we found that the cows were draught oxen, employed in dragging the canes and other produce of the plantation. Jenks his garden we found in good order, and beautiful with many plants in full blossom ; but Jenks his house seemed dreary and desolate, with no books, a wretched print or so, dilapidated furniture, and beds that looked like the very essence of nightmare. Nothing suggested domestic life or social enjoyment, or anything— but as Jenks is perfectly unknown to us, either by appearance or reputation, we give only a guess in the dark, and would suggest, in case it may displease him, that he should refurnish and repaint a little, and diffuse an air of cheerfulness over his solitary villa, remembering that Americans have imaginations, and that visitors will be very apt to construct an unknown host from his surroundings.

The second thing to be done in Matanzas, if you arrive on Saturday, is to attend military mass at the Cathedral on Sunday morning. This commences at eight o’clock ; but the hour previous may be advantageously employed in watching the arrival and arrangement of the female aristocracy of Matanzas. These enter in groups of twos and threes, carrying their prayer-books, and followed by slaves of either sex, who bear the prayer-carpet of their mistresses. The ladies are wonderfully got up, considering the early hour ; and their toilettes suggest that they may not have undressed since the ball of the night before. All that hoops, powder, and puffery can do for them has been done ; they walk in silk attire, and their hair is what is technically termed dressed. Some of them bring their children, bedizened like dolls, and mimicking mamma's gestures and genuflexion in a manner more provoking to sadness than to satire. If the dressing is elaborate, the crossing is also. It does not consist of one simple cross, “in nomine Patris,” etc. ; they seem to make three or four crosses from forehead to chin, and conclude by kissing the thumb-nail, in honor of what we could not imagine. Entering the middle aisle, which is divided from the rest by a row of seats on either side, they choose their position, and motion to the dark attendant to spread the carpet. Some of them evince considerable strategic skill in the selection of their ground. All being now in readiness, they drop on their knees, spread their flounces, cross themselves, open their books, and look about them. Their attendants retire a little, spread a handkerchief on the ground, and modestly kneel behind them, obviously expecting to be saved with the family. These are neatly, sometimes handsomely dressed. In this status things remain until the music of the regiment is heard. With a martial sound of trumpets it enters the church, and fills the aisles, the officers taking place within the chancel, and a guard-of-honor of eight soldiers ranging on either side of the officiating priest. And now our devotions begin in good earnest ; for, simultaneously with the regiment, the jeunesse dorée of Matanzas has made its appearance, and has spread itself along the two long lines of demarcation which separate the fair penitents from the rest of the congregation. The ladies now spread their flounces again, and their eyes find other occupation than the dreary Latin of their missals. There is, so to speak, a lively and refreshing time between the youths of both sexes, while the band plays its utmost, and Evangel, Kyrie, and Credo are recited to the music of Trovatore and Traviata. That child of four years old, dressed in white and gold flounces, and white satin boots with heels, handles her veil and uses her eyes like mamma, eager for notice, and delighted with the gay music and uniforms. The moment comes to elevate the Host, thump goes the drum, the guard presents arms, and the soldiers, instead of kneeling, bend forward, in a most uncomfortable manner. Another thump, and all that is over ; the swords are returned to their sheaths, and soon, the loud music coming to an end, the regiment marches out of church, very much as it marched in, its devotional experiences being known to Heaven alone. Ladies and lovers look their last, the flounces rise in pyramids, the prayercarpets are rolled up, and, with a silken sweep and rush, Youth, Beauty, and Fashion forsake the church, where Piety has hardly been, and go home to breakfast. To that comfortable meal you also betake yourself, musing on the small heads and villanous low foreheads of the Spanish soldiery, and wondering how long it would take a handful of resolute Yankees to knock them all into — But you are not a filibuster, you know.


