Page images
PDF
EPUB

versaries, as occasion required, to the natural defences of rocks and trees. During this contest a body of armed slaves, called black shot, usually attended the expeditions of the whites ; they behaved with great fidelity, and were wonderfully useful, as an advance guard, in scouring the woods, and discovering the retreats of the Ma

roons.

It is here to be remarked, that the militia cavalry were, during this contest, found unfit for other use than carrying dispatches; and against a regular enemy it is feared it would be found little formidable. The horses are not at all trained for the purpose; they are not even accustomed to stand a close fire, and are therefore little calculated to make an impression on regular troops. General Nugent, one day, after reviewing a battalion of militia infantry, sent an aid-de-camp to the officer of a troop of militia horse, then drawn up in the field, desiring him to make a charge, and perform some other cavalry maneuvres. The officer very wisely desired the aid-de-camp to inform his excellency, that " he was afraid his troop was incompetent to the task.If it is asked when this corps was raised, it may be replied fifty years ago for aught the author knows to the contrary,

[ocr errors]

CHAPTER VII.

Quadrupeds. Reptiles, &c.-Birds.-Fishes.

Domestic animals.- Observations on the alligator and the shark.

NATURE has been most bountiful in bestowing on this country an astonishing variety of her finest and most envied productions. Though a considerable portion of these have been transplanted from other regions, yet has she given a soil and climate which is productive of, and congenial to, the support of those strangers ; so that they are become naturalized to this second home, and now all its own. In this and the succeeding chapter will be given a brief sketch of those productions, both animal and vegetable.

To begin with the animal creation : There are here few wild quadrupeds ; in former times the woods are said to have abounded with a species of the monkey, but none are now to be found. The wild hog is still to be found in great numbers in the remote woods, where they are occasionally hunted. Hunting the wild boar was a favourite diversion here, both to the hardy active Creole whites of the interior, and to the Maroons. It is not now so often practised, these animals having retired far back into the

woods; so that when their flesh is desired for a barbecue (considered as a great delicacy here, being the hog's flesh smoked with a certain odoriferous wood, which communicates to it a peculiar flavour), negroes are usually sent in quest of them. The wild boar is hunted with dogs, who keep him at bay while the huntsmen take aim at him with their guns; the dogs durst not approach hiin, he is so fierce and terrible in his attacks ; with his monstrous tusks he would soon annihilate them, did they venture to encounter him too closely. It is supposed that the wild hog of Jamaica is not an original native of the island, but a descendant from those which the first discoverers and others may have left there. There are no other wild quadrupeds in the island that deserve notice. Rats, mice, lizards, &c. may, indeed, be enumerated as such; the former is a too conspicuous animal, much to the annoyance and injury of the country; they are most numerous and destructive, particularly to the sugar cane; in some years whole fields of this plant are as completely destroyed by this voracious animal as if a blight had alighted on them. One year with another it is supposed that the estates sustain, by this unavoidable plunder, at least a loss of eight or ten hogsheads of sugar, for every hundred they make. Innumerable traps are set, and packs of small terriers are daily employed, to extirpate this enemy of the vegetable creation; but though incredible numbers are continually destroyed (fifty thousand are caught or killed on some properties annually), yet no sensible diminution of their numbers takes place. They are of a much larger size than the European rat, particularly that species of thein called by the negroes racoon: on trying the experiment of putting one of these and a cat together, the latter turned from it dismayed. As for lizards (which should more properly be classed with the reptile race), they are a harmless animal themselves, but are preyed on by numerous inveterate enemies. Snakes and owls are the most formidable assailants of these poor animals, as they are also of the rats. There are four or five different species of the snake in Jamaica; the two principal of which are the yellow and the black snake. None of them are venomous, instances having often taken place of negroes having been bitten by them, without suffering any other consequence than a temporary pain and inflammation, and swelling of the part, and sometimes a slight degree of fever. It may, indeed, be questioned, whatever terrible tales

may be told of the serpent kind, whether there are any of them that are absolutely mortal in their bite; at least, any to' whose bite there is not an effectual antidote or remedy: little more is necessary, as such, to the bite of the West India snake than a fomentation of the part with sweet oil, or warm lime-juice, and extracting the tooth

if it has been left in the flesh. Some of the yellow snakes grow to the length of ten feet; the black snake is not above half that size. The yellow snake is a most indolent animal, and will suffer a person to come up close to it, if coiled up and reposing itself as it is very fond of doing, and even touch it, without making any effort to move; it is only when casually trodden upon and bruised, that it will prove hostile; but even then it will glide hastily off, if the person springs from its entanglement. The author recollects an instance of one of the largest size having got, in the night, through a jealousie into a gentleman's bed-room, where it crawled up on the bed, and coiling itself on the bed-clothes, fell very contentedly asleep. On awaking in the morning, the gentleman feeling something heavy pres3 upon him, lifted up his head, and was electrified with terror at the sight of a monstrous snake which had been his bed-fellow all the night. . His situation may easily be conceived; he durst neither move nor- call for assistance : at length, the negro servants, finding that he did not come out at the accustomed tiine, looked through the jealousies, and saw the cause, the musquito-net of the bed happening to be up. They soon got the door opened, and relieved the gentleman from his purgatory by killing the snake. This animal is so incredibly strong that the united strength of four negroes cannot draw one of moderate size

« PreviousContinue »