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Russell, William Howard, Sir / Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands
















I should have thought that no preface would have been required to
introduce Mrs. Seacole to the British public, or to recommend a book
which must, from the circumstances in which the subject of it was
placed, be unique in literature.

If singleness of heart, true charity, and Christian works; if trials
and sufferings, dangers and perils, encountered boldly by a helpless
woman on her errand of mercy in the camp and in the battle-field, can
excite sympathy or move curiosity, Mary Seacole will have many friends
and many readers.

She is no Anna Comnena, who presents us with a verbose history, but a
plain truth-speaking woman, who has lived an adventurous life amid
scenes which have never yet found a historian among the actors on the
stage where they passed.

I have witnessed her devotion and her courage; I have already borne
testimony to her services to all who needed them. She is the first who
has redeemed the name of "sutler" from the suspicion of worthlessness,
mercenary baseness, and plunder; and I trust that England will not
forget one who nursed her sick, who sought out her wounded to aid and
succour them, and who performed the last offices for some of her
illustrious dead.




My Birth and Parentage--Early Tastes and Travels--Marriage,
and Widowhood 1


Struggles for Life--The Cholera in Jamaica--I leave Kingston
for the Isthmus of Panama--Chagres, Navy Bay, and Gatun--Life
in Panama--Up the River Chagres to Gorgona and Cruces 6


My Reception at the Independent Hotel--A Cruces Table
d'Hôte--Life in Cruces--Amusements of the Crowds--A Novel
Four-post Bed 17


An Unwelcome Visitor in Cruces--The Cholera--Success of the
Yellow Doctress--Fearful Scene at the Mule-owner's--The
Burying Parties--The Cholera attacks me 23


American Sympathy--I take an Hotel in Cruces--My
Customers--Lola Montes--Miss Hayes and the Bishop--Gambling
in Cruces--Quarrels amongst the Travellers--New Granadan
Military--The Thieves of Cruces--A Narrow Escape 34


Migration to Gorgona--Farewell Dinners and Speeches--A
Building Speculation--Life in Gorgona--Sympathy with
American Slaves--Dr. Casey in Trouble--Floods and
Fires--Yankee Independence and Freedom 46


The Yellow Fever in Jamaica--My Experience of Death-bed
Scenes--I leave again for Navy Bay, and open a Store
there--I am attacked with the Gold Fever, and start for
Escribanos--Life in the Interior of the Republic of New
Granada--A Revolutionary Conspiracy on a small scale--The
Dinner Delicacies of Escribanos--Journey up the Palmilla
River--A Few Words on the Present Aspect of Affairs on the
Isthmus of Panama 59


I long to join the British Army before Sebastopol--My
Wanderings about London for that purpose--How I
failed--Establishment of the Firm of "Day and Martin"--I
Embark for Turkey 73


Voyage to Constantinople--Malta--Gibraltar--Constantinople,
and what I thought of it--Visit to Scutari Hospital--Miss
Nightingale 82


"Jew Johnny"--I Start for Balaclava--Kindness of my old
Friends--On Board the "Medora"--My Life on Shore--The
Sick Wharf 92


Alarms in the Harbour--Getting the Stores on Shore--Robbery
by Night and Day--The Predatory Tribes of Balaclava--Activity
of the Authorities--We obtain leave to erect our
Store, and fix upon Spring Hill as its Site--The Turkish
Pacha--The Flood--Our Carpenters--I become an English
Schoolmistress Abroad 102


The British Hotel--Domestic Difficulties--Our Enemies--The
Russian Rats--Adventures in Search of a Cat--Light-fingered
Zouaves--Crimean Thieves--Powdering a Horse 113


My Work in the Crimea 124


My Customers at the British Hotel 135


My First Glimpse of War--Advance of my Turkish Friends on
Kamara--Visitors to the Camp--Miss Nightingale--Mons.
Soyer and the Cholera--Summer in the Crimea--"Thirsty
Souls"--Death busy in the Trenches 146


