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Houses, and their interior economy.-Furni
ture.--Servants and equipage.--Entertainments.-Manner of spending time.-Visits, &c.
THE houses here are in general such as have in a former chapter been described. But there are some exceptions, particularly in the country parts or interior. There are here and there modern built houses, belonging to opulent individuals, which exhibit a striking degree of magnificence, costliness, and taste. But there are also many old houses, belonging to such men, which have a very mean appearance. These are built chiefly of stone, with open piazzas, and without either sash windows or jealousies, having only vulgar-looking stanchion windows, with shutters; and in various parts of the house are loop-holes for muskets, as a defence in case of a sudden insurrection of the slaves, a danger of which the white inhabitants were formerly in perpetual apprehension. There can hardly be a doubt but that these insurrections sometimes originated in improper severities, as the present quiet and tranquil behaviour of the slaves is greatly owing to their milder treatment, and more ameliorated condition. The exterior of such dwellings dis, plays a striking contrast to the magnificence of the entertainment which usually reigns within. The Creoles are not extravagantly expensive in their furniture ; this is generally plain but genteel, Their side-boards and beaufets, however, display a costly brilliancy, in unison with the plentiful and splendid cheer which is spread on their dinner tables. In a large house, consisting of many apartments, the labour of six or eight female slaves is required for two or three hours every morning, in burnishing the foors, which for smoothness of polish rival even the finest mahogany tables. These floors are either of mahogany, wild orange, or other hard wood, and acquire at length, by this daily operation, so glossy a surface that a stranger, not accustomed to tread on such smooth ground, must be heedful how he walks, in order to avoid slipping and falling down.
About such a house, if the proprietor be wealthy, and have a large family (say ten or twelve in all), there are perhaps about twenty-five or thirty black and mulatto servants of all descriptions, including cooks, grooms, laundresses, &c. and each of the females of the family has her waiting maid, besides the domestics generally attending about the house. The employment of these servants, besides keeping the house in order, con• sists in making and mending the liousehold linen,
&c. ,running of errands, attending at table, and other such offices. A certain number, who are taught sewing, sit down on the floor, under the superintendance of the ladies, to their needle, at which they are astonishingly expert. The equipage of such a family consists of a coach, and one or two covered gigs or one-horse chaises, and fifteen or twenty horses and mules, with their proper attendants, &c. The equipage and horses, &c. may be worth about two thousand pounds sterling. When an entertainment is to be given, no expense or pains are spared to render it as sumptuous as possible. The table is spread with a profusion and variety of all the yiands and delicacies which industry or money can procure. Different courses do not come in in succession, but the table is at once loaded with superabundance; flesh, fish, fowl, game, and different vegetables appear at once to the view, in a style which rather shews the hospitality and abundance of the master or mistress of the feast, than their taste and selection. Yet here at least, whatever other sauces may give a whet to the appetite, is the zest of a free, hearty, and pndisguised welcome. After the removal of the dinner, the desert is ushered in, consisting of tarts, cakes, puddings, and a profusion of sweetmeats, which make a still more magnificent display than the dinner ; while various wines (kept cool by wet towels), liqueurs, &c. are handed round to the guests by the black attendants; who, on this occasion, appear in their newest liveries. After the desert, comes a countless variety of the choicest fruit; and, after the ladies withdraw, which is after a few toasts are given, the gentlemen sometimes smoke segars, and sip their wine, till a late hour, amid cheerful conversation and unbidden hilarity. If singing is desired, the ladies remain longer, and do not hesitate to exercise their vocal powers at the request of the company. It has been mentioned, that they have in general a fine ear, and musical toned voices. It is not to be presumed that any but the most opulent can afford this expensive display of magnificent entertainment; but all are ambitious to make a figure in this respect, and usually treat their guests much above rather than under their cir. cumstances.
The paucity of public amusements has been observed. There is little else besides assemblies and social parties, at least to the ladies, to enliven life, and throw its unvaried surface into gentle undulation; except perhaps a little harmless circulation of scandal, which, in all parts of the world, is to the fair sex a useful sort of thing, by giving an advantageous scope to the display of much untried eloquence and dormant wit; and perhaps communicating an additional zest to the tea, which their pretty lips occasionally sip, while they are dealing forth their oracular
remarks, and deep-drawn inferences. The Creole ladies are in general of a lively and social disposition, but they are not so uniformly so as the men. This may, at times, be ascribed to certain circumstances. The author has known four or five families (some of which were even distantly related) who, though residing within a mile or two of each other, never exchanged visits, nor seemed to evince the least inclination to cultivate such intimacy, though they seldom saw other company, and were not often from home! Strange infatuation of caprice, or whatever else it
may be called, which can sedulously shun the sweets of society, and court the gloom of unsocial seclusion. And yet, such is the force of habit, that this unnatural devotion to retirement will grow upon us, and be at length engrafted, as it were, upon our natures. Doctor Moore, in his journal while in France, says, , that he met with two nuns, an old one and a young one, who were in the deepest affliction at the thought of being obliged, by an order of the convention, to quit the solitude of their convent, and be restored again to society, to their friends, and the light of heaven! It must indeed be confessed, that solitude is to be preferred to certain descriptions of company; yet even from these some benefit may be derived; they may often contribute at least to give us some insight into human nature. It is pleasing to retire for a while