“As this Sunday is Carnival, you cannot do better than drive about the city, and then go to the Plaza to see the masks. My partner’s wife, with whom you have now so comfortably breakfasted, will call for you in her volante, between five and six o’clock. She will show you the Paseo, and we will go and see the masks afterwards.”

So spoke a banker, who, though not our banker, is our friend, and whose kind attentions we shall ever recall, when we remember Cuba. So he spoke, and so it befell. The pretty American lady, Cubanized into paleness, but not into sallowness, called at the appointed hour, and, in her company, we visited the principal streets, and the favorite drive of the Matanzasts. The Paseo is shorter than that of Havana, but much prettier. We found it gay with volantes, whose fair occupants kept up an incessant bowing and smiling to their friends in carriages and on horseback. The Cubans are generally good riders, and their saddle-horses have the easiest and pleasantest gait imaginable. The heat of the climate does not allow the severe exercise of trot and gallop, and so these creatures go along as smoothly and easily as the waves of the sea, and are much better broken to obedience. The ladies of Matanzas seem to possess a great deal of beauty, but they abuse the privilege of powder, and whiten themselves with cascarilla to a degree that is positively ghastly. This cascarilla is formed by the trituration of eggshells ; and the oval faces whitened with it resemble a larger egg, with features drawn on it in black and red. In spite of this, they are handsome ; but one feels a natural desire to rush in amongst them with a feather duster, and lay about one a little, before giving an available opinion of their good looks.

If the Paseo was gay, the streets of the city were gay also ; the windows filled with faces and figures in full dress, with little groups of children at the feet of the grown people, like the two world-famous cherubs at the feet of the Madonna di San Sisto. There were crowds of promenaders too, everywhere, interspersed with parties of maskers, who went about screaming at the public with high, shrill voices. Leaving the volante, we descend to the Plaza, where is now the height and centre of movement. We find it flanked on all sides with little movable kitchens, where good things are cooked, and with tables, where they are sold and eaten. Fried cakes, fish, and meats seem the predominant bill of fare, with wine, coffee, and fruits. The masks are circulating with great animation ; men in women’s clothes, white people disguised as negroes, and negroes disguised as whites, prodigious noses, impossible chins and foreheads ; the stream of popular fancy ran chiefly in these channels. We met processions consisting of a man carrying a rat in a cage, and shouting out, “Catch this rat!” followed by a perfect stampede of wild creatures, all yelling, “Catch that rat ! ” at the top of their voices. The twanging of the guitar is heard everywhere, accompanied by the high nasal voices of the natives, in various strains of monotony. In some spots the music is more lively, accompanied by the shaking of a gourd filled with dry seeds, which is called ghirra, and whose “chicka-chick, chick-chick” takes the place of the more poetical castanets ;—here you find one or more couples exhibiting their skill in Cuban dances, with a great deal of applause and chattering from the crowd around. Beside those of the populace, many aristocratic groups parade the Plaza, in full dress, crowned with flowers and jewels;—a more motley scene can hardly be imagined. Looking up, one sees in curious contrast the tall palms with which the Plaza is planted, and the quiet, wondering stars set in the deep tropical heavens.

But in our evening’s programme, tea has been omitted ; now, what availeth a Bostonian without his tea ? By eight o’clock, we are pensive, “most like a tired child at a show,”—by halt-past eight, stupid,— by nine, furious. Two hours of folly, taken on an empty stomach, alarm us for our constitution. A visit to the café is suggested and adopted. It proves to be crowded with people in fancy attire, who have laid aside their masks to indulge in beer, orgeat, and sherbet. While our Cuban friends regale themselves with soursop and zapote ice sweetened with brown sugar, we call for a cup of delicious Spanish chocolate, which is served with a buttered toasted roll, worthy of all imitation. Oh, how much comfort is in a little cup of chocolate ! what an underpinning does it afford our spiritual house, a material basis for our mental operations ! In its support, we go it a little longer on the Plaza, see more masks, hear more guitars and “catch-this-rat ! ” and finally return, in a hired volante, to the Ensor House, where rest and the bedless cots await us.

