A MARKET WOMAN

The town of Kingston is made up of mean streets crammed with little
bungalow houses, filled to overflowing with people coloured in all the
shades of black and yellow. If the place resembles any well-known
capital it must be New York; but a New York built by children in
doll’s-house style, and painted green and white. In the manner of New
York the streets stretch to the wharves and quays of the giant harbour,
and electric tram-cars clang along the busy roads by day and night.
Electric poles stick up along the roadway in blatant disregard of the
finer feelings of romantic tourists. The shops are usually called
emporiums, and they flash with all the gaudy fitments common to the
meaner streets of New York city. Some there are that might be
English–quiet and respectable places in which the white man finds his
needs supplied by intelligent half-breeds, who do not count themselves
among the coloured class. These aristocrats among Jamaica’s shop
assistants have all the polish of a London draper, mixed with an
obvious consciousness of vast responsibility. As a rule he affects gold
spectacles, and closely resembles an Indian Babu studying law. With this
class of salesman it is impossible to exercise one’s powers of
bargaining. The suggestion of a reduction in the price of a linen collar
would be to these commercial gentlemen entirely in the nature of an
insult. They do not live to amass money. Their mission is to supply
Jamaican Englishmen with necessary comforts at the lowest possible
price; there is no suggestion of gain in their commerce. Homilies on the
ethics of tradesmanship, delivered with great eloquence and a religious
accent from behind a dark face screened with gold spectacles, are
impressive in the extreme. The real salesman is to be found in smaller
stores. There the tradesman regards as a man without wisdom the dull
buyer who pays more than half the sum asked for any article. It is on
such that the people wax fat in the land. This acute process of buying
is tedious if the buyer lacks experience. The easiest method is to offer
the merchant just one quarter the sum asked for any article. This gives
the keeper of the shop a shock, but impresses him with the fact that he
is not likely to be able to swindle you to an unlimited extent. It has
become legitimate trade with him, and so when you double your offer and
proffer half the original figure, the desired commodity is wrapped up
and money changes hands. It is only by adopting this method that a
tourist can afford to live in Jamaica. There is still another class of
seller, but with this class the white man has no dealings. The women who
sell sticky

[Illustration: AN OLD GATEWAY, KINGSTON]

sweetmeats or sweating pastries along the kerb-stones, do not appeal to
the adult of the race of England. Such sellers are the native
costermongers. They have no barrows or elaborate stalls; their
paraphernalia consists of a broken basket, or piece of board supported
across the knees. They are the sellers of fruit, sweetmeats, tobacco,
eggs, live poultry, and the sticky, greasy pastries dear to the heart of
the negro, be he old or young. As a rule the basket stalls are placed at
the roadside, well in the glare of the sun. The saleswoman is usually
very old, and her costume is of dull rags constructed to resemble a
lady’s dress. Her face is creased at the jaws, and the cheek bones stand
out like gnarled fists; her remaining teeth are very yellow, and her
skinny hands are for ever shuffling the contents of her basket. Such
women make no bid for trade; the buyer comes or he comes not. The dull
face shows no emotion. It may be that the basket and its contents are
the property of a negro speculator; she, the seller, perhaps, is simply
an agent working for her daily yam. These are not the merry women of the
market-place who come in from the country with a load of produce to sell
and to spend a day in town. If it were not for the sweetmeats they would
pass as ancient beggars. Of course Kingston has its gamin–the wild,
bareheaded, barelegged boy, who is always shouting or running or playing
his mysterious games of the streets. He, of course, is the essence of
youthful happiness. His day is divided between the harbour, where he
dives for pennies among the sharks alongside ocean-going passenger
boats, and the streets, where he is prepared for anything, from stealing
a water melon to chasing the donkeys of the market-place. When a
stranger accosts him he becomes all grinning innocence and flashing
teeth. “Me work, sah, yes, sah, very hard work, very little money. I ask
you for a penny, sah, for my mother’s sake, sah, one penny.” It seems to
me that every boy, be he black or white, or yellow or red, whether he
live in London, Paris, Tokio, or Kingston, Jamaica, is afflicted with
the same genius of mischief.