Under Fire on the fatal 18th of June--Before the
Redan--At the Cemetery--The Armistice--Deaths at
Head-quarters--Depression in the Camp--Plenty in the
Crimea--The Plague of Flies--Under Fire at the Battle
of the Tchernaya--Work on the Field--My Patients 154


Inside Sebastopol--The Last Bombardment of Sebastopol--On
Cathcart's Hill--Rumours in the Camp--The Attack on the
Malakhoff--The Old Work again--A Sunday Excursion--Inside
"Our" City--I am taken for a Spy, and thereat lose my
Temper--I Visit the Redan, etc.--My Share of the Plunder 167


Holiday in the Camp--A New Enemy, Time--Amusements in
the Crimea--My share in them--Dinner at Spring Hill--At
the Races--Christmas Day in the British Hotel--New
Year's Day in the Hospital 177


New Year in the Crimea--Good News--The Armistice--Barter
with the Russians--War and Peace--Tidings of Peace--Excursions
into the Interior of the Crimea--To Simpheropol,
Baktchiserai, etc.--The Troops begin to leave the
Crimea--Friends' Farewells--The Cemeteries--We remove
from Spring Hill to Balaclava--Alarming Sacrifice of our
Stock--A last Glimpse of Sebastopol--Home! 188

Conclusion 197




I was born in the town of Kingston, in the island of Jamaica, some
time in the present century. As a female, and a widow, I may be well
excused giving the precise date of this important event. But I do not
mind confessing that the century and myself were both young together,
and that we have grown side by side into age and consequence. I am a
Creole, and have good Scotch blood coursing in my veins. My father was
a soldier, of an old Scotch family; and to him I often trace my
affection for a camp-life, and my sympathy with what I have heard my
friends call "the pomp, pride, and circumstance of glorious war." Many
people have also traced to my Scotch blood that energy and activity
which are not always found in the Creole race, and which have carried
me to so many varied scenes: and perhaps they are right. I have often
heard the term "lazy Creole" applied to my country people; but I am
sure I do not know what it is to be indolent. All my life long I have
followed the impulse which led me to be up and doing; and so far from
resting idle anywhere, I have never wanted inclination to rove, nor
will powerful enough to find a way to carry out my wishes. That these
qualities have led me into many countries, and brought me into some
strange and amusing adventures, the reader, if he or she has the
patience to get through this book, will see. Some people, indeed, have
called me quite a female Ulysses. I believe that they intended it as a
compliment; but from my experience of the Greeks, I do not consider it
a very flattering one.

It is not my intention to dwell at any length upon the recollections
of my childhood. My mother kept a boarding-house in Kingston, and was,
like very many of the Creole women, an admirable doctress; in high
repute with the officers of both services, and their wives, who were
from time to time stationed at Kingston. It was very natural that I
should inherit her tastes; and so I had from early youth a yearning
for medical knowledge and practice which has never deserted me. When I
was a very young child I was taken by an old lady, who brought me up
in her household among her own grandchildren, and who could scarcely
have shown me more kindness had I been one of them; indeed, I was so
spoiled by my kind patroness that, but for being frequently with my
mother, I might very likely have grown up idle and useless. But I saw
so much of her, and of her patients, that the ambition to become a
doctress early took firm root in my mind; and I was very young when I
began to make use of the little knowledge I had acquired from watching
my mother, upon a great sufferer--my doll. I have noticed always what
actors children are. If you leave one alone in a room, how soon it
clears a little stage; and, making an audience out of a few chairs and
stools, proceeds to act its childish griefs and blandishments upon its
doll. So I also made good use of my dumb companion and confidante; and
whatever disease was most prevalent in Kingston, be sure my poor doll
soon contracted it. I have had many medical triumphs in later days,
and saved some valuable lives; but I really think that few have given
me more real gratification than the rewarding glow of health which my
fancy used to picture stealing over my patient's waxen face after long
and precarious illness.

Before long it was very natural that I should seek to extend my
practice; and so I found other patients in the dogs and cats around
me. Many luckless brutes were made to simulate diseases which were
raging among their owners, and had forced down their reluctant throats
the remedies which I deemed most likely to suit their supposed
complaints. And after a time I rose still higher in my ambition; and
despairing of finding another human patient, I proceeded to try my
simples and essences upon--myself.