But we have friends in Matanzas, real born Cubans, who will not suffer us to remain forever in the Ensor House. They send their volante for us, one day, and we visit them. Their house, of the inevitable Cuban pattern, is richly furnished ; the marbles of the floor are pure and smooth, the rug ample and velvety ; the wainscoting of the walls, so to speak, is in handsome tiling,—not in mean, washy painting ; the cane chairs and sofas are fresh and elegant, and there is a fine Erard piano. The master of the house is confined to his room by illness, but will be happy to see us. His son and daughters speak English with fluency. They inform us, that the epidemic colds which prevail in Cuban winters are always called by the name of some recent untoward occurrence, and that their father, who suffers from severe influenza, has got the President’s Message. We find Don José in a bedroom darkened by the necessary closing of the shutters, there being no other way of excluding the air. The bedsteads are of gilded iron, with luxurious bedding and spotless mosquito-nettings. His head is tied up with a silk handkerchief. He rises from his rocking-chair, receives us with great urbanity, and expresses his appreciation of the American nation and their country, which he himself has visited. After a short interview we leave him, but not until he has placed his house and all it contains “á la disposicion de Usted.” We are then shown the pretty bedroom of the young ladies, whose toilettes are furnished in silver, the bath lined with tiling, the study, and the dining-room, where lunchcon awaits us. We take leave, with a kind invitation to return and dine the next day, which, upon mature deliberation, we accept.

The volante comes for us next day, with Roque, brightest of all living caleseros, fixed in his boots and saddle. After a pleasant drive we attain the house, and are received by its hospitable inmates as before. The interval before dinner, a tolerably long one, is filled up by pleasant chitchat, chiefly in English. The lady of the house does not, however, profess our vernacular, and to her understanding we lay siege in French, Italian, and laughter-provoking Spanish. Before dining we pay a second visit to the host, who is still busy digesting the President’s Message. Obviously, the longer he has it under consideration, the worse he finds it. He has nausea from its bragging, his head aches with its loudness, and its emptiness fills him with wind. We are at our wits’ end to prescribe for him, and take our leave with grave commiseration, telling him that we, too, have had it, but that the symptoms it produces in the North are a reddening in the cheek and a spasmodic contraction of the right arm. Now comes great dinner on. A slave announces it, and with as little ceremony as may be we take our places. And here we must confess that our friend the banker had rendered us an important service. For he had said,—"Look not upon the soup when it is hot, neither let any victuals entice thee to more than a slight and temporary participation ; for the dishes at a Cuban dinner be many, and the guest must taste of all that is presented ; wherefore, if he indulge in one dish to his special delectation, he shall surely die before the end.” And it came to pass that we remembered this, and walked through the dinner as on eggshells, gratifying cariosity, on the one hand, and avoiding satiety, on the other, with the fear of fulness, as it were, before our eyes. For, oh, my friends! what pang is comparable to too much dinner, save the distress of being refused by a young woman, or the comfortless sensation, in times of economy, of having paid away a five-dollar gold piece in place of a silver quarter of a dollar ?