The capital of Jamaica has its pest also. In most places frequented by
tourists the great pest is the guide pest; in Jamaica it is the
buggyman. The buggy, of course, is the cab of the Indies, and the
buggyman is the curse of the country. With him we will deal at length
elsewhere. But the buggies and the buggyman should always be considered
as the Jamaican pests.

It is curious to see the long electric Canadian road car swing at
ten-mile speed down these narrow streets crowded with the picturesque
people of the Western Indies. The effect of the streets is
kaleidoscopic; the sudden appearance of a car reminds one of the
mutoscope which shows a railway train rushing at the audience. Such is
the impression of the road car in the crowded Jamaican streets. The
people have become accustomed to this touch of a vigorous Western world.
The noise of its rushing and the horrible jangle of its clanking bell
have ceased to provoke interest. The car is a thing on which, for a
copper or two, the workers may ride home. It saves great fatigue and
much walking. The market baskets may be placed beneath the seats; the
town slips rapidly behind, and home is reached. Heaven knows what moves
the car along. There are no horses, and no engines like those on the
railway. It is a thing causing annoyance to the buggyman, that is all.
For the rest you can ride five or six miles at ten miles an hour speed
for four Jamaican pennies.

The country-people, who come once a week to sell their produce in the
great Saturday foregathering of agricultural Jamaica, still show wonder
and fear at the approach of a tram. They still jump into the hedges as
the tram flies along–still turn their eyes away from the chaff of the
negro conductor. But that is the only respect shown to this foreign
importation.

The dusty streets of the capital melt into country lanes with scented
hedges as you swing out of the city on a journey to the Constant Spring
terminus of the tramway. White dust takes the place of the darker city
dust. The scent of half the flowers of the world crush out the musty
odour of crowded alleys, always stewing beneath a tropic sun. That is
the great charm of the tramway, the only real excuse for its existence.
By it you can rush out of evil town-life into the sweetness of the most
beautiful country in the world. To see a high range of purple mountains,
fronted by heavy fields of banana trees and towering pines, and
brilliant flowers of every tint and shade and shape–to see all these
from the seat of a tram car which might just as well be taking you from
Shepherd’s Bush to Kew, is a thing every one should experience. The
attitude of the native to the cars is representative of ingrained
indifference to everything.

Of all places in and about Kingston, the market-place is the most
fascinating. Really there are two buildings–two groups of compact
sheds, walled in and guarded by lazy constables of justice. They are
distant from each other to the extent of about half a mile, but the road
which links the one to the other is, on market days, just as busy a
place as either building. So it is easier to count both buildings and
roadway one long market. And it is better to trade in the open highway
than it is to haggle with women in a crowded building reeking with
strong smells of fruit and fowls and vegetables, musty basket-work,
decomposing meat, and a few hundred healthy negroes. Of course it is
necessary that we should go the round of the covered stalls and stand
the cross-fire of two rows of anxious saleswomen, whose lung power is of
artillery force. After the first ten yards of the passage any ordinary
Englishman has lost his power of blushing. The blandishments of the
women are crude and full of personalities. One calls you a pretty
English gentleman, and shouts her strong opinion that you would look
very handsome in her fine hat of Ippi Appa straw. Another hails you as
her long-lost lover; and a younger woman, more brazen than her seniors,
invites you to greet her with a “fine big kiss, my love.” It is
embarrassing, especially if you show embarrassment. A blush on your
cheek is, as it were, a red flag to

