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Martinique

Passing the bluff point I have just mentioned, we are sailing near the land, and can now distinguish its features more particularly. The coast then winds along, formed of hills, of a pretty considerable height – and this is its character for a few miles – when it turns inland to form one side of a Bay, whilst the other is constituted by land considerably more level, richly cultivated, and as it retires back, rising gradually till it terminates in one large high hill. This very fine Bay is called Fort Royal Bay. Here the Mail used to be landed but now, stretching across the entrance of this splendid recess, we continued our course along the coast, the Town of S.t Pierre being distant about 15 miles. We were now exceedingly anxious to increase our speed, in order to land our Mail before night – but the wind was perversely light, as if determined to let us gaze our fill at the shore, and disappoint us in seeing the Town. From the Bay of Fort Royal to the cape round which we go to the capital of the Island (distant from it about three or four miles) the country is composed of long ridges, the slopes of which are cultivated. The great amount of wood is here much neglected in consequence of its being necessary to clear the ground previous to cultivation. All along here, and also which I forgot to mention, in the Fort Royal Bay, there are to be seen large clusters of houses, scattered very picturesquely here and there, at the sea shore, and at the summit of the hills – and around these are detached patches of cultivated ground, with large plantations.

Darkness now coming on rapidly and with very light winds, the captain determined to send the gig with the Mail. At my request I was allowed to accompany the Master, as was also M.r Alfred Snell. The night was lovely – the Moon shone high and bright in the heavens, and the mellow soft light cast an air of softness and beauty of the land near which we were. We were upwards of three miles from our landing place – a distance very considerable to be accomplished by rowing. This however we did not mind – as there was novelty and excitement to counterbalance all. The laugh, the jest went round – the length of the way was beguiled by spinning long yarns – while I and other lovers of the smoky weed puffed and puffed away contentedly, only now and then removing the beloved cigar from the fond compulsive grasp of the drawn lips, to interpose a word or two by way of explanation, correction, or improvement. Truly I should always recommend a person to become a smoker, particularly if he is solitary and impatient – it soothes the troubled spirits – it is a companion in solitude – a social member of a company – an alleviator of grief and an enhancer of joy.

In this way we proceeded very comfortably, till we recognized very faintly in the moonlight, the white buildings of S.te Pierre. We were now rowing so close to the shore, that we could hear the gabble of the women, and the boisterous mirth of the men, and even distinguish their dark figures as they moved along the white beach. Our ears also were saluted by constant, unvarying, and annoying chirp of the numerous lizards which were among the grass & wood. This was certainly the least pleasant of the two _____ [sounds ?].

As the progress of time will bring about events however remote – so was it with us, when we at 7 landed on the beach, having in vain looked out for the guard boat, to which according to our instructions, our first visit should have been paid. Very few vessels were in the harbour – but these seemed to be of a large class. The beach where we disembarked had no recommendations of convenience or cleanliness – along it, as far as I could see, & not far up, a range of houses extended, apparently of an humbler description than the rest.

Under the guidance of a black-guard, we passed up a short lane and came into the principal street. From what I could perceive of it by several lamps, hung in the centre of the street, from a cord passing from one side to the other, I was highly delighted with the result, and fully disposed to agree with those who call S.t Pierre the Metropolis of the West India Islands. The streets are admirably paved, with an excellent footpath, and abundance of fresh water, running thro’. I was no less pleased with the houses. They are I think of two or three stories, excellently built of stone. Below on the ground floor are the substantial & handsome stores, shut in at night, by strong iron cased doors, of an arched form. On the second floor, handsome balconies project beyond many of the windows – and the rooms appear by the elegance of some I saw thro’ the open windows, to be for the reception of company. I can only speak of one house in particular, and that was where the Mail was delivered. I there saw a lofty hall paved with marble, and also a very large room also paved the same material. I am exceedingly sorry that we have arrived here at night. There is no place I have yet seen in West India to which I would for a moment compare it – not I mean in regard of extent for of that I know nothing – but merely of appearance. The French assuredly far outstrip us in this – and I have heard a reason assigned, which I consider to be a very plausible one. It is said that when a Frenchman leaves his native country to settle abroad, his resolution is taken to spend his life there, without picturing to himself the hope of return to natal land. The consequence of such a resolution is obvious. When he builds – or plants – or engages in any undertaking necessary for his comfort or convenience, he does so effectually. In regard to his house, he builds it substantially and enters into a heavy expence to render it commodious and elegant – as it is to be his abiding abode, and the inheritance of his children and grandchildren. On the contrary very few Englishmen ever go abroad with the express view of making any foreign place their permanent residence. However long they may be away, they fondly look forward to the day, when, having served a competence, they may return to spend the remainder of their life – and after that lay their bones in the land of their fathers. Hence it is, that their houses abroad are not so good – substantial or elegant, as they would think it indispensable to be, were they resolved that they & their descendants were to occupy them permanently.

Whether this mode of accounting for the difference between S.t Pierre, and the English Towns in the West Indies be true or not - yet the fact is undoubted that there is a great superiority in the outward dwellings of our gallic neighbours.

I have heard much from our passengers respecting S.t Pierre, and all have joined in praising it. Among other circumstances related respecting it is that Duelling prevails there to a very great extent – to an extent indeed as to render the place notorious. The English at present are in particular bad odour here at present and no occasion is left unsought for a quarrel & its sequent duel. Not more than a month or two ago, the Protector of Slaves at S.t Lucia paid a visit to this Island. On the very day of his arrival, a French planter, purposely insulted him, which led to a duel, in which the rascally Frenchman, dangerously wounded his antagonist.

Martinique has been long celebrated for its liqueurs – its noyan [?] in particular, but I must take this reputation on trust, as I did [not] trie them myself.

Having concluded our duty with the Post Master, or rather letter receiver, we left S.t Pierre at 10 P.M., and fortunately the moonlight still favouring us, and the breeze being light, we soon pulled off to our vessel, which had tacked towards the shore. As soon [as] we were on board, the gig being hoisted up, all sail was made for our next Port in the Island of Dominique or Dominica.