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The Wanderers; Or, Adventures in the Wilds of Trinidad and Orinoco

William Henry Giles Kingston

  Produced by Nick Hodson of London, England

  The Wanderers; or Adventures in the Wilds of Trinidad and up theOrinoco, by W.H.G. Kingston.


  For political reasons the Macnamara family are forced to leave their oldhome in Pennsylvania, and elect to resettle in Trinidad. A big mistakebecause it is being administered by a bigoted Spanish religiousgovernment. The mother dies and is buried, but two Roman Catholicpriests arrive with the intention of carrying out the funeral undertheir rites. So once again the family are displaced, this time forreligious reasons. They escape to South America, and make their wayinto the Orinoco river. There follow innumerable adventures and nearshaves of various kinds. But it was a mistake again, because theSpanish are administering the territory, and wish to root out anyone whohas no business to be there.

  On escaping all this they hear that a new administration in Trinidad hasabolished the malpractices of the Spanish priestly regime, and they arewelcome to return.

  They sell the Trinidad plantation at a profit, and return to England,though always hankering after their original settlement in Pennsylvania.





  We lived very happily at the dear old home in the State of Pennsylvania,where my sister Marian and I were born. Our father, Mr DennisMacnamara, who was a prosperous merchant, had settled there soon afterhis marriage with our mother, and we had been brought up with everycomfort we could desire. Uncle Paul Netherclift, our mother's brother,who was employed in our father's house of business, resided with us; asdid our cousin Arthur Tuffnel, who had lately come over from England tofind employment in the colony.

  Our father was generally in good spirits, and never appeared to thinkthat a reverse of fortune could happen to him. One day, however, hereceived a visit from a person who was closeted with him for some hours.After the stranger had gone, he appeared suddenly to have become analtered man, his vivacity and high spirits having completely desertedhim--while both Uncle Paul and Arthur looked unusually grave; and youngas I was, I could not help seeing that something disastrous hadhappened. My fears were confirmed on overhearing a conversation betweenmy father and mother when they were not aware that I was listening.

  "We must start without delay. I must not allow this opportunity ofretrieving my fallen fortunes to pass by," I heard my father observe, ashe pointed to a paragraph in a newspaper which he held in his hand."The Spanish Government have passed an edict, permitting all foreignersof the Roman Catholic religion to establish themselves in the beautifuland fertile island of Trinidad, where they are to be protected for fiveyears from being pursued for debts incurred in the places they havequitted. Now, if we can manage to get there in safety, my creditorswill be unable to touch me, and I shall soon have the means of paying mydebts and recovering the position I have lost."

  "But, my dear husband, it would soon be discovered that we are not RomanCatholics; and we should be placed in an embarrassing, if not in adangerous position, were we to do as you propose," observed my mother ina tone of expostulation. "You would not, surely, have us conform, evenoutwardly, to a religion in which we have no faith?"

  "Depend on it, no questions will be asked, as it will be taken forgranted that all persons settling in the island belong to the ordinaryform of religion sanctioned by the Government," answered my father.

  My mother sighed, for she saw that my father was wrong, and that,blinded like Lot of old by his desire to obtain worldly advantages, hewas ready to sacrifice the religious principles he professed. I amcompelled, though with much pain, to write this.

  It was settled that we should start at once for Baltimore, to embark onboard a vessel bound from that place to Trinidad. Uncle Paul and Arthurwere to remain behind to arrange my father's affairs, and to follow usas soon as possible.

  The only other person to whom my father made known his intentions, wasTimothy Nolan, who had come out with him from Old Ireland, when quite aboy, as his servant.

  "I must leave you behind, Tim; but you will easily find a far bettersituation than mine, though I shall be sorry to lose you," said myfather, after telling him of his intentions.

  "Shure your honour won't be after thinking that I would consent to laveyou, and the dear young lady and Master Guy, with no one at all at allto take care of them," answered Tim. "It's myself would be miserableentirely, if I did that same. It isn't the wages I'd be after asking,for to make your honour doubt about the matter. The pleasure of servingyou in the days of trouble will be pay enough; only just say I may go,master dear, and shure I'll be grateful to ye from the bottom of myheart."

  My father could not resist Tim's earnest entreaties, and so it wasagreed that he should form one of the party.

  It was a sad day for us all when we set out on that rapid journeysouthward in the waggon, without wishing goodbye to any one. Baltimore,however, was safely reached, and without delay we got on board the goodship the _Loyal Briton_, which immediately set sail.