[Illustration: A FRUIT-SELLER ON A SIDE-WALK, KINGSTON]

the wit of three hundred women. Soon you find your utter abandon and
exchange compliments. The negro woman respects a white man who has no
reserve. At one stall you will find all the fruits of the Indies:
succulent mangoes, golden grape fruit, oranges, bananas, guavas,
nazeberries, pine-apples, and a half hundred others. The combined force
of all the smells is terrific. Next, an aged basket-woman displays
examples of the only real art-work produced by the West Indian negroes.
The baskets are really good. You can buy one of any shape, any size, and
any and every design. Coloured grass is let into snow-white reed with
fine cunning, and without regard for any canon of conventionality. The
character of the casual negroes is shown in the patterns of their
basket-work. All the younger women are told off to superintend the
stalls which cater to the weaknesses of tourists. The women are given
silver ornaments to wear on their coal black wrists, and frequently
their ears are hung with heavy Eastern rings. This is a fashion copied
from the coolie women. All the woman’s personal jewellery is offered for
sale. She will explain the meaning of the most complicated article of
native manufactures with cheerful languor. She assumes an air of
indifference so long as she knows you intend to buy. When you begin to
show indifference, the instinct of the saleswoman springs to life in
her, and she is all entreaty. She offers wonderful whips made from the
lace bark tree, whips whose butt and long plaited lash are both made
from one piece of wood. She offers walking sticks of ebony, groo groo
palm, pimento, bamboo, or cinnamon. Or if you prefer it, you can
purchase a shark’s backbone mounted on a steel rod and fitted with a
handle of scented sandal wood. This, the lady will tell you, is in
England a great novelty, and surely worth five little dollars. Of course
there is basket-work, and some pottery shaped out of red Caribbean clay.
There are strings of coloured seeds and flower-pots made from wide
bamboos. Gourds are carved and coloured and cut into useless shapes
alleged to be ornamental, and cocoa-nuts are carved into men’s heads,
the red hair left to make a frizzy beard. These, the lady says, are very
fine. There are little gourds set on wooden skewers, and so formed into
babies’ rattles. These the arch maiden sells to young men and maidens.
Last of all, she produces dainty d’oyleys and table-centres and fine
ornaments made from the lace bark-tree, and fashioned with ferns and
pressed blossoms. These things cost a great deal of money, but as a rule
they are very decorative. When you leave her stall, the lady pursues you
for many yards with a mammoth lamp-shade, which, she assures you, will
be greatly appreciated by your home folks.

But the stall of the tourist caterer suggests artificiality. After all,
the real market is under the vestibule of the great square building.
Here are the native people with their pepper-pods and cocoa, their live
fowls and jackass rope. The latter, be it understood, is tobacco. Sold
in rope form at one penny or twopence per yard, the tobacco is called
jackass rope, for what reason I could not discover. It is in this
corner of the market-place that one meets the negro only. The woman
minds the stall and does the selling, while the husband gossips with his
fellows, or sips strong liquids at the rum bars. The anxious wife
squats, nigger fashion, beside her heap of pepper-pods, and her hands
play with them listlessly, just as we imagine a miser plays with his
gold, until the heap is sold. She is patient and ladylike. The white man
walks along her strip of market land, and she voices no light banter. If
you ask questions as to her wares she answers with modesty and with
intelligence. This is the country-woman, polite and unsophisticated.
Beyond the department devoted to the sale of spices and pepper-pods and
tobacco, we come to the chicken saleroom. Jamaican market-women nurse
captive fowls just in the same manner as Englishwomen fondle lap-dogs.
They stroke them and play with their feathers, open a wing to show the
strength and youth of a bird, and hold the beak towards their face as if
pleading with the doomed fowls for farewell kisses.

Fronting the poultry-women are the sellers of native vegetables and
fruits. These wares are heaped on strips of torn sacking spread upon the
stone floor of the market. Each woman sits next her piece of sacking and
noisily shouts the merits of her own particular goods. When no customers
are about, these women are content to wrangle among themselves as to the
comparative merits of rival heaps of fruit; from commercial squabbles of
this description it is easy for the conversation to descend to the
level of vulgar personalities and strong abuse.