But you, Reader, would like more circumstantiality in the account of this dinner, which united many perfections. It was handsome, but not splendid,—orderly, but not stately,—succulent, but not unctuous. It kept the word of promise to the smell and did not break it to the taste. It was a dinner such as we shall wish only to our best friends, not to those acquaintances who ask how we do when they meet us, and wish we were dead before we part. As for particulars, we should be glad to impart much useful information and many choice receipts ; but the transitory nature of such an entertainment does not allow one to improve it as one could wish. One feature we remember, which is that the whole dinner was placed on the table at once, and so you had the advantage of seeing your work cut out before you. None of that hope deferred, when, after being worried through a dozen stews and entrées, you are rewarded at last with an infinitesimal fragment of the rôti. Nor, on the other hand, the unwelcome surprise of three supplementary courses and a dessert, when you have already dined to repletion, and feel yourself at peace with all the world. Here, all was fair play ; you knew what to expect and what was expected of you. Soup, of course, came first,—then fish,—then meat stewed with potatoes and onions,—then other meat with ochra and tomatoes,—then boiled chicken, which is eaten with a pilaff of rice colored with saffron,—then delicious sweet potatoes, yams, plantains, and vegetables of every sort,—then a kind of pepper, brought, we think, from the East Indies, and intensely tropical in its taste,—then a splendid roast turkey, and ham strewed with small colored sugar-plums,—then---well, is not that enough for one person to have eaten at a stretch, and that person accustomed to a Boston diet? Then came such a display of sweetmeats as would exercise the mind of a New England housekeeper beyond all power of repose,—a pudding,— a huge tart with very thick crust,—cakes of yuca,—a dish of cocoanut, made into a sort of impalpable preserve, with eggs and sugar,—then a course of fruits,— then coffee, of the finest quality, from the host’s own plantation,—and then we arose and went into the drawing-room, with a thankful recollection of what we had had, and also a thankful assurance that we should have no more.

A drive by moonlight was now proposed, to see the streets and the masks, it being still Carnival. So the volante was summoned, with its smiling, silent Roque, and the pretty daughter of the house took seat beside us. The streets around the Plaza proved quite impassable from the crowd, whose wild movements and wilder voices went nigh to scaring the well-trained horses. The little lady was accustomed, apparently, to direct every movement of her charioteer, and her orders were uttered in a voice high and sweet as a bird-call. “Dobla al derecho, Roque ! Roque, dobla al derecho!” A by did not Roque go mad, and exclaim,—"Yes, Señorita, and to heaven itself, if you bid me so prettily ! ” But Roque only doubled as he was bid, and took us hither and thither, and back to the nest of his lady-bird, where we left her and the others with grateful regrets, and finally back to the Ensor House, which on this occasion seemed to us the end of all things.


As there are prejudices in Cuba, and elsewhere, touching the appropriate sphere of woman, Hulia was not taken to the cockpit, as she had demanded and expected, — not to see the chickens fight, but to see the Spaniards see it.

Forgive her, ye Woman’s-Righters, if on this occasion she was weak and obedient ! You would have gone, no doubt, — those of you who have not husbands ; but such as have must know how much easier it is to deal with the article man in his theoretical than in his real presence. You may succeed in showing by every convincement, that you are his natural master and superior, and that there is every reason on earth why you should command and direct him. “No! —,” says

the wretch, shaking his fist, or shrugging his shoulders ; and whatever your intimate convictions may be, the end is, that you do not.

Propitiated by that ready obedience which is safest, dear sisters, in these contingencies, the proprietor of Hulia takes her, one morning, to see the establishment of a man of fortune in the neighborhood, where one hundred and forty game-chickens are kept for training and fighting. These chickens occupy two good-sized rooms, whose walls are entirely covered with compartments, some two feet square, in each of which resides a cock, with his little perch and drinking-vessel. They are kept on allowance of water and of food, lest they should get beyond fighting-weight. Their voices are uplifted all day long, and on all moonlight nights. An old woman receives us, and conducts us to the training-pit, pointing out on the way the heroes of various battles, and telling us that this cock and the other have won mucho dinero, “much money.” Each has also its appointed value ;—this cock is worth forty dollars, this four ounces, this one six ounces, — oh, he is a splendid fellow ! No periodal and sporadic hen-fever prevails here, but the gallo-mania is the chronic madness of the tropics.