When I was about twelve years old I was more frequently at my mother's
house, and used to assist her in her duties; very often sharing with
her the task of attending upon invalid officers or their wives, who
came to her house from the adjacent camp at Up-Park, or the military
station at Newcastle.

As I grew into womanhood, I began to indulge that longing to travel
which will never leave me while I have health and vigour. I was never
weary of tracing upon an old map the route to England; and never
followed with my gaze the stately ships homeward bound without longing
to be in them, and see the blue hills of Jamaica fade into the
distance. At that time it seemed most improbable that these girlish
wishes should be gratified; but circumstances, which I need not
explain, enabled me to accompany some relatives to England while I was
yet a very young woman.

I shall never forget my first impressions of London. Of course, I am
not going to bore the reader with them; but they are as vivid now as
though the year 18-- (I had very nearly let my age slip then) had not
been long ago numbered with the past. Strangely enough, some of the
most vivid of my recollections are the efforts of the London
street-boys to poke fun at my and my companion's complexion. I am only
a little brown--a few shades duskier than the brunettes whom you all
admire so much; but my companion was very dark, and a fair (if I can
apply the term to her) subject for their rude wit. She was
hot-tempered, poor thing! and as there were no policemen to awe the
boys and turn our servants' heads in those days, our progress through
the London streets was sometimes a rather chequered one.

I remained in England, upon the occasion of my first visit, about a
year; and then returned to Kingston. Before long I again started for
London, bringing with me this time a large stock of West Indian
preserves and pickles for sale. After remaining two years here, I
again started home; and on the way my life and adventures were very
nearly brought to a premature conclusion. Christmas-day had been kept
very merrily on board our ship the "Velusia;" and on the following day
a fire broke out in the hold. I dare say it would have resisted all
the crew's efforts to put it out, had not another ship appeared in
sight; upon which the fire quietly allowed itself to be extinguished.
Although considerably alarmed, I did not lose my senses; but during
the time when the contest between fire and water was doubtful, I
entered into an amicable arrangement with the ship's cook, whereby, in
consideration of two pounds--which I was not, however, to pay until
the crisis arrived--he agreed to lash me on to a large hen-coop.

Before I had been long in Jamaica I started upon other trips, many of
them undertaken with a view to gain. Thus I spent some time in New
Providence, bringing home with me a large collection of handsome
shells and rare shell-work, which created quite a sensation in
Kingston, and had a rapid sale; I visited also Hayti and Cuba. But I
hasten onward in my narrative.

Returned to Kingston, I nursed my old indulgent patroness in her last
long illness. After she died, in my arms, I went to my mother's house,
where I stayed, making myself useful in a variety of ways, and
learning a great deal of Creole medicinal art, until I couldn't find
courage to say "no" to a certain arrangement timidly proposed by Mr.
Seacole, but married him, and took him down to Black River, where we
established a store. Poor man! he was very delicate; and before I
undertook the charge of him, several doctors had expressed most
unfavourable opinions of his health. I kept him alive by kind nursing
and attention as long as I could; but at last he grew so ill that we
left Black River, and returned to my mother's house at Kingston.
Within a month of our arrival there he died. This was my first great
trouble, and I felt it bitterly. For days I never stirred--lost to all
that passed around me in a dull stupor of despair. If you had told me
that the time would soon come when I should remember this sorrow
calmly, I should not have believed it possible: and yet it was so. I
do not think that we hot-blooded Creoles sorrow less for showing it so
impetuously; but I do think that the sharp edge of our grief wears
down sooner than theirs who preserve an outward demeanour of calmness,
and nurse their woe secretly in their hearts.