  My father seemed to breathe more freely when we were clear of theharbour. Our chief consolation was, that Uncle Paul and Arthur wouldsoon rejoin us, as they expected to be ready for the next ship--to sailin about a month--and they would not have the difficulty in getting offwhich my father had experienced. It is a satisfaction to me to believethat, had they not been able to remain behind to make arrangements withhis creditors, my father would not have left the country in the secretway he did; but the laws in those days were very severe, and had he notescaped, he might have been shut up in prison without the means beingallowed him of paying his debts, while we all should have been well-nighreduced to penury. Had such, however, been the case, I am very surethat Uncle Paul and Arthur would have done their utmost to support mymother and Marian, while I might soon have been able to obtainemployment. This is a subject, however, I would rather not dwell upon.Whether my father acted wrongly or rightly, it is not for me to decide;but I hold to the opinion that a man under such circumstances shouldremain, and boldly face all difficulties.

  We had a prosperous voyage, and my father and mother appeared to recovertheir spirits. Marian and I enjoyed it excessively, as it was the firsttime we had been on the sea. We took delight in watching the strangefish which came swimming round the ship, or which gambolled on thewaves, or the birds which circled overhead; or in gazing by night at thecountless stars in the clear heavens, or at the phosphorescence which attimes covered the ocean, making it appear as if it had been changed intoa sea of fire.

  At length we sighted the northern shore of the island which for a timewas to be our home. As we drew near we gazed at it with deep interest,but were sadly disappointed on seeing only a lofty ridge of barren rocksrising out of the water, and extending from east to west.

  "Shure it would be a hard matter to grow sugar or coffee on that sort ofground!" exclaimed Tim, pointing towards the unattractive-looking coast.

  "Stay till we pass through the `Dragons' Mouths' and enter the Gulf ofParia," observed the captain. "You will have reason to alter youropinion then, my lad."

  We stood on with a fair and fresh breeze through th
e "Boca Grande," oneof the entrances into the gulf, when a scene more beautiful than I hadever before beheld burst on our view. On our right hand appeared themountains of Cumana, on the mainland of South America, their summitstowering to the clouds; on our left rose up the lofty precipices ofTrinidad, covered to their topmost height with numerous trees, theirgreen foliage contrasting with the intense blue of the sky. The shore,as far as the eye could reach, was fringed with mangrove-trees, theirbranches dipping into the sea. Astern were the four entrances to thebay, called by Columbus the `Dragons' Mouths,' with verdant craggy islesbetween them; while on our larboard bow, the western shore of the islandextended as far as the eye could reach, with ranges of green hillsintersected by valleys with glittering streams like chains of silverrunning down their sides, towards the azure waters of the gulf.

  We brought up in Chagaramus Bay, the then chief port of Trinidad, andthe next morning we went on shore at Port Royal; for Port of Spain, thepresent capital, was at that time but a small fishing-village. Severalother vessels having arrived about the same time, there was much bustlein the place; and although numerous monks were moving about, noquestions were asked at my father as to the religion he professed. Itwas, as he had supposed would be the case, taken for granted that wewere, like the rest of the people, Roman Catholics.

  He lost no time in selecting an estate at the northern end of theisland, near the foot of the mountains, well watered by several streams,which descended from the heights above. A mere nominal rent was asked,and he had the privilege of paying for it by instalments whenever heshould have obtained the means of doing so. Considering this a greatadvantage, he had sanguine hopes of success. He at once commenced acacao plantation, of which some already existed in the island. It is atree somewhat resembling the English cherry-tree, and is about fifteenfeet in height, flourishing best in new soil near the margin of a river.It requires, however, shelter from strong sunshine or violent winds.For this purpose "plantain" or coral-bean trees are planted betweenevery second row; and these, quickly shooting up above the cacao-trees,afford the most luxuriant appearance to a plantation, their long barestems being contrasted strongly with the rich green of the cacao below.Nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove plantations were also formed; indeed, theutmost pains were taken to make the ground productive.

  Some progress had been made in the work before the arrival of Uncle Pauland our cousin Arthur. They had been delayed longer than we hadexpected, and we were for some time anxiously looking out for them. Wewere consequently delighted when at length they appeared. Marian threwher arms round Arthur's neck, and gave him the welcome of a sister, forshe loved him dearly.

  Uncle Paul complimented our father on the energy he had displayed, andexpressed his wonder that so much had been done.

  "My success is mainly owing to the way in which I treat those whom Iemploy," he answered. "The natives especially flock here in numbers,and are more ready to labour for me than for anybody else in theneighbourhood."

