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- No Defense, Volume 3. - 3/23 -


not have gone to you, for I am not sure I did not kill him.

So it is best as it is. We are as we are, and nothing can make all different for us. I am a dissolute planter of Jamaica who has snatched from destiny a living and some riches. I have a bad name in the world. Yet by saving the king's navy from defeat out here I did a good turn for my country and the empire.

So much to the good. It brought me freedom from the rope and pardon for my chief offence. Then, in company with a rogue, I got wealth from the depths of the sea, and here I am in the bottom of my luxury, drunken and obscene--yes, obscene, for I permit my overseers and my manager to keep black women and have children by them. That I do not do so myself is no virtue on my part, but the virtue of a girl whom I knew in Connemara. I fill myself with drink. I have a bottle of madeira or port every night, and pints of beer or claret. I am a creature of low habits, a man sodden with self-indulgence. And when I am in drink, no slaver can be more cruel and ruthless.

Yet I am moderate in eating. The meals that people devour here almost revolt me. They eat like cormorants and drink like dry ground; but at my table I am careful, save with the bottle. This is a land of wonderful fruits, and I eat in quantities pineapple, tamarind, papaw, guava, sweet-sop, star-apple, granadilla, hog-plum, Spanish-gooseberry, and pindal-nut. These are native, but there are also the orange, lemon, lime, shaddock, melon, fig, pomegranate, cinnamon, and mango, brought chiefly from the Spanish lands of South America. The fruit-market here is good, Heaven knows, and I have my run of it. Perhaps that is why my drink does not fatten me greatly. Yes, I am thin--thinner even than when you saw me last. How wonderful a day it was! You remember it, I'm sure.

We stood on the high hills, you and I, looking to the west. It was a true Irish day. A little in front of us, in the sky, were great clusters of clouds, and beyond them, as far as eye could see, were hills so delicately green, so spotted with settlements, so misty and full of glamour, and so cheerful with the western light. And the storm broke--do you remember it? It broke, but not on us. It fell on the middle of the prospect before us, and we saw beyond it the bright area of sunny country where men work and prophesy and slave, and pray to the ancient gods and acclaim the saints, and die and fructify the mould; where such as Christopher Dogan live, and men a thousand times lower than he. Christopher came to the jail the day I was released--with Michael Clones he came. He read me my bill of life's health--what was to become of me--the black and the white of it, the good and the bad, the fair and the foul. Even the good fortune of the treasure from the sea he foresaw, and much else that has not come to me, and, as I think, will never come; for it is too full a cup for me so little worthy of it.

It seems strange to me that I am as near to the United States here in Jamaica, or almost as near, as one in London is to one in Dublin; and yet one might as well be ten thousand leagues distant for all it means to her one loves in the United States. Yes, dear Sheila, I love you, and I would tear out the heart of the world for you. I bathe my whole being in your beauty and your charm. I hunger for you--to stand beside you, to listen to your voice, to dip my prison fingers into the pure cauldron of your soul and feel my own soul expand. I wonder why it is that to-day I feel more than I ever felt before the rare splendour of your person.

I have always admired you and loved you, always heard you calling me, as if from some sacred corner of a perfect world. Is it that yesterday's dissipation--yes, I was drunk yesternight, drunk in a new way. I was drunk with the thought of you, the longing for you. I picked a big handful of roses, and in my mind gave them into your hands. And I thought you smiled and said:

"Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter Paradise." So I followed you to your home there in the Virginian country. It was a dream, all except the roses, and those I laid in front of the box where I keep your letters and a sketch I made of you when we were young and glad--when I was young and glad. For I am an old man, Sheila, in all that makes men old. My step is quick still, my eye is sharp, and my brain beats fast, but my heart is ancient. I am an ancient of days, without hope or pleasure, save what pleasure comes in thinking of one whom I worship, yet must ever worship from afar.

I wonder why I seem to feel you very near to-day! Perhaps it's because 'tis Christmas Day. I am not a religious man but Christmas is a day of memories.

Is it because of the past in Ireland? Am I only--God, am I only to be what I am for the rest of my days, a planter denied the pleasure of home by his own acts! Am I only a helpless fragment of a world of lost things?

I have no friends--but yes, I have. I have Michael Clones and Captain Ivy, though he's far away-aye, he's a friend of friends, is Captain Ivy. These naval folk have had so much of the world, have got the bearings of so many seas, that they lose all littleness, and form their own minds. They are not like the people who knew me in Ireland--the governor here is one of them--and who believe the worst of me. The governor--faugh, he was made for bigger and better things! He is one of the best swordsmen in the world, and he is out against me here as if I was a man of importance, and not a commonplace planter on an obscure river. I have no social home life, and yet I live in what is called a castle. A Jamaica castle has none of the marks of antiquity, chivalry, and distinction which castles that you and I know in the old land possess.

