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WE sailed from Bristol on the 30th of October 1733, with a fine breeze from the eastward. On going down the river Avon in a boat, to join the brig at Kingroad, Eliza was charmed by the scenery on each side of the banks. St. Vincent's rocks presented a sublime object on the right side; and those on the left, covered with wood from the water's edge to their summits, rivalled, by their beauty, the sublimity of the perpendicular precipices opposite. "I shall never forget this scene," she observed, "it is so impressive." She did not then know that a time was not far distant, when her abode would be under such a rock; equally precipitous, but more gigantic.
The wind was fair; we sailed down the Bristol Channel, with fine weather and smooth water. It blew fresh from the north-west, after passing Lundy Island; and for ten days we proceeded jocundly; but a long continuance of contrary wind, with rain soon after, as emblematic of human life, altered our condition and our feelings. Eliza was very sick, and the captain was in bad humour; so that we were far from comfortable: but the wind changed again, and with it returned our lively sense of present happiness, if I may so express it. Such are the
events that modify earthly enjoyment. In three weeks we got into the trade winds: here, with studding sails, low, and aloft, the vessel glided along smoothly and delightfully. In little more than five weeks, we passed through the Mona passage, between Porto Rico and Hispaniola; and on the day six weeks of quitting the Bristol Channel, we made the east end of Jamaica. The high blue mountains presented a most magnificent spectacle ; and when we approached near enough to discern the trees and plantations, we were charmed by the superb face of the whole country. The sky was brilliant and cloudless, the breeze fair and refreshing our spirits were proportionally buoyant; and as the vessel ran along shore for Port Royal, all the next day our delight was kept alive by the newness and vastness of the scenery which lay upon our right. The grand expanse of ocean was no novelty now to us, or we might have turned our back upon the shore to gaze upon it, as a suitable accompaniment to the sublime and beautiful landscene which so totally absorbed us.
A negro pilot came on board, as we neared Port Royal. Eliza was a good deal struck by his appearance, and his manner, and way of speaking; which, being nothing new to me, I hardly noticed; I had seen such in Virginia, but to her there was much to interest; he was to her mind's eye, at the moment, the representative of the whole negro population; which drew from her some observations alike creditable to her head and her heart. We soon hauled round Port Royal point; the sandy foundation of a small town of little importance, but many years
ago, on the space we now sailed over, its ancestor had stood, a place of great wealth and elegance; and they say, like Sodom and Gomorrah, it became the seat of all licentiousness, and was swallowed up by an earthquake in 1692.
We had nothing to do at Port Royal, therefore did not drop anchor, but worked up to Kingston against the sea breeze; and came to, off the town, just as the breeze was dying away. Mr. Dickinson, my uncle's friend, was absent in the country at his penn; we therefore determined to remain on board all night, and did so. About nine o'clock next morning, we received a visit from him, and much courtesy; he insisting that we should take up our residence at his penn during our stay in the island; which we gladly accepted, and accordingly accompanied him on shore; and after I had delivered my letters to him, and made some arrangements with respect to the cargo, he drove myself and wife out into the country, where we were agreeably entertained by the hospitality of our friend, and the novelty of all we saw.
I returned with him in the morning to Kingston, to business, leaving my dear wife at the penn; and this was our daily practice, going back again a little before supper time. The part of the cargo for the Jamaica market, was landed. American lumber, as planks, shingles, &c., together with American flour in barrels, some maize or Indian corn, together with island produce, as coffee, sugar, rum, &c. recompleted the cargo for Honduras. Mr. Dickinson gave me an appalling account of the place we were bound to he said, St. George's Key, where
my cousin resided, was nothing better than a large sand-bank; and that the town of Belize, on the main land, consisted of a few wretched houses on the south side of the river of that name; and that the whole country, for nearly a hundred miles in every direction, was little better than a swamp covered with mangroves; that there was neither beef nor mutton to be had; that the inhabitants passed most of their time up the country, cutting logwood and mahogany; that they lived on Irish salted provisions, American flour, and maize; and looked to their fish, and turtle, as their only resource for fresh provisions. This was a sad prospect. "No wonder," said I, "that my cousin Tom desires to return to England." I must confess, the account from Mr. Dickinson disheartened me not a little, and I thought it right not to conceal what I had heard from Eliza. "Well," said she, but we shall be together, Edward; happiness is not meat nor drink, but peace and contentment ; and under privations we may be induced to seek that happiness where alone it can be found." My heart owned the support it had received; I was again at ease, and attended to the completion of our cargo with cheerfulness.
All being ready on Saturday the 22d of December, the captain determined to sail the next day, viz., Sunday the 23d, on which holy day, for some fanciful reason or superstition, sailors like to put to sea. By Mr. Dickinson's advice, I was to buy two or three goats; and as many fowls and ducks, and Guinea-fowl, as the coops would hold, for stock on our arrival at St. George's Key; the probability
being that I should find "a plentiful scarcity," as he expressed it, of such things at my cousin's residence; who, he said, lived like a Bay-man, on salt provisions and turtle. I was therefore to go into the negro market on Sunday morning, the marketday of Jamaica. I told Eliza of my object, and she desired to accompany me; yet not without passing a just but severe censure on such an unchristian usage in a Christian colony. The market was held in a large street, and we saw it full of negroes, male and female, with all sorts of fruits and vegetables and poultry; it was a grotesque scene, and, although I had been on this side of the Atlantic before, was perfectly novel to me. We bought two goats with kid, a dozen fowls, as many Muscovy-ducks, and half a dozen Guinea-fowl, a great quantity of yams and plantains, and coccos (a sort of potatoe), some shaddocks, and oranges, and limes, and a few pumpkins, and water-melons, half a dozen fine pine-apples, and as many muskmelons, some capsicums and bird-peppers, and two large sugar-canes.
Mr. Dickinson's negroes took our stock on board, which, when the captain saw, he exclaimed, "What are we to do with all this? we shall be only five or six days on the passage.”—“It is stock, captain, for St. George's Key," I replied, "where I shall be happy to see you take some of it when we arrive."" Oh! very well," cried he; "you may keep poultry there, if you carry a good stock of maize for them; but nothing will grow there, that you have brought on board, except the pumpkins and water-melons; unless you could take some good