I had one other great grief to master--the loss of my mother, and then
I was left alone to battle with the world as best I might. The
struggles which it cost me to succeed in life were sometimes very
trying; nor have they ended yet. But I have always turned a bold front
to fortune, and taken, and shall continue to take, as my brave friends
in the army and navy have shown me how, "my hurts before." Although it
was no easy thing for a widow to make ends meet, I never allowed
myself to know what repining or depression was, and so succeeded in
gaining not only my daily bread, but many comforts besides from the
beginning. Indeed, my experience of the world--it is not finished yet,
but I do not think it will give me reason to change my opinion--leads
me to the conclusion that it is by no means the hard bad world which
some selfish people would have us believe it. It may be as my editor

"That gently comes the world to those
That are cast in gentle mould;"

hinting at the same time, politely, that the rule may apply to me
personally. And perhaps he is right, for although I was always a
hearty, strong woman--plain-spoken people might say stout--I think my
heart is soft enough.

How slowly and gradually I succeeded in life, need not be told at
length. My fortunes underwent the variations which befall all.
Sometimes I was rich one day, and poor the next. I never thought too
exclusively of money, believing rather that we were born to be happy,
and that the surest way to be wretched is to prize it overmuch. Had I
done so, I should have mourned over many a promising speculation
proving a failure, over many a pan of preserves or guava jelly burnt
in the making; and perhaps lost my mind when the great fire of 1843,
which devastated Kingston, burnt down my poor home. As it was, I very
nearly lost my life, for I would not leave my house until every chance
of saving it had gone, and it was wrapped in flames. But, of course, I
set to work again in a humbler way, and rebuilt my house by degrees,
and restocked it, succeeding better than before; for I had gained a
reputation as a skilful nurse and doctress, and my house was always
full of invalid officers and their wives from Newcastle, or the
adjacent Up-Park Camp. Sometimes I had a naval or military surgeon
under my roof, from whom I never failed to glean instruction, given,
when they learned my love for their profession, with a readiness and
kindness I am never likely to forget. Many of these kind friends are
alive now. I met with some when my adventures had carried me to the
battle-fields of the Crimea; and to those whose eyes may rest upon
these pages I again offer my acknowledgments for their past kindness,
which helped me to be useful to my kind in many lands.

And here I may take the opportunity of explaining that it was from a
confidence in my own powers, and not at all from necessity, that I
remained an unprotected female. Indeed, I do not mind confessing to my
reader, in a friendly confidential way, that one of the hardest
struggles of my life in Kingston was to resist the pressing candidates
for the late Mr. Seacole's shoes.

Officers of high rank sometimes took up their abode in my house.
Others of inferior rank were familiar with me, long before their
bravery, and, alas! too often death, in the Crimea, made them world
famous. There were few officers of the 97th to whom Mother Seacole was
not well known, before she joined them in front of Sebastopol; and
among the best known was good-hearted, loveable, noble H---- V----,
whose death shocked me so terribly, and with whose useful heroic life
the English public have become so familiar. I can hear the ring of his
boyish laughter even now.

In the year 1850, the cholera swept over the island of Jamaica with
terrible force. Our idea--perhaps an unfounded one--was, that a
steamer from New Orleans was the means of introducing it into the
island. Anyhow, they sent some clothes on shore to be washed, and poor
Dolly Johnson, the washerwoman, whom we all knew, sickened and died of
the terrible disease. While the cholera raged, I had but too many
opportunities of watching its nature, and from a Dr. B----, who was
then lodging in my house, received many hints as to its treatment
which I afterwards found invaluable.

Early in the same year my brother had left Kingston for the Isthmus of
Panama, then the great high-road to and from golden California, where
he had established a considerable store and hotel. Ever since he had
done so, I had found some difficulty in checking my reviving
disposition to roam, and at last persuading myself that I might be of
use to him (he was far from strong), I resigned my house into the
hands of a cousin, and made arrangements to journey to Chagres. Having
come to this conclusion, I allowed no grass to grow beneath my feet,
but set to work busily, for I was not going to him empty-handed. My
house was full for weeks, of tailors, making up rough coats, trousers,
etc., and sempstresses cutting out and making shirts. In addition to
these, my kitchen was filled with busy people, manufacturing
preserves, guava jelly, and other delicacies, while a considerable sum
was invested in the purchase of preserved meats, vegetables, and eggs.
It will be as well, perhaps, if I explain, in as few words as
possible, the then condition of the Isthmus of Panama.