The meat market is the only selling place which offers no attraction to
the idle lounger. For myself I was content to smell it afar off and pass
quickly by. Opposite the main entrance to the principal building is the
market courtyard, a square patch of grey dust enclosed by an iron
railing, and containing a drinking fountain for the people and a long
water-filled trough for the donkeys. This is the resting-place for the
workers and idling-place for the idlers. Littered about the dust are
groups of children, and donkeys, and adults. The children are playing
their games, the donkeys are munching at heaps of half-dried green
grass, and the adults, stretched at full length on the dust, or on the
grass heaps at which the donkeys are taking their meal, are for the most
part sleeping the sleep of the tired negro. A few there are who have
chosen to lie in the shadow of empty market carts, but more are to be
found sleeping in the full glare of the sun.

The fountain in the centre of the courtyard is the drawing-room of the
market place. Here come the youth and the maiden to gossip and flirt
over the midday cup of water, and here lounge the matrons to discuss
prices, and costumes, and husbands. The men for the most part have found
the rum bars, but the women and the striplings congregate round the
drinking fountain, drink cups of water, and bathe their hands and faces
in the donkey’s drinking trough. The noise of the laughter and talking
is louder than the sound of a

[Illustration: THE TOBACCO MARKET, KINGSTON]

heavy tide breaking over a pebbly beach. And the place is filled with
grey dust-clouds as the people pass and repass, moving from the fountain
to make way for new-comers. The blackness of their bare legs is hidden
by the dirty grey dust. No matter how supple or glossy the skin may
really be, two minutes’ walking in the courtyard gives bare legs the
appearance of age, and suggests the existence of loathsome disease. The
grey dust rises up and powders the women’s hair until the black curls
are lightened to the colour of brown pepper. In fact the unpleasant dust
envelopes everything under a cloud of unclean greyness. In the courtyard
of the market-place the black people seem grey and diseased; the white
folk never pass beyond the entrance gate.

It is on market days that one can see in the Kingston high roads, and in
the suburban lanes, groups of country women walking beneath heavy
head-loads of garden produce. In all the world there is nothing more
graceful than the carriage of a negro woman swinging along, with free
and easy motion, under a head-load which would be heavy to an ordinary
white man. With head erect, straight neck, chest flung forward, and arms
swinging with unconscious freedom, the women present perfect examples of
graceful strength. Their stride is long, and easy, and very regular.
They are the most graceful walkers in the world. I have never seen a
lady in Europe with a carriage as perfect as that of the ordinary
Jamaica negro market-woman.

At one time Jamaica was peopled by a race of red men whose beauty and
timidity were the wonder and convenience of the little band of Europeans
who were the first whites to tread the fragrant shores of the Pearl of
the Antilles. To-day not a trace of these Caribs remains. Unfit for
competition with the strenuous white or muscular black, the race, so far
as Jamaica is concerned, has run its course. The red people are
remembered only by the stone implements and rude pottery preserved in
the Jamaican museum. Nowadays the island is peopled by whites–English,
American, and those of Spanish blood; blacks–grandchildren
of the slaves imported from West and West Central Africa; and
half-breeds–yellow and brown people–the descendants of those intrigues
of the white man and his black servant which, not many years back, were
common among the people of the country.

The white man needs but little description; you can see him in England
or in any colony: an Englishman who takes his cold bath, and considers
himself not the least important member of the most important race
extant. His arrogance is undiminished by the tropic sun, though his
habits of life may have become West Indianised. He rises at six and
breakfasts at ten or eleven, lunches at two or three, and dines at
seven. His food is as it is in England, save that fruit and vegetables
are more plentiful. His house is built bungalow fashion, and his
servants (with whom he has more trouble than his brethren in London) are
blacker than the blackest hat. His complexion is either white with a
yellowish tinge, or red mahogany. His women-folk dress in the latest
Parisian creations, and suffer only from lack of exercise. It is not a
climate for exertion, and the English lady goes to the length of taking
none at all. She crosses the street in her buggy, and has a black maid
to hand, so that she may never be called upon to make any unnecessary
movement. The man has his polo, and tennis, and pigeon-shooting, his
saddle-horse, and golf. If he is very brave and a great enthusiast,
there is the cricket field. The lady always prefers the unhealthy luxury
of repose. So her face is milk-coloured; she is whiter than her husband.

