A Sketch Of Trinidad - Excerpt 5

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A Sketch of Trinidad: The Canadian Mission and the opening of Presbyterian College in San Fernando, Trinidad by Alice Clark. Ottawa: Hope and Company, Stationers and Printers, 1892.


Reference was made in one of the addresses, to the volumes of immense size, in the College library, to justify the wisdom of the Mission Council in appointing Rev. Lal-Bihari, as one of the instructors in Hindi literature. The absurdities in these books taught in India, will be seen at a glance by the following examples: The largest volume is the “Mahabharat”, which contains in its several parts, 6,704 pages, each page twenty-eight lines, and each line averaging ten words, aggregating at least 1,877,120 words, whilst our scriptures contain 773,746 words. The name signifies a great battle, and the story covers an eighteen days’ fight between two rival families,

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in the vicinity of Delhi. Five brothers contended with 100 brothers, and because Krishna, the eighth Incarnation of Vishnu fought with the five, they come off victorious. Another volume was the Balmiki Ramayan, which contains about 603,000 words, a little less than our Bible. The design of, the book is to glorify Rama, the seventh Incarnation of the god Vishnu, who is the second of the Hindi trio. A third, Sukhsagar, equal to the Ramayan in size, is a Hindi translation of the much prized book, in Sanscrit, the Bhagawat, so sacred, that the simple hearing of its words, is a guarantee for admission to the ocean of happiness as the name Sukh-Sagar signifies. A fourth is called the Debe-Bhagawat, in which the goddess Debi, is extolled and represented as the mother of the Hindi trio, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. The collection contains several other books of less dimensions than those named. I believe it is not intended to go into any very minute examination of these books, and yet it appears to be important that young men preparing to preach the Gospel, and refute objectors, who draw their arguments from these sources, should themselves, in order to reply skilfully, know something of these volumes; hence Mr. Lal-Bihari, who had special advantages as a youth, will open up this class of literature in a general way.

As kind friends had invited us to visit their Cacao estate near the Montserrat Hills, we returned to Princestown by the Cipero tramway, which took us through eight miles of sugar estates. Rev. Mr.

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Macrae was on hand to meet us. Thanks to the kind hearted Mr. H. B. Darling, who made a gift to our Mission, of a large part of his beautifully situated property for the “Manse”, and the adjoining buildings and grounds. Though an Episcopalian he has ever shown the deepest interest in our Missionaries. We feel very grateful to Mr. Darling and the Doctor for their kindness to us, and we will not forget the many enjoyable drives, in the large comfortable “Victoria”, and the exquisitely arranged flowers they sent in to us during our stay. At 7 a.m., a party of us started for the Cacao plantation, and driving along through the charming country, we were delighted with the towering palms, the silk cotton tree (Ceiba), arid other trees. - In the distance were the very picturesque hills, ablaze with scarlet- blossoms of the great “bois immortelles “. We travelled on, and were attracted by the fine buildings on the “New Grant” sugar estate. Passing out of the estates, we drove through groves of majestic trees, still rising to a higher altitude. The Government has gravelled the roads at a great expense, as the gravel had to be brought from a great distance. Mr. and Mrs. Palmer were in waiting, at their neat cedar cottage, and gave us a hearty Scotch welcome. Among the friends at the West Indian breakfast, at 11 a.m., were Mrs. Morton, Mr. Macrae, Mr. Soudeen, and Mr. Warner, the warden of this section of Trinidad. The conversation was exceedingly racy, and fraught with much information about the fauna of the island. Having enjoyed a good piece of deer meat, at breakfast, and a cup of delicious coffee, that grew on the estate, we walked over to the Cacao estate. The tropical sun was hot on the road, but when we entered among the Cacao trees, and the wonderful shade trees, the