All my readers must know--a glance at the map will show it to those
who do not--that between North America and the envied shores of
California stretches a little neck of land, insignificant-looking
enough on the map, dividing the Atlantic from the Pacific. By crossing
this, the travellers from America avoided a long, weary, and dangerous
sea voyage round Cape Horn, or an almost impossible journey by land.

But that journey across the Isthmus, insignificant in distance as it
was, was by no means an easy one. It seemed as if nature had
determined to throw every conceivable obstacle in the way of those who
should seek to join the two great oceans of the world. I have read and
heard many accounts of old endeavours to effect this important and
gigantic work, and how miserably they failed. It was reserved for the
men of our age to accomplish what so many had died in attempting, and
iron and steam, twin giants, subdued to man's will, have put a girdle
over rocks and rivers, so that travellers can glide as smoothly, if
not as inexpensively, over the once terrible Isthmus of Darien, as
they can from London to Brighton. Not yet, however, does civilization,
rule at Panama. The weak sway of the New Granada Republic, despised by
lawless men, and respected by none, is powerless to control the refuse
of every nation which meet together upon its soil. Whenever they feel
inclined now they overpower the law easily; but seven years ago, when
I visited the Isthmus of Panama, things were much worse, and a licence
existed, compared to which the present lawless state of affairs is

When, after passing Chagres, an old-world, tumble-down town, for about
seven miles, the steamer reached Navy Bay, I thought I had never seen
a more luckless, dreary spot. Three sides of the place were a mere
swamp, and the town itself stood upon a sand-reef, the houses being
built upon piles, which some one told me rotted regularly every three
years. The railway, which now connects the bay with Panama, was then
building, and ran, as far as we could see, on piles, connected with
the town by a wooden jetty. It seemed as capital a nursery for ague
and fever as Death could hit upon anywhere, and those on board the
steamer who knew it confirmed my opinion. As we arrived a steady
down-pour of rain was falling from an inky sky; the white men who met
us on the wharf appeared ghostly and wraith-like, and the very negroes
seemed pale and wan. The news which met us did not tempt me to lose
any time in getting up the country to my brother. According to all
accounts, fever and ague, with some minor diseases, especially dropsy,
were having it all their own way at Navy Bay, and, although I only
stayed one night in the place, my medicine chest was called into
requisition. But the sufferers wanted remedies which I could not give
them--warmth, nourishment, and fresh air. Beneath leaky tents, damp
huts, and even under broken railway waggons, I saw men dying from
sheer exhaustion. Indeed, I was very glad when, with the morning, the
crowd, as the Yankees called the bands of pilgrims to and from
California, made ready to ascend to Panama.

The first stage of our journey was by railway to Gatun, about twelve
miles distant. For the greater portion of that distance the lines ran
on piles, over as unhealthy and wretched a country as the eye could
well grow weary of; but, at last, the country improved, and you caught
glimpses of distant hills and English-like scenery. Every mile of that
fatal railway cost the world thousands of lives. I was assured that
its site was marked thickly by graves, and that so great was the
mortality among the labourers that three times the survivors struck in
a body, and their places had to be supplied by fresh victims from
America, tempted by unheard-of rates of wages. It is a gigantic
undertaking, and shows what the energy and enterprise of man can
accomplish. Everything requisite for its construction, even the
timber, had to be prepared in, and brought from, America.

The railway then ran no further than Gatun, and here we were to take
water and ascend the River Chagres to Gorgona, the next stage on the
way to Cruces, where my brother was. The cars landed us at the bottom
of a somewhat steep cutting through a reddish clay, and deposited me
and my suite, consisting of a black servant, named "Mac," and a little
girl, in safety in the midst of my many packages, not altogether
satisfied with my prospects; for the rain was falling heavily and
steadily, and the Gatun porters were possessing themselves of my
luggage with that same avidity which distinguishes their brethren on
the pier of Calais or the quays of Pera. There are two species of
individuals whom I have found alike wherever my travels have carried
me--the reader can guess their professions--porters and lawyers.