The society of the island is divided into three sections–the military,
the civil officials, and the others. The three sets meet occasionally
when one matches itself against another at sport, or when there is a
great reception at Government House. These foregatherings are of
interest to those who deal in scandal. In the clubs the men mix more
frequently, but it is not the men who make the social life of Jamaica.
The life of the Englishman

[Illustration: AN OLD WOMAN]

differs from that of the Anglo-Indian at a hill station; it is not the
same as the life in a provincial town. But somehow it is a strange
mixture of these two, except that in the social life the bachelor plays
but a puny part. Not many mothers take their daughters to Jamaica, so,
in the capital, the bachelor lives in one of the hotels and plays
billiards in the evenings. It would be a blessing to the single men if a
few enterprising mothers with many daughters would take up their abode
in some of the charming villa residences a few miles out of Kingston.

The life of the Jamaica negro is almost ideal. As a rule he either
entirely ignores the little work he ought to do, or leaves it to the
exhaustless energy of his indefatigable wife. He spends his life in
shady parts of the market-place, or lolls in the sun outside the place
of his abode. Nothing worries him. He is imperturbable; glorious in his
idleness, happy in a blissful ignorance which takes no account of
yesterday or to-morrow. His only grievance, if he has one, is the
limited working power of one woman. Happy is the man who is the father
of many able-bodied youngsters. If by some mischance–the accident of
domestic misfortune, or the promptings of _ennui_ born of inaction–he
is forced to work, he works with cheerfulness, and with a happy grin
complains through the day, and then spends his night in revelry. When
you have questioned one black man as to the extent and remuneration of
his labour, you have interviewed the island. The temperament of the
negro is inborn; it never varies; all negroes are blood brethren. Ask
any man if he works hard and you will hear–

“Yes, me work very hard, sah.”

“You look well on it.”

“No, me no well, sah; me not fit for work; too sick.”

“But you get well paid.”

“No well paid, sah. Plenty work; very little money, sah.”

All this with a satisfied grin except when he describes the weakness of
his health; then his eyes roll and his face clouds in a manner almost
convincing to new arrivals.

With the women it is different. They have no time for conversation with
idle strangers; they work with unceasing energy. If they pause, it is
only to stare with an air of half-timid wonder, or to break into long
peals of boisterous laughter. If it were not for the women folk, Jamaica
would indeed be hard put to it for workers.

In character the Jamaican negroes are a mixture of good and bad; of
Africa and Europe, with the vices of both the blacks and the whites, and
only some of the virtues of the people of Europe. They are civilised
with a sort of quasi-civilisation, which somehow suggests an
indifferently humorous burlesque performed by irresponsible amateurs. It
takes many months to educate a new-comer into treating the black
Jamaicans with becoming seriousness. As a rule they are well-meaning
people, full of curious mannerisms, with which

[Illustration: COCOANUT PALMS, FALMOUTH, JAMAICA]