The training-pit is a circular space inclosed with boards, perhaps some twelve feet in diameter. Here we find the proprietor, Don Manuel Rodriguez, with a negro assistant, up to the ears in business. Don Manuel is young, handsome, and vivacious, and with an air of good family that astonishes us. He receives us with courtesy, finds nothing unusual in the visit of a lady, but is too much engrossed with his occupation to accord us more than a passing notice. This is exactly as we could wish,—it allows us to study the Don, so to speak, au naturel. He is engaged at first in weighing two cocks, with a view to their subsequent fighting. Having ascertained their precise weight, which he registers in his pocket-memorandum, he proceeds to bind strips of linen around their formidable spurs, that in their training they may not injure each other with them. This being accomplished,—he all the while delivering himself with great volubility to his black second,—the two cocks are taken into the arena; one is let loose there; the negro holds the other, and knocks the free fowl about the head with it. Sufficient provocation having been given, they are allowed to go at each other in their own fashion, and their attacks and breathing-spells are not very unlike a bout of fencing. They flap, fly at each other, fly over, peck, seize by the neck, let go, rest a moment, and begin again, getting more and more excited with each round. The negro separates them, when about to draw blood. And as for Don Manuel, he goes mad over them, like an Italian maestro over his favorite pupil. “Hombre, hombre ! ” he cries to the negro, “what a cock ! By Heaven, what a couple ! Ave María santísima ! did one ever see such spirit ? Santísima Trinidad! is there such fighting in all Matanzas ? ” Having got pretty well through with the calendar of the saints, he takes out his watch ; — the fight has lasted long enough. One of the champions retires to take a little repose ; another is brought in his place ; the negro takes him, and boxes him about the ears of the remaining fowl, — brushing him above his head, and underneath, and on his back, to accustom him to every method of attack. Don Manuel informs us that the cock made use of in this way is the father of the other, and exclaims, with an air of mock compassion, Pobre padre ! “Poor father!”

The exercise being concluded, he takes a small feather, and cleans out therewith the throat of either chicken, which proves to be full of the sand of the arena, and which he calls porquería, “dirt.”

We leave Don Manuel about to employ himself with other cocks, and, as before, too much absorbed to give our departure much notice. Strange to say, Hulia is so well satisfied with this rehearsal, that she expresses no further desire to witness the performance itself. We learn subsequently that Don Manuel is a man of excellent family and great wealth, who has lavished several fortunes on his favorite pursuit, and is hurrying along on the road to ruin as fast as chickens’ wings can carry him. We were very sorry, but couldn't possibly interfere. Meantime, he appeared excessively jolly.

Our kind friends of the dinner were determined to pay us, in their persons, all the debts of hospitality the island might be supposed to contract towards strangers and Americans. Arrangements were accordingly made for us to pass our last day in Matanzas at a coffee-plantation of theirs, some four miles distant from town. They would Send their travelling volante for us, they said, which was not so handsome as the city volante, but stronger, as it had need to be, for the roads. At eleven o’clock, on a very warm morning, this vehicle made its appearance at the door of the Ensor House, with Roque in the saddle,—Roque with that mysterious calesero face of his, knowing everything, but volunteering nothing until the word of command. Don Antoñito, he tells us, has gone before us on horseback ;— we mount the volante, and follow, Roque drives briskly at first, a slight breeze refreshes us, and we think the road better than is usual. But wait a bit, and we come to what seems an unworked quarry of coral rock, with no perceptible way over it, and Roque still goes on, slowly indeed, but without stop or remark. The strong horses climb the rough and slippery rocks, dragging the strong volante after them. The calesero picks his way carefully ; the carriage tips, jolts, and tumbles ; the centre of gravity appears to be nowhere. The breeze dies away ; the vertical sun seems to pin us through the head ; we get drowsy, and dream of an uneasy sea of stones, whose harsh waves induce headache, if not seasickness. We wish for a photograph of the road ;— first, to illustrate the inclusive meaning of the word ; second, to serve as a remembrance, to reconcile us to all future highways.