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“bois immortelles”, we were shaded and comparatively cool. These high trees, with wide spreading branches, hate been provided to shade the young cacoa trees, and their roots supply moisture during the height of the dry season. We were much interested in noticing the growth of the Cacao, much like medium sized apple trees. The blossom and pod were growing on the same tree. A singular feature about these pods, they grow out, and are attached to the trunk, as well as the branches of the trees; some of them are eight or ten inches long, and six inches round. The varied foliage of the trees, the bright yellow, green, and crimson pods, the towering “bois immortelles” with their brilliant blossoms, and the bright blue sky shining between, is very striking t the unfamiliar eye. The greatest hindrance to the successful cultivation of the valuable Cacao, is the parasol ants, which are only destroyed at great expense and labor, by digging deep holes around their hills; they fill these with water, and destroy them by myriads. After the pods are opened, the beans are dried, and made ready for market, to be sent to Great Britain and America, and prepared by Epp, Cadbury, and Mott. Very luscious oranges grow in Princestown. A large quantity were plucked from the trees in the garden. Only those who have eaten oranges freshly plucked from the tree, know what the real flavour of an orange is.

Leaving San Fernando in the train, for a visit to Port of Spain, the Capital, situated on the shores of the Gulf of Paria, about two miles from the mouth of the Caroni river, and one of the finest cities in

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the West Indies. It has a mixed population of 30,000, composed of British, Spanish, French, Chinese, African, Asiatics, and Creoles. At Marabella junction, the Rev. A Ramsay gave us a surprise, instead of meeting “us at the Quay”, as promised in his genial invitation. After going through 37 miles of beautiful scenery, we arrived at the Capital, and were driven to St. Ann’s Free Church “Manse”, where Mrs. Ramsay was waiting our arrival at the dour. Sooth friends came in to meet us that evening, and the hours went rapidly, reciting the’ “Cottar’ Saturday Night”, and other national poems, which transported all, to their “ain countrie”, though far away from the land of the heather. We were informed the next day, that the two days preceding Ash Wednesday, were devoted to King Carnival, by the Roman Catholics, masquerading and tomfoolery being the order of the day. We took a tram-car, and went round the city to see the sights, but we were glad to return, for the Creoles and rowdies take the advantage of the privilege of masking and speaking to every one they may meet on the street. The better class of Spaniards and French dress themselves in fantastic costumes, and ride or drive about, visiting their friends. The custom is gradually dying out. The City is flat, with broad level streets, laid out with mathematical precision, and kept very clean, having well-formed concrete gutters in every street, down which the tropical rains flow with great force. But I must not forget to mention, the natural scavenger, the black glossy corbeaux or vulture, to be seen in the middle of the street, gobbling up any refuse they can find; more useful than ornamental. Here and there are beautiful residences, in cool gardens of palms and lovely

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flowering trees. The road round the Savanna is called “The Circular”, and it is much frequented by those who like a drive after the heat of the day. The northern bend of the Queen’s Park, brings you to the Governor’s residence, and the Botanical Gardens. The house, a palatial edifice, designed on Indian model, and built of native limestone, was erected at a cost of £45,000. The Botanic Gardens who can describe them? Here are gathered the principal plants of the tropical world. Under the guidance of the learned Superintendent, who took great pleasure in describing to us the peculiar qualities of the many strange trees arid plants, all so new to us, he pointed out, the Palmyra palm, used by the orientals for making fans, baskets, etc.; the Talipot palm, used for making books. In the Palm walk are to be seen a number of Australian and Indian palms. Here is the Saponaria or soap tree, and the Chinese wax tree; one of the seeds gathered fresh from the tree, will burn readily with a bright white light, till it is consumed. Near the large gate is very fine Eucalyptus, with a trunk measuring more than thirty feet in diameter; and the giant bamhoo and the striped bamboo, both being natives of India. A gigantic Portugal laurel, throwing out a flower direct from the stem, like a cactus. Grandest among them all, and happily in full bloom, was the sacred tree of Burmah, at a distance like a splendid horse- chestnut, with large crimsom blossoms in pendant bunches. There stood an enormous ceiba or silk cotton tree, umbrella shaped, the boughs twisting in and out till they made a roof over one’s head, which was hung with every variety of parasites. The Ceiba is the sacred tree of the negro; the temple of Jumbi the proper home of Obeah. No negro