It was as much as I could do to gather my packages together, sit in
the midst with a determined look to awe the hungry crowd around me,
and send "Mac" up the steep slippery bank to report progress. After a
little while he returned to say that the river-side was not far off,
where boats could be hired for the upward journey. The word given, the
porters threw themselves upon my packages; a pitched battle ensued,
out of which issued the strongest Spanish Indians, with their hardly
earned prizes, and we commenced the ascent of the clayey bank. Now,
although the surveyors of the Darien highways had considerately cut
steps up the steep incline, they had become worse than useless, so I
floundered about terribly, more than once losing my footing
altogether. And as with that due regard to personal appearance, which
I have always deemed a duty as well as a pleasure to study, I had,
before leaving Navy Bay, attired myself in a delicate light blue
dress, a white bonnet prettily trimmed, and an equally chaste shawl,
the reader can sympathise with my distress. However, I gained the
summit, and after an arduous descent, of a few minutes duration,
reached the river-side; in a most piteous plight, however, for my
pretty dress, from its contact with the Gatun clay, looked as red as
if, in the pursuit of science, I had passed it through a strong
solution of muriatic acid.

By the water-side I found my travelling companions arguing angrily
with the shrewd boatmen, and bating down their fares. Upon collecting
my luggage, I found, as I had expected, that the porters had not
neglected the glorious opportunity of robbing a woman, and that
several articles were missing. Complaints, I knew, would not avail me,
and stronger measures seemed hazardous and barely advisable in a
lawless out-of-the-way spot, where

"The simple plan,
That they should take who have the power,
And they should keep who can,"

seemed universally practised, and would very likely have been defended
by its practitioners upon principle.

It was not so easy to hire a boat as I had been led to expect. The
large crowd had made the boatmen somewhat exorbitant in their demands,
and there were several reasons why I should engage one for my own
exclusive use, instead of sharing one with some of my travelling
companions. In the first place, my luggage was somewhat bulky; and, in
the second place, my experience of travel had not failed to teach me
that Americans (even from the Northern States) are always
uncomfortable in the company of coloured people, and very often show
this feeling in stronger ways than by sour looks and rude words. I
think, if I have a little prejudice against our cousins across the
Atlantic--and I do confess to a little--it is not unreasonable. I have
a few shades of deeper brown upon my skin which shows me related--and
I am proud of the relationship--to those poor mortals whom you once
held enslaved, and whose bodies America still owns. And having this
bond, and knowing what slavery is; having seen with my eyes and heard
with my ears proof positive enough of its horrors--let others affect
to doubt them if they will--is it surprising that I should be somewhat
impatient of the airs of superiority which many Americans have
endeavoured to assume over me? Mind, I am not speaking of all. I have
met with some delightful exceptions.

At length I succeeded in hiring a boat for the modest consideration of
ten pounds, to carry me and my fortunes to Cruces. My boat was far
from uncomfortable. Large and flat-bottomed, with an awning, dirty it
must be confessed, beneath which swung a hammock, of which I took
immediate possession. By the way, the Central Americans should adopt
the hammock as their national badge; but for sheer necessity they
would never leave it. The master of the boat, the padrone, was a fine
tall negro, his crew were four common enough specimens of humanity,
with a marked disregard of the prejudices of society with respect to
clothing. A dirty handkerchief rolled over the head, and a wisp of
something, which might have been linen, bound round the loins, formed
their attire. Perhaps, however, the thick coating of dirt which
covered them kept them warmer than more civilized clothing, besides
being indisputably more economical.

The boat was generally propelled by paddles, but when the river was
shallow, poles were used to punt us along, as on English rivers; the
black padrone, whose superior position was indicated by the use of
decent clothing, standing at the helm, gesticulating wildly, and
swearing Spanish oaths with a vehemence that would have put Corporal
Trim's comrades in Flanders to the blush. Very much shocked, of
course, but finding it perfectly useless to remonstrate with him, I
swung myself in my hammock and leisurely watched the river scene.