Why these people are content to work out their road-tax by such sore travail of mind and body appeareth to us mysterious. The breaking of stone in stateprison is not harder work than riding over a Cuban road ; yet this extreme of industry is endured by the Cubans from year to year, and from one human life to another, without complaint or effort. An hour or more of these and similar reflections brings us to a bit of smooth road, and then to the gate of the planta tion, where a fine avenue of palms con ducts us to the house. Here resides the relative and partner of our Matanzas friends, a man of intelligent and humane aspect, who comes to greet us, with his pleasant wife, and a pretty niece, their constant guest. This lady has made use of her retirement for the accomplishment of her mind. She has some knowledge of French and Italian, and, though unwilling to speak English, is able to translate from that language with entire fluency. The plantation-house is very pretty, situated just at the end of the palmavenue, with all the flowers in sight,—for these are planted between the palms;—it has a deep piazza in front, and the first door opens into one large room, with sleeping-apartments on either side. Opposite this door is another, opening upon the court behind the house, and between the two our chairs are placed, courting the draught.—N. B. In Cuba, no one shuns a draught; you ride, drive, sit, and sleep in one, and, unless you are a Cuban, never take cold. The floor of this principal room is merely of clay, rubbed with a red powder, which, mixed with water, hardens into a firm, polished surface. The house has but one story ; the timbers of the roof, unwhitened, forming the only ceiling. The furniture consists of cane easy-chairs, a dining-table, and a pretty hammock, swung across one end of the room. Here we sit and talk long. Our host has many good books in French and Spanish,—and in English, Walter Scott's Novels, which his wife fully appreciates.

A walk is proposed, and we go first to visit los negros chiquitos,—Anglicè, “the small niggers,” in their nursery. We find their cage airy enough ; it is a house with a large piazza completely inclosed in coarse lattice-work, so that the pequeñuelos cannot tumble out, nor the nurses desert their charge. Our lady friend produces a key, unlocking a small gate which admits us. We found, as usual, the girls of eight and upwards tending the babies, and one elderly woman superintending them. On our arrival, African drums, formed of logs hollowed out, and covered with skin at the end, were produced. Two little girls proceeded to belabor these primitive instruments, and made a sort of rhythmic strumming, which kept time to a monotonous chant. Two other girls executed a dance to this, which, for its slowness, might be considered an African minuet. The dancing children were bright-looking, and not ungraceful. Work stops at noon for a recess ; and the mothers run from the field to visit, the imprisoned babies, whom they carry to their own homes and keep till the afternoou-hour for work comes round, which it does at two, P. M. We went next to the negro-houses, which are built, as we have described others, contiguous, in one hollow square. On this plantation the food of the negroes is cooked for them, and in the middle of the inclosed square stood the cooking-apparatus, with several large caldrons. Still, we found little fires in most of the houses, and the inmates employed in concocting some tidbit or other. A hole in the roof serves for a chimney, where there is one, but they as often have the fire just before their door. The slaves on this plantation looked in excellent condition, and had, on the whole, cheerful countenances. The good proportion of their increase showed that they were well treated, as on estates where they are overworked they increase scarcely or not at all. We found some of the men enjoying a nap between a board and a blanket. Most of the women seemed busy about their household operations. The time from twelve to two is given to the negroes, besides an hour or two after work in the evening, before they are locked up for the night. This time they improve mostly in planting and watering their little gardens, which are their only source of revenue. The negroes on this estate had formed a society amongst themselves for the accumulation of money ; and our friend, the manager of the plantation, told us that they had on his books two thousand dollars to their credit. One man alone had amassed six hundred dollars, a very considerable sum, under the circumstances. We visited also the house of the mayoral, or overseer, whose good face seemed in keeping with the general humane arrangements of the place,—as humane, at least, as the system permits. The negroes all over the island have Sunday for themselves ; and on Sunday afternoons they hold their famous balls, which sometimes last until four o’clock on Monday morning. Much of the illness among the negroes is owing to their imprudence on these and like occasions. Pneumonia is the prevalent disease with them, as with the slaves in our own South ; it is often acute and fatal. Everything in Cuba has such a tendency to go on horseback, that we could not forbear asking if dead men did, and were told that it was so, — the dead negroes being temporarily inclosed in a box, and conveyed to the cemetery on the back of a horse. Our friend, seeing our astonishment, laughed, and told us that the poor whites were very glad to borrow the burial-horse and box, to furnish their own funerals.