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would wound even the bark. Here the ground is covered with the Nux Vomica; we gathered some of the grey satin seeds. The nutmeg had a glen all to themselves, and perfumed the surounding air. Take one, and the thick green case splits in equal halves, at a touch; see the beautiful heart within, deep dark glossy brown, all wrapped in a bright network of flat red fibre, spun over it like branching veins, afterwards changing to yellow, and known a mace. Now we have entered the Nursery Grounds, containing many different varieties of coffee plants and cacao, the tea plant, the camphor, cinnamon and clove trees. What is that palm bearing its fruit at the base of the trunk? That is the ivory palm; the hard white material supplies the world with buttons and handles. The grandest of all is the broad fan-shaped Travellers’ palm, thirty feet high; make an incision in one of the fronds, and take a draught of cool water. Among the wonders of the gardens, are the vines or creepers that climb about the other trees, at particular times of the year. The fig vine throws out tendrils that hang down like strings. The time was far too short for us to see all, in this wonderland, containing 90 acres We took a hasty glance at the Electric eel, and entered the carriage kindly sent for us from “Errol House”, which is beautifully situated at the foot of the mountains, and is indeed a charming residence. Every where you see palms, in all stages of development. Palms border the garden walk; they are grouped in exquisite poise about the basins of fountains. At the gate we entered, stood, like stately sentinels, a superb pair of majestic, cabbage palms, their long silver-grey trunks, with deep green plume-tufted summits, reached nearly a hundred feet in altitude. Wide steps, lined with vases of rare

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begonias of every hue, lead up to a West Indian reception room, shaded and cool, with polished and richly carpeted floors, ornamental palms and ferns growing about the galleries and dining room. A large lawn, with beds of roses and a spraying fountain -—beautiful--—it was beyond dispute. At moments one can fancy that the world is an enchanted place after all.

Having heartily enjoyed our sojourn in “St. Anne’s”, we left on the kind invitation of our old friend, Rev. E. A. McCurdy, for Tranquillity, meet name for the residents of the amiable pastor of Grey friars church and his worthy wife, herself the daughter of a clergyman, and their kind and thoughtful son. The architecture of the fine new “Manse” might be described as of Swiss design, made suitable for the tropics. Eaves are developed into verandah roofs, and porches prolonged and lengthened into galleries, both front and hack, and approached by a broad flight of steps. These admirably ventilated rooms; these latticed windows, opening to the ceiling, are devised to keep out the heat and let in the air. Many of the varied crotons, with numerous ornamental shrubs, surround the garden. Every morning Cinderella would take great delight arranging the double and single hibiscus, crimson, pink, and fawn colour, and bunches of the tasselated red hibiscus, with the sweet-scented, double-white jessamine. The many delightful drives took us past charming villas, and palatial suburban mansions, wide-spreading Savannas with mammoth

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trees and fine specimens of the Cannonball tree. We wheel into a road that leads to the very romantic Maraval river. Nature and art have combined to make this spot a little paradise. The smooth white road curves round the slope of a forest-covered mountain, sometimes overlooking a valley shining with different shades of surface green. We pass underneath marvellous natural arcades, formed by the interweaving and intercrossing of bamboos 80 feet high. Rising in vast clumps, and spreading out from the soil towards the sky, the curves of their beautiful jointed stems meet at such perfect angles, above the way and on either side of it, as to imitate almost exactly the elaborate Gothic arch-work of old abbey cloisters. Arborescent ferns of unfamiliar elegance curve up from the path or river-brink. Here rustic bridges span the ferny dells of the Maraval and lead us to a miniature lake, whose crystal waters reflect the graceful trees and shrubs that hang over it. The slender, gracefully arched bamboos, many-lined crotons, fragrant oleanders, and slender ferns, surrounding the reservoir of bright clear water, combine to make a scene that is most striking. Great credit is given to the keeper of the water works, who is an old warrior, wearing the Crimean medal, hailing from the Emerald Isle. We had the pleasure of meeting a number of the excellent people of Grey-friars church, and will not soon forget their Christian hospitality and intercourse. Special mention should be made of their interest in’ the Presbyterian College, San Fernando, when on hearing of the £50 debt that remained on it, at the opening, the nobly came forward, and soon the debt was among the things that were ; and now it is free. The valuable gift of books, by the warm-hearted Mr. Goodwille, will invoke the gratitude of the students for many a day.

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