Grand Bahama in 1917
No other doors or windows opened out, so that there was a continual current
of fresh air which could rise up and aerate through the palm-thatched
rafters that enclosed the whole cottage. While, at the same time, no one
need sit in a draught, and there was cosiness not found in the ordinary
house of Nassau. The white floor was well sanded, and two brown doors
in the wall on either side led into adjoining rooms, where on fourposter
beds were spread clean patchwork quilts; except in the smaller of the
rooms, which was pantry and scullery in one.
In the main room an old, old negress who had seen slavery days, say comfortably
in a wide old mahogany settee that any rich man might well envy so fine
is its workmanship and proportion. Other members of the family came smilingly
from odd corners, with swaying movements of their limbs and bodies, Two
finely made mahogany tables were placed against either wall; one held
a Bible, hymn-book and Book of Prayer: the other had on it early Victorian
vases in which were beads which the old lady was using to make necklaces
for the girls to wear.
In a very short time a very beautiful girl brought me food and coconut
water and a little boy came in with freshly picked guavas and bananas.
I had taken a tin of pork and beans ashore and half of these had been
heated, to which they added some steamed turtle: then they cut me some
When the captain was ready I paid one shilling, and I bade them goodbye.
I shall never forget the picture they made, and regretted not having a
camera. But I had been told/ that films would not stand the heat for the
length of time that must elapse before it would be possible to develop
and print; so I had to be satisfied with mental snap-shots.
It was suggested that I walk across the rocks to the next port of call,
so I did this. The bordering sea-grape trees kept off some of the sun's
heat and I was taken to visit another housenearly as nice as the
one I have described. In it was a woman holding an eighteen months old
child on her lap. Its head hung back in the queerest fashion!
She spoke sadly about it.
"Dey brought me a strangled fowl before dis baby were born, an' I
did pity dat fowl, and dis chile were born wid his head hanging back flopping
to and fro, jus' like wot de fowl's did."
"But," said the grandmother, who was squatting on the clean
floor, pipe in hand, "dis chile will get cure all right."
"Yes," echoed the mother, "He'll get cure, olright, please
"What do you do for him?" I ventured to ask.
"Don't do nottingjus' praise de Lord," she replied simply.
"An' rub him day an' night wid de oil ob de coconut," put in
"We rubs him wid oil, olright," echoed the mother.
* * * * * * * *
* * *
A lot of shouting from the beach and an upright figure in a boat warned
me that the mail was about to leave. So I waded through little pools of
rainwater and joined the crew; sails were hoisted and we/ drifted away.
After the smells and the sea upset me no more. Of Course, it was calm,
but the smells remained. I will not go into details! I suppose there had
been quite twenty people on board during that voyage, there was only one
cabinvery small, and no hygiene.
Yet we caught no diseases and were unharmed a few weeks later when I decided
to "take a chance" and return to the capital without my friend,
as I had business to transact and could not stay any longer.
The condition of the island is a disgrace to the British flag; and this
is no fault of the Commissioner, who did what he could on very little
money, built a bridge and made a very good road leading to the mangrove
swamp from where one can sail for many miles to "The Mud" where
The Grand Bahama people are noted for their honesty and are as clean as
in extreme poverty they can be. They know nothing of agriculture. They
grow next to nothing and depend for food on the expensive stuff the spongers
bring in from Nassau which food is imported from the States and has had
a high duty paid on it before it starts its 150 mile trip.
Grand Bahama is a very large island (as Bahama Islands go) but it is
not prosperous, to say the least!
Yet, I heard a visiting examiner in the schools asking the school-children:
"Who was Shakespeare?" And "who was Julius Caesar?"
They knew not.
"What do you mean by Germination?" They knew not.
If they were taught that you plant seeds you have to care for them until
they grow it would/ be more valuable to them than Shakespeare or Caesar
or a word like Germination! It is not that the Government does not give
them education, it seems merely as if it gives them too much education
of the wrong sort. It is bad enough in this sense in the Board Schools
at home, and it is far, far more out of place on a desert island, where
they really think if their seeds are washed away in a rainstorm that it
is the Lord's will; and if there is no rain during the dry season, it
would going against God to water their plants with the water from their
They say nothing will grow, but one finds out that sweet potatoes, red
peas, coconuts, guavas, bananas, onions, oranges, limes, grapefruit and
other tropical fruits and vegetables will grow with very little care wherever
there is soil.
It was a queer sensation to leave one solitary English lady and her two
babies alone on that barren islewhere no mail would come for another
two weeks at the earliestbereft of all that is supposed to be necessary
to civilized people. But she was used to it, and her servants were cheerful
and kind, ready to do anything for her.
The captain of the Income sent word, on the morning of the day
we were to leave, that I should be ready at 6 a.m. That hour found me,
without breakfast, sitting upon my rolled-up mattress in the road near
the cutting in the rock where the vessel's boat comes in.
They asked me if I would go on board, or if I would sooner they put the
cow on first. I said, Place aux vaches, and waited with a little
crowd of other people. So the men went off to fetch the/
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