Grand Bahama in 1917
The rhythm is through all the movement. Away in the forecastle the Boy,
with long eyelashes that curl back on themselvesand laughing eyes,
sits, bare-legged and shoeless, his shirt in strips and sleeveless, drumming
out the time on an old tin can.
One, two, one two, one, two, ONE two,
One, two, one two, one, two, one
One, two, one, two, one, two, one, two.
This last line taken faster than the others and beaten out with the feet,
unconsciously, by all those standing about.
I must wear smoked glasses to save my eyes from the terrific dazzle of
colours on the moving seaall the little boats rise up and tumble
down upon the restless surface of the water. But the eyes of these people
are not afraid of the light, and they cheerfully stand up in their boats
and jump in and out, heedless of the barracouta swimming along just beneath
Of all the terrors in the tropical seas which frighten me so much they
have no fear; but when on dry land they do fear "little gentlefolk"
after dark: of which I am not afraid.
They can do what I cannot do. I can do what they cannot.
They are wise where I am ignorant. I know what they do not know. * * *
The captain in the filthy cabin is slowly sorting out some letters. He
cannot read the addresses on them, or the names; without the aid of the
Commissioner's wife he would not know whom the letters are for.
Yet, could she have brought us to this haven out of that terrific
storm? . . . . . . /
What is ignorance?
Not long ago one of the spongers went into the office of the local newspaper
in Nassau, and when the editor showed him the type-setting machine and
the printers at work he asked:
"Boss, do dey print de Bibles and hymn-books same as dis?"
"Of course they do," was the reply.
"Say! boss, den dey isn't printed by de angels?"
If you can believe that a grown man truly thought angels in Heaven printed
the Bibles and hymn-books you will have some idea what manner of folk
I was among.
* * * * * * * *
* * *
The lowest of the low they were said to be, but except for the indescribably
filthy condition of the Government mail boat, I did not find them
any lower than people of a similar class (or occupation) in other lands.
If we are to judge white sailors by the writings of Masefield and Kipling,
indeed these were lambs in comparison; for all on board were gentle to
each other and kind; kind and courteous to us; and we two women were as
safe among them as among our own kindperhaps safer.
Any one of the men would softly take and calm the three months old white
baby, and would handle him like a mother.
I am conscious that in such a short time one cannot see the depths of
any race or class. The camera only records what it sees. I can but do
the same. I know that Human Nature is filled with beauty and with Uglinessgo
where you willbut vices are/ usually hidden from the casual acquaintance.
"I speaks as I finds," as the country people say in England.
* * *
* * * *
"Now for you, marm!"
It is the captain calling.
He had disentangled himself from the letter difficulty, and clutching
those in one hand and the sealed mail-bag in the other he leapt from the
deck into the bobbing row-boat, which was partly filled with water, and
painted ultramarine blue with an orange stripe, and was held to the vessel
by a man in a yellow shirt and blue trousers standing up with one red
and white oar in his other hand.
They caught me as I dropped and deposited me with ceremony upon a white
seat, and in an incredibly short time, with one oar, the standing man
rowed us on to the brilliant coral beachwhere the little waves,
lapping delicately, kept the secret of the storm to themselves.
It was so hot, and I had not washed since I had left Nassau (a month
ago it seemed)!
"I want to have a swim," I declared on landing, to the group
of starched and beribboned women waiting to welcome us.
"It is not very convenient," they said gently.
"Then I will paddle," I said, suiting the action to the words.
They looked at one another, and two of them walked along beside me.
It was so delicious, after so much dirt and danger and sickness, to be
wading in sparkling, clear water that glittered like crushed jewels!
Suddenly there was a cry! For a moment I did not understand./
"Shark! Shark! SHARK!" I understood.
""Where? Where?" I shouted, stepping out of the sea in
"Dere he go! Dere he go, see! Look! See!"
I looked, and sure enough, not a stone's throw from my bare feet, swam
slowly a small sharkthe first I had ever seen.
I did not stop to examine him closely!
"I'se told you dis place not convenient." they said quietly,
as we made our way to the green land.
I do not know the name of this "Port of call." If you look
at the map in the Ward Line Manager's office, you will not see many places
marked upon the island of Grand Bahama. "Settlement Point,"
whither we were bound, looks to be the only one, and we were not at the
end of our destination yet. This was one of the tiny settlements which
are beneath the notice of map-makers!
A fine-looking woman, very clean, wearing many single-stoned rings on
several fingers, and earrings of red coral in her ears, a striped green
and blue bandanna on her head, tied very neatly behind, and a pale pink
frock duly starched and ironed for the occasion, met me under the archway
at the end of her garden, which was a veritable oasis.
She led us into a palm-thatched cottage, in which I would dearly love
to live. It might have been built by an artist. The front door opened
from the gallery into a large square whitewashed room without any ceiling.
It was as cool as a refrigerator and seemed to me a model from which all
tropical houses might be built. Exactly facing the front door was the
back door, opening upon the back garden and the adjoining "bush."/
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