The river Chagres lolled with considerable force, now between low
marshy shores, now narrowing, between steep, thickly wooded banks. It
was liable, as are all rivers in hilly districts, to sudden and heavy
floods; and although the padrone, on leaving Gatun, had pledged his
soul to land me at Cruces that night, I had not been long afloat
before I saw that he would forfeit his worthless pledge; for the wind
rose to a gale, ruffling the river here and there into a little sea;
the rain came down in torrents, while the river rose rapidly, bearing
down on its swollen stream trunks of trees, and similar waifs and
strays, which it tossed about like a giant in sport, threatening to
snag us with its playthings every moment. And when we came to a
sheltered reach, and found that the little fleet of boats which had
preceded us had laid to there, I came to the conclusion that, stiff,
tired, and hungry, I should have to pass a night upon the river
Chagres. All I could get to eat was some guavas, which grew wild upon
the banks, and then I watched the padrone curl his long body up among
my luggage, and listened to the crew, who had rolled together at the
bottom of the boat, snore as peacefully as if they slept between fair
linen sheets, in the purest of calico night-gear, and the most
unexceptionable of nightcaps, until somehow I fell into a troubled,
dreamy sleep.

At daybreak we were enabled to pursue our journey, and in a short time
reached Gorgona. I was glad enough to go on shore, as you may imagine.
Gorgona was a mere temporary town of bamboo and wood houses, hastily
erected to serve as a station for the crowd. In the present rainy
season, when the river was navigable up to Cruces, the chief part of
the population migrated thither, so that Gorgona was almost deserted,
and looked indescribably damp, dirty, and dull. With some difficulty I
found a bakery and a butcher's shop. The meat was not very tempting,
for the Gorgona butchers did not trouble themselves about joints, but
cut the flesh into strips about three inches wide, and of various
lengths. These were hung upon rails, so that you bought your meat by
the yard, and were spared any difficulty in the choice of joint. I
cannot say that I was favourably impressed with this novel and simple
way of avoiding trouble, but I was far too hungry to be particular,
and buying a strip for a quarter of a real, carried it off to Mac to

Late that afternoon, the padrone and his crew landed me, tired,
wretched, and out of temper, upon the miserable wharf of Cruces.



The sympathising reader, who very likely has been laughing heartily at
my late troubles, can fancy that I was looking forward with no little
pleasurable anticipation to reaching my brother's cheerful home at
Cruces. After the long night spent on board the wretched boat in my
stiff, clayey dress, and the hours of fasting, the warmth and good
cheer of the Independent Hotel could not fail to be acceptable. My
brother met me on the rickety wharf with the kindest welcome in his
face, although he did not attempt to conceal a smile at my forlorn
appearance, and giving the necessary instructions about my luggage,
led the way at once to his house, which was situated at the upper end
of the street. A capital site, he said, when the rest of the town was
under water--which agreeable variety occurred twice or thrice a year
unexpectedly. On our way, he rather damped my hopes by expressing his
fears that he should be unable to provide his sister with the
accommodation he could wish. For you see, he said, the crowd from
Panama has just come in, meeting your crowd from Navy Bay; and I
shouldn't be at all surprised if very many of them have no better bed
than the store floors. But, despite this warning, I was miserably
unprepared for the reception that awaited me. To be sure, I found
Cruces as like Gorgona, in its dampness, dirt, and confusion, as it
well could be; but the crowd from the gold-fields of California had
just arrived, having made the journey from Panama on mules, and the
street was filled with motley groups in picturesque variety of attire.
The hotels were also full of them, while many lounged in the verandahs
after their day's journey. Rude, coarse gold-diggers, in gay-coloured
shirts, and long, serviceable boots, elbowed, in perfect equality,
keen Yankee speculators, as close shaven, neat, and clean on the
Isthmus of Panama as in the streets of New York or New Orleans. The
women alone kept aloof from each other, and well they might; for,
while a very few seemed not ashamed of their sex, it was somewhat
difficult to distinguish the majority from their male companions, save
by their bolder and more reckless voice and manner. I must say,
however, that many of them adopted male attire for the journey across
the Isthmus only, as it spared them many compliments which their
husbands were often disposed to resent, however flattering they might
be to their choice.