  With the assistance of Uncle Paul and Arthur, still greater progress wasmade. They also established a house of business in Port Royal, of whichUncle Paul took the chief management, while Arthur and I assisted. Weexported numerous articles, and among other produce we shipped aconsiderable quantity of timber; for magnificent trees, fit forshipbuilding and other purposes, grew in the island--the red cedar andseveral species of palms being especially magnificent. Altogether, ourhouse was looked upon as the most flourishing in the island, and, asmight have been expected, we somewhat excited the jealousy of several ofthe native merchants. Our father, however, cared nothing for this, anddared the Spaniards to do their worst.

  Necessity made Uncle Paul, Arthur, and me live, during the weekdays, inthe town, but we returned home every Saturday, where we received anaffectionate welcome from my mother and Marian. It was, consequently,not remarked in the town that we did not attend mass; and as our housewas at some distance from any church, we had a sufficient excuse for notgoing to one on the Sunday. We were aware, however, that theInquisition existed in the island, though we could not ascertain whowere the persons immediately connected with it. There were, weobserved, in proportion to the population, a very large number ofpriests and friars, some of whom were constantly visiting the houses inthe town and neighbourhood; but as we left our lodging at an early hourevery day for the counting-house, and seldom returned till late in theevening, we had not hitherto been interfered with.

  One Saturday evening we were returning homeward, when we overtook afriar ambling along on his mule. We saluted him in the customaryfashion, and were passing on, when he stopped Uncle Paul by asking aquestion which took some time to answer. The friar then, urging on hisbeast, kept pace with us. Arthur and I had dropped a little behind, sothat we could only partly hear what was said, but enough of theconversation reached us to let us know that the friar was talking aboutreligious matters, and was apparently endeavouring to draw out ouruncle's opinions. He was always frank and truthful, so we knew that hewould find it a difficult task to parry the friar's questions.

  "I feel almost certain that the friar knew we should pass this way, andcame on purpose to fall in with us," observed Arthur. "I wish thatUncle Paul had galloped on without answering him. I don't like the toneof his voice, though he smiles, and speaks so softly."

  "Nor do I," I replied. "I only hope that he won't come and talk withus."

  "If he does, we must give him short answers, and say that the matter istoo deep for us," observed Arthur. "We may perhaps puzzle him slightly,and at the worst make him suppose that we are very ill informed onreligious matters; but we must be cautious what we say."

  Uncle Paul had from the first been endeavouring in vain to get ahead ofthe friar without appearing rude, but he did not succeed till the latterhad got out of him all the information he wanted. The friar thenallowed his mule to drop in between us, and at once addressed Arthur ina friendly way--inquiring of him how often he had attended mass sincehis arrival, and who was his father confessor. Arthur replied that, ashe spent every Sunday in the country, and was occupied the whole of eachweekday in business, he had to confess that he had not paid dueattention to such matters.

  "And you," said the friar to me,--"are you equally careless?"

  "I hope that I am not careless," I answered; "but we Englishmen are notbrought up exactly like Spaniards, and consequently you may notunderstand us clearly."

  "All true Catholics are the same," remarked the friar. "You may expecta visit before long from the Superior of my Order to inquire into yourreligious condition, which appears to me unsatisfactory. Good-day,young gentlemen; I cannot give you my blessing till I know more aboutyou."

  Bowing to the friar, who, having gained all the information he required,now reined in his mule, we rode on to rejoin Uncle Paul. Arthurlaughed. "I think we have somewhat puzzled the old fellow," heobserved.

  "Depend upon it, though, that we shall before long receive the visit hepromises from his Superior, who may manage by some means or other tofind out the truth," I remarked.

  Though Uncle Paul made light of the matter, too, I saw that he was notaltogether comfortable about it.

  As soon as we arrived, I told my father and mother and Marian, that theymight be prepared.

  "We must not be entrapped by him," said my father; "and I will show myzeal by offering to assist in building a chapel in the neighbourhood."

  "I will not deny the truth," said my mother, with tears in her eyes.

  "Nor will I," exclaimed Marian.

  My father looked annoyed. "You must try then and keep out of the way ofthe man," he said. "I will manage him, should he come."

  I afterwards had a conversation with my young sister.

  "It will be cowardly and disgraceful to deny our faith," she said. "Letme entreat you, Guy, not to do so, whatever may be the consequences.Our father is still unhappily blinded by the hope of securing worldlyadvantages, or he would not think of acting as he proposes. He may thussecure his own safety, and
perhaps, for his sake, the inquisitors maynot interfere with us; but if they do, let us pray that we may be firm.It is very, very, very sad, and will break our poor mother's heart, forshe already feels dreadfully the position in which we are placed. Oh,what shall we do?"