What is my castle like? Well, it is a squarish building, of bungalow type, set on a hill. It has stories and an attic, with a jutting dormer-window in the front of the roof; and above the lowest story there is a great verandah, on which the livingrooms and bedrooms open. It is commodious, and yet from a broad standpoint it is without style or distinction. It has none of those Corinthian pillars which your homesteads in America have. Yet there is in it a simple elegance. It has no carpets, but a shining mahogany floor, for there are few carpets in this land of heat. It is a place where music and mirth and family voices would be fitting; but there are no family voices here, save such as speak with a negro lisp and oracularly.

I can hear music at this moment, and inside my castle. It comes from the irrepressible throats of my cook and my housemaid, who have more joy in the language of the plantation than you could have in the songs of St. Angelus. The only person in this castle out of spirits is its owner.

My castle is embowered in a loose grove of palms and acacias, pimento shrubs, spendid star-apples, and bully-trees, with wild lemon, mahogany, dogwood, Jerusalem-thorn, and the waving plumes of bamboo canes. There is nothing British in it--nothing at all. It stands on brick pillars, is reached by a stair of marble slabs, and has a great piazza on the front. You enter a fine, big hall, dark- you will understand that, though it is not so hot in Virginia, for the darkness makes for coolness. From the hall the bedrooms open all round. We are not so barbaric here as you might think, for my dining-room, which lies beyond the hall, with jalousies or movable blinds, exposed to all the winds, is comfortable, even ornate. There you shall see waxlights on the table, and finger-glasses with green leaves, and fine linen and napkins, and plenty of silver--even silver wine-coolers, and beakers of fame and beauty, and flowers, flowers everywhere, and fruit of exquisite charm. I have to live in outward seeming as do my neighbours, even to keeping a black footman, gorgeously dressed, with bare legs.

Here at my window grows a wild aloe, and it is in flower. Once only in fifty years does this aloe flower, and I pick its sweet verdure now and offer it to you. There it lies, beside this letter that I am writing. It is typical of myself, for only once has my heart flowered, and it will be only once in fifty years. The perfume of the flower is like an everlasting bud from the last tree of Time. See, my Sheila, your drunken, reckless lover pulls this sweet offering from his garden and offers it to you. He has no virtues; and yet he would have been a thousand times worse, if you had not come into his life. He had in him the seeds of trouble, the sproutings of shame, for even in the first days of his love there in Dublin he would not restrain himself. He drank, he played cards, he fought and went with bad company--not women, never that; but he kept the company of those through whom he came at last to punishment for manslaughter.

Yet, without you, who can tell what he might have been? He might have fallen so low that not the wealth of ten thousand treasure- boxes could give him even the appearance of honesty. And now he offers you what you cannot accept--can never accept--a love as deep as the life from which he came; a love that would throttle the world for you, that would force the doors of hell to bring you what you want.

What do you want? I know not. Perhaps you have inherited the vast property to which you were the heir. If you have, what can you want that you have not means to procure? Ah, I have learned one thing, my friend 'one can get nearly everything with money. It is the hidden machinery which makes the world of success go round. With brains, you say? Yes, money and brains, but without the money brains seldom win alone. Do not I know? When I was in prison, with estate vanished and home gone and my father in his grave, who was concerned about me?

Only the humblest of all God's Irish people; but with them I have somehow managed to win back lost ground. I am a stronger man than I was in all that men count of value in the world. I have an estate where I work like any youth who has everything before him. I have nothing before me, yet I shall go on working to the end. Why? Because I have some faculties which are more than bread and butter, and I must give them opportunity.

Yet I am not always sane. Sometimes I feel I could march out and sweep into the sea one of the towns that dot the coast of this island. I have the bloody thirst, as said the great Spanish conquistador. I would like--yes, sometimes I would like to sweep to a watery grave one of the towns that are a glory to this island, as Savanna la Mar was swept to oblivion in the year 1780 by a hurricane. You can still see the ruins of the town at the bottom of the sea--I have sailed over it in what is now the harbour, and there beneath, on the deep sands, lost to time and trouble, is the slain and tortured town of Savanna la Mar. Was the Master of the World angry that day when, with a besom of wind and a tidal wave, He swept the place into the sea? Or was it some devil's work while the Lord of All slept? As the Spanish say, Quien sabe?

Then there was that other enormous incident which made a man to be swallowed by an earthquake, then belched out again into the sea and picked up and restored to life again, and to live for many years. Indeed, yes, it is so. His tombstone may be seen even at this day at Green Bay, Kingston. His name was Lewis Galdy, and he is held in high repute in this land.


No Defense, Volume 3. - 3/23

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