Through all these I pressed on, stiff, cold, and hungry, to the
Independent Hotel, eagerly anticipating the comforts which awaited me
there. At length we reached it. But, rest! warmth! comfort!--miserable
delusions! Picture to yourself, sympathising reader, a long, low hut,
built of rough, unhewn, unplaned logs, filled up with mud and split
bamboo; a long, sloping roof and a large verandah, already full of
visitors. And the interior: a long room, gaily hung with dirty
calico, in stripes of red and white; above it another room, in which
the guests slept, having the benefit of sharing in any orgies which
might be going on below them, through the broad chinks between the
rough, irregular planks which formed its floor. At the further end, a
small corner, partitioned roughly off, formed a bar, and around it
were shelves laden with stores for the travellers, while behind it was
a little room used by my brother as his private apartment; but three
female travellers had hired it for their own especial use for the
night, paying the enormous sum of £10 for so exclusive a luxury. At
the entrance sat a black man, taking toll of the comers-in, giving
them in exchange for coin or gold-dust (he had a rusty pair of scales
to weigh the latter) a dirty ticket, which guaranteed them supper, a
night's lodging, and breakfast. I saw all this very quickly, and
turned round upon my brother in angry despair.

"What am I to do? Why did you ever bring me to this place? See what a
state I am in--cold, hungry, and wretched. I want to wash, to change
my clothes, to eat, to----"

But poor Edward could only shrug his shoulders and shake his head, in
answer to my indignant remonstrances. At last he made room for me in a
corner of the crowded bar, set before me some food, and left me to
watch the strange life I had come to; and before long I soon forgot my
troubles in the novelty of my position.

The difference between the passengers to and from California was very
distinguishable. Those bound for the gold country were to a certain
extent fresh from civilization, and had scarcely thrown off its
control; whereas the homeward bound revelled in disgusting excess of
licence. Although many of the women on their way to California showed
clearly enough that the life of licence they sought would not be
altogether unfamiliar to them, they still retained some appearance of
decency in their attire and manner; but in many cases (as I have
before said) the female companions of the successful gold-diggers
appeared in no hurry to resume the dress or obligations of their sex.
Many were clothed as the men were, in flannel shirt and boots; rode
their mules in unfeminine fashion, but with much ease and courage; and
in their conversation successfully rivalled the coarseness of their
lords. I think, on the whole, that those French lady writers who
desire to enjoy the privileges of man, with the irresponsibility of
the other sex, would have been delighted with the disciples who were
carrying their principles into practice in the streets of Cruces.

The chief object of all the travellers seemed to be dinner or supper;
I do not know what term they gave it. Down the entire length of the
Independent Hotel ran a table covered with a green oilskin cloth, and
at proper intervals were placed knives and forks, plates, and cups and
saucers turned down; and when a new-comer received his ticket, and
wished to secure his place for the coming repast, he would turn his
plate, cup, and saucer up; which mode of reserving seats seemed
respected by the rest. And as the evening wore on, the shouting and
quarrelling at the doorway in Yankee twang increased momentarily;
while some seated themselves at the table, and hammering upon it with
the handles of their knives, hallooed out to the excited nigger cooks
to make haste with the slapjack. Amidst all this confusion, my
brother was quietly selling shirts, boots, trousers, etc., to the
travellers; while above all the din could be heard the screaming
voices of his touters without, drawing attention to the good cheer of
the Independent Hotel. Over and over again, while I cowered in my snug
corner, wishing to avoid the notice of all, did I wish myself safe
back in my pleasant home in Kingston; but it was too late to find out
my mistake now.

At last the table was nearly filled with a motley assemblage of men
and women, and the slapjack, hot and steaming, was carried in by the
black cooks. The hungry diners welcomed its advent with a shout of
delight; and yet it did not seem particularly tempting. But beyond all
doubt it was a capital _pièce de résistance_ for great eaters; and
before the dinner was over, I saw ample reasons to induce any
hotel-keeper to give it his patronage. In truth, it was a thick
substantial pancake of flour, salt, and water--eggs were far too
expensive to be used in its composition; and by the time the supply
had disappeared, I thought the largest appetites must have been

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