  "Trust in God," said Arthur, who just then came into the room, and hadoverheard Marian's last remark. "My uncle is undoubtedly wrong, and hadI known before we left home the state of affairs in this island, andwhat we were to encounter, I would have implored him not to come toTrinidad; however, as we are here, we must seek for guidance how to actshould we, as I fear we shall, be questioned as to our religiousbelief."

  We three talked the matter over, and determined, if questioned, toacknowledge ourselves Protestants, and refuse to attend the RomanCatholic Church. We felt sure that Uncle Paul would agree with us, andwe proposed to get him to speak to our mother.

  We were not disappointed in Uncle Paul's reply. He blamed himselfgreatly for having yielded to our father's persuasions, and consented tourge on our mother the duty of adhering firmly to her religiousconvictions.

  On Monday morning, Uncle Paul, Arthur, and I set off to return to thecity. On the way our uncle told us that our mother had solemnlypromised him not to change her religion, and to suffer anything ratherthan be induced to do so. He had also spoken to our father, who seemedvery anxious, but who declared that, rather than abandon his estate andthe prospect of retrieving his fortunes, he would conform outwardly, ifnecessary, to the religion of the country; but that he would allow us,if we desired it, to quit the island.

  We reached the town, and carried on business as usual, without anyinterference from the officials of the Inquisition.

  We were about to leave our place of business on Wednesday evening, whenTim arrived with a message from my father, summoning us home on accountof the dangerous illness of my mother. We immediately ordered ourhorses and rode off, accompanied by Don Antonio, a physician of greatrepute, to whom our uncle, on receiving the intelligence, forthwith sentrequesting his assistance.

  We found, on our arrival, that our father, unhappily, had not beenalarmed without reason. Our poor mother was dangerously ill, and thephysician gave us but slight hopes of her recovery. He was necessitatedto return at once to the town, but he promised to be back the next day.

  Our mother rallied greatly, and when Don Antonio again appeared sheseemed to be much better. He, however, looked so grave, that on hisfollowing Arthur and me into the sitting-room, we expected to hear himexpress an unfavourable opinion of her case. But after looking about tosee that none of the servants were within hearing, he closed the door,and said in a low voice:--

  "It is not on account of your mother's health that I am anxious, but foryour sakes, my friends. You are supposed to be rank heretics; and Ihave received information that unless you forthwith attend mass, go toconfession, and in all respects conform to the obligations of theCatholic faith, the Inquisition intends to lay hands on you, and topunish you severely as a warning to others. Even should your fatherconform, he will be unable to shield you, and you will be equally liableto punishment. If you will be advised by me, unless you are prepared toadopt the religion of the country, you will, without delay, make yourescape to some part of the sea-coast remote from the capital, where youmay get on board a vessel bound to one of the neighbouring islands orelsewhere. You know not the fearful punishment to which you may besubjected, should you once fall into the hands of the Inquisition; andthough I myself run the risk of losing my liberty, not to speak of otherconsequences, by thus warning you, I could not find it in my heart toleave without doing so."

  We warmly thanked our kind friend for the advice he had given us, and herepeated what he had said to our father, who shortly afterwards cameinto the room; but at the time he made no remark, though he wasevidently greatly agitated.

  Scarcely had Don Antonio gone when my mother appeared to grow muchworse; and Arthur, throwing himself on horseback, galloped off as hardas his horse could go to bring him back. We anxiously waited his returnwith the physician, for every moment my mother grew worse and worse.How thankful we were when Don Antonio arrived; but no sooner had he felther pulse, than, calling my father out of the room, he told him that shewas dying, and that he could do nothing for her. His words proved tootrue. As we all stood round her bed, she entreated us to adhere firmlyto the faith in which we had been brought up; then, desiring us to goout of the room, she had a conversation with my father on the samesubject, I suspect, for he seemed much moved when we again entered. Asdaylight streamed into the room, she breathed her last.

  We all felt her loss greatly, and poor Marian was so overwhelmed withgrief that we were in serious anxiety on her account.

  In that latitude, burial rapidly follows death. It was a sore trial tous to see her carried to her grave, which had been prepared in apicturesque spot on the side of a hill not far from the house. Scarcelyhad the coffin been lowered into it, when two priests arrived to performthe burial-service. They appeared to be highly indignant that thefuneral should have taken place without their presence, and, fromexpressions which they let drop, it was very evident that they lookedupon us all as a family of heretics. My father tried to pacify them,however, and fancied that he had sent them away satisfied.