Dinner was served at four o’clock, quite informally, in the one sitting-room of the house. A black girl brushed off the flies with a paper fly-brush, and another waited on table. The dinner was excellent ; but I have already given so many bills of fare in these letters, that I will content myself with mentioning the novelty of a Cuban country-dish, a sort of stew, composed of ham, beef, mutton, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yuca, and yams. This is called Ayucco, and is a characteristic dish, like eel-soup in Hamburg, or salt codfish in Boston ;— as is usual in such cases, it is more relished by the inhabitants than by their visitors. On the present occasion, however, it was only one among many good things, which were made better by pleasant talk, and were succeeded by delicious fruits and coffee. After dinner we visited the vegetable garden, and the well, where we found Candido, the rich negro who had Saved six hundred dollars, drawing water with the help of a blind mule. Now the philanthrope of our party was also a phrenologist, and had conceived a curiosity to inspect the head of the very superior negro who had made all this money ; so, at his request, Candido was summoned from the well, and ordered to take off his hat. This being removed disclosed the covering of a cotton handkerchief, of which he was also obliged to divest himself. Candido was much too well bred to show any signs of contumacy ; but the expression of his countenance varied, under the observation of the phrenologist, from wonder to annoyance, and from that to the extreme of sullen, silent wrath. The reason was obvious,—he supposed himself brought up with a view to bargain and sale ; and when informed that he had a good head, he looked much inclined to give somebody else a bad one. He was presently allowed to go back to his work ; and our sympathies went with him, as it would probably take some days to efface from his mind the painful impression that he was to be sold, the last calamity that can happen to a negro who is in kind hands. We now wandered through the long avenues of palm and fruit trees with which the estate was planted, and saw the stout black wenches at their out-door occupations, which at this time consisted chiefly in raking and cleansing the ground about the roots of the trees and flowers. Their faces brightened as their employers passed, and the smaller children kissed hands. Returned to the house, we paused awhile to enjoy the evening red, for the sun was already below the horizon. Then came the volante, and with heartfelt thanks and regrets we suffered it to take us away.

And who had been the real hero of this day? Who but Roque, fresh from town, with his experience of Carnival, and his own accounts of the masked ball, the Paseo, and the Señorita’s beaux ? All that durst followed him to the gate, and kissed hands after him. “Adios, Roque ! Roque, adios!” resounded on all sides; and Roque, the mysterious one, actually smiled in conscious superiority, as he nodded farewell, and galloped off, dragging us after him.

As we drove back to Matanzas in the moonlight, a sound of horses’ feet made us aware that Don Antoñito, the young friend who had planned and accompanied our day’s excursion, was to be our guard of honor on the lonely road. A body-servant accompanied him, likewise mounted. Don Antoñito rode a milk-white Cuban pony, whose gait was soft, swift, and stealthy as that of a phantom horse. His master might have carried a brimming glass in either hand, without spilling a drop, or might have played chess, or written love-letters on his back, so smoothly did he tread the rough, stony road. All its pits and crags and jags, the pony made them all a straight line for his rider, whose unstirred figure and even speech made this quite discernible. For when a friend talks to you on the trot, much gulping doth impede his conversation,—and there is even a good deal of wallop in a young lady’s gallop. But our friend’s musical Spanish ran on like a brook with no stones in it, that merely talks to the moonlight for company. And such moonlight as it was that rained down upon us, except where the palm-trees spread their inverted parasols, and wouldn’t let it! And such a glorification of all trees and shrubs, including the palm, which we are almost afraid to call again by name, lest it should grow “stuck up,” and imagine there were no other trees but itself! And such a combination of tropical silence, warmth, and odor ! Even in the night, we did not forget that the aloe-hedges had red in them, which made all the ways beautiful by day. Oh ! it was what good Bostonians call “a lovely time ”; and it was with a sigh of fulness that we set down the goblet of enjoyment, drained to the last drop, and getting, somehow, always sweeter towards the bottom.