  "Remember the warning I have given you," observed Don Antonio, as hebade us goodbye. "Do not be deceived, even should the friars who maycome here appear to be on friendly terms; their object will be to betrayyou."

  It had been arranged that Uncle Paul and Arthur should return to thetown and attend to business next morning, while I was to remain withpoor Marian to try and comfort her.

  Some time after dark, while we were all assembled in the sitting-room,there was a knock at the door, and Arthur went out to see who had cometo visit us. He quickly returned with a note for my father in his hand,which he said Don Antonio had sent by his black servant. It containedmerely the words, "Follow the advice I gave. It should on no account beput off till to-morrow."

  The negro having been sent back with a verbal message to the effect thatthe prescription should be strictly followed, my father sat down, withUncle Paul and Arthur, to consider what was to be done.

  "For myself," he said, "I have resolved to remain. I cannot throw awaythe advantages I have gained; and circumstances, not my fault, willcompel me to conform to the religion of the country. But you and Arthurmay do as you think fit; and if you resolve to make your escape from theisland, I will send Guy and Marian with you--and Tim also, if he wishesto go."

  Uncle Paul expressed his sorrow at having to leave our father; but as hehad determined not to change his faith, he said he was ready to set offwith us immediately, and to try to carry out the plan Don Antonio hadproposed.

  Poor Tim, when he heard of our resolution, was sorely troubled what todo.

  "If you remain, you must become a Roman Catholic with me," said myfather.

  "Then, your honour, with all respect to you, I'll be after goingwherever Master Guy and Miss Marian go; though it will be a sad day thatwe have to leave you."

  "It must be done, however," said my father. "Now go and get the horsesready. We will have such things as may be required packed upforthwith."

  We had horses enough to mount the whole party, so arrangements werespeedily made; and within half an hour after we had received DonAntonio's warning we were in the saddle, and, under the guidance ofnatives well acquainted with the country, were making our way along anarrow path up the side of the mountains which rose between our houseand the sea.

  Uncle Paul and the guides went first. Marian rode next, mounted on asmall pony, and attended by Arthur. I followed them; and Tim brought upthe rear. Our great object was to get to the seaside, where we mightremain concealed, in case the officials of the Inquisition should pursueus.

  The narrow and steep path on which we were travelling wound its way upthe side of the hill till the summit was reached, when we began todescend towards the sea. It was generally too rugged to a
llow us tomove out of a walk, for our horses might have fallen and sent us down aprecipice either on one side or the other; still, whenever the groundallowed it, we pushed on as fast as we could venture.

  At length, after descending some distance, we found ourselves travellingalong with the ocean on our left and the rugged sides of the hill risingon our right. The pathway seldom allowed two to ride abreast. Now itran along scarcely eight or ten feet above the level of the water; nowit ascended to the height of eighty or a hundred feet, with a steepprecipice below us.

  Daylight had just broken, when, glancing over the ocean, I caught sightof a couple of vessels, which appeared to be standing in for the coast.I could not help crying out to Uncle Paul, in case he might not haveobserved them. My voice, unfortunately, startled Arthur's horse, whichbegan to sidle and prance; when what was my horror to see its hinderfeet slipping over the precipice! Marian shrieked out with alarm, and Iexpected the next moment that Arthur would be dashed to pieces on therocks below. Such would have been his fate, had he not sprung from hissaddle just as the animal went over the precipice. In vain the creatureinstinctively attempted to spring up again, desperately clinging to therock with its feet. Arthur tried to seize its bridle to help it; but inanother instant we saw it fall on the rocks below with a force whichmust have broken every bone in its body.

  So thankful did we feel that Arthur had been preserved, that we scarcelythought about the poor horse.

  "Go forward! go forward!" cried out Arthur. "I'll run on by Marian'sside. You must not be delayed on my account."

  We accordingly pushed on, and at length came to a part of the coastwhere the road ceased, and it was impossible to proceed further with ourhorses. Our chief guide--who, knowing that we had strong reasons forwishing to escape, was anxious to assist us--advised that we should sendthe horses back over the mountains by a different road from that bywhich we had come, while we continued along the coast till we reached aplace of concealment, which he said we should find some way further on;he himself proposing to accompany the horses, and to rejoin us when hehad conveyed them to a place of safety, where the officials of theInquisition were not likely to find them.