For it was set down at the Ensor House, which we are to leave to-night, half-regretful at not having seen the scorpion by which we always expected to be bitten ; for we had heard such accounts of it, patrolling the galleries with its venomous tail above its head, that we had thought a sight might be worth a bite. It was not to be, however. The luggage is brought ; John is gratified with a peso ; and we take leave with entire goodwill.

I mention our departure, only because it was Cuban and characteristic. Returning by boat to Havana, we were obliged to be on board by ten o’clock that evening, the boat starting at eleven. Of course, the steamer was nowhere but a mile out in the stream ; and a little cockleshell of a row-boat was our only means of attaining her. How different, ye good New Yorkers and Bostonians, from your afternoon walk on board the “Bay State,” with valise and umbrella in hand, and all the flesh-pots of Egypt in —, well, in remembrance ! After that degree of squabbling among the boatmen which serves to relieve the. feelings of that habitually disappointed class of men, we chose our craft, and were rowed to the steamer, whose sides were steep and high out of water. The arrangements on board were peculiar. The body of the main deck was occupied by the gentlemen’s cabin, which was large and luxurious. A tiny after-cabin was fitted up for the ladies. In the region of the machinery were six horrible staterooms, bare and dirty, the berths being furnished simply with cane-bottoms, a pillow, and one unclean sheet. Those who were decoyed into these staterooms endured them with disgust while the boat was at anchor ; but when the paddle-wheels began to revolve, and dismal din of clang and bang and whirr came down about their ears, and threatened to unroof the fortress of the brain, why, then they fled madly, precipitately, leaving their clothes mostly behind them. But I am anticipating. The passengers arrived and kept arriving; and we watched, leaning over the side, for Don Antoñito, who was to accompany our voyage. Each boat had its little light ; and to see them dancing and toppling on the water was like a fairy scene. At last came our friend ; and after a little talk and watching of the stars, we betook ourselves to rest.

Many of the Dons were by this time undressed, and smoking in their berths. As there was no access to the ladies’ cabin, save through the larger one, she who went thither awaited a favorable moment and ran, looking neither to the right hand nor the left. The small space was tolerably filled by Cuban ladies in full dress.—Mem. They always travel in their best clothes.—The first navigation among them was a real balloon-voyage, with collisions; but they soon collapsed and went to bed. All is quiet now ; and she of whom we write has thrown herself upon the first vacant bed, spreading first a clean napkin on the extremely serviceable pillow. Sleep comes ; but what is this that murders sleep ? A diminutive male official going to each berth, and arousing its fair occupant with “Doña Teresita,” or whatever the name may be, “favor me with the amount of your passage-money.” No comment is necessary ; here, no tickets,—here, no stewardess to mediate between the unseen captain and the unprotected female! The sanctuary of the sex invaded at midnight, without apology and without rebuke ! Think of that, those passengers who have not paid their fare, and, when invited to call at the captain’s office and settle, do so, and be thankful ! The male passengers underwent a similar visitation. It is the Cuban idea of a compendious and economic arrangement.

And here ends our account of Matanzas, our journey thither, stay, and return. Peace rest upon the fair city ! May the earthquake and hurricane spare it ! May the hateful Spanish government sit lightly on its strong shoulders ! May the filibusters attack it with kisses, and conquer it with loving-kindness ! So might it be with the whole island-vale !