it is difficult for the white man to be in entire sympathy. The ideas of
a black man are different from those of white. He sees things from a
different point of view, and cannot really be happy with a white, who,
legally his equal, is actually in many ways infinitely his superior. In
many ways the Jamaican native resembles his coloured brother of the
American States; he is just as arrogant–even more so–but he is not
quite so really independent, and by no means so energetic. It is
certainly a fact that the Jamaican negroes are the happiest, relatively
the richest, and quite the most comfortable inhabitants of the globe.
Though there may be poverty among them, there is no unsatisfied hunger.
The fields and the hedges, as well as the market-places, afford food and
comfort for the dweller in this land of perpetual sun. Clothes they have
in too great an abundance. It is only for the purposes of pride and
vainglory that clothes are worn at all. The climate is warm enough to
justify nudity, and although this happy condition of freedom is not
compatible with the canons of modern society, it is easily possible for
a native to be clad and outwardly furnished for a very few shillings per
annum. Overcoats are unknown. Coals are only associated with the
steamships in Kingston Harbour, and the railway. Meat is an unnecessary
luxury–almost an unhealthy one. The people live on fruit and
vegetables, with an occasional dish of salt fish caught in the rivers or
from the waters of the Caribbean Sea, and cured with a total disregard
for delicate sweetness. At the first and the twenty-first glance, the
European would pronounce the dried fish of the Jamaican nigger bad, if
not entirely putrid. The popularity of this form of diet among the
people is evidence of the over-sensitiveness of the civilised nose. The
West Indian soldier of the line receives full rations as well as his
shilling a day. The meat he receives from a beneficent Government is the
same as that served out to his English brother-in-arms, and it is from
this source that the old English settler draws the supply of fresh meat
for his own table. It is better to go among the West Indian messrooms
and buy the soldiers’ meat rations than it is to chance the tenderness
of the joints on the market butcher’s slabs. By a little enterprise and
a good deal of bargaining with a coal-black mess sergeant, you are
certain of obtaining the juiciest steak to be found on the island; and
in doing so you materially add to the popularity of the army among
possible recruits by enlarging the pocket-money of the black soldiers of
the line. Our West Indian Tommies prefer the saltest of stale salt-fish
to the juiciest of fresh juicy-steaks, and as a rule the officer of the
day is quite prepared to wink at a little irregularity which makes for
the happiness of his men and the comfort of the island. Besides, it is
probable that the same officer of the day is occasionally invited to
dine out in the bungalows of older inhabitants. The readiness with which
the soldier is prepared to part with meat rations is proof that flesh
foods are an unnecessary luxury for the West Indian native.

The negroes of the island are sharply divided into

[Illustration: A MILKMAID, BARBADOES]

two classes: those who live in the towns, and the country labourers. The
two classes differ as much as do English agriculturists and Londoners.
In Jamaica the country people are superior to the town-bred class. The
influences of town life are not good for emotional people whose fathers’
fathers hunted men in the forest lands of Western Africa. They receive
impressions too easily. They are impressed by the bad as well as by the
good. A black servant is always his own idea of his white master. A
black man must imitate; his race has only just come in contact with
civilisation. Instinctively he imitates because he has not yet reached
that state which some day may enable him to initiate. If he is to appear
in the guise of a civilised man he must follow; his experience is not
great enough to enable him to lead; his instincts are still African and
barbarian. So the town man, subject to the influences of a city in which
live types of every class of every European race, is necessarily at a
disadvantage compared with the man who lives with nature among people of
his own colour and only one or two white men of one race.

The dwellers in the Jamaican cities look down upon the country folk as
unsophisticated nonentities. The country people imagine the townsmen to
be priests of iniquity, cunning, and steeped in wickedness. Just as it
is in England, only more so. In the country all the coloured people are,
approximately, of one class; they all belong to one station. In towns
the buggyman looks down upon the costermonger as an inferior, just as
the wives of shopkeepers ignore the existence of Mrs. Buggyman. In
imitation of the English, foolish class distinction has given birth to a
form of snobbishness which is entirely ludicrous. In Kingston the
outward and visible sign of prosperity or social superiority is shown in
the costume of the women-folk, and in the simpering accent of the
maidens. The more uncomfortable a woman looks when she goes on church
parade, the more diffidence she shows before opening her mouth to answer
a simple question, the higher she is in the social scale, as it is
understood by native Jamaicans. This is as it is among the shopkeepers
and the proprietors of buggy horses and worn-out four-wheel tourist
conveyances. With the workers it is altogether different. The aged lady,
who sits for twelve hours of every day selling gingerbread beneath the
half-shade of a decaying arch fronting an important shop in the main
street, thinks little of costume and nothing of accent. She is persuaded
to talk with great difficulty, though her story would be really
interesting. An old black lady lacks that venerable appearance peculiar
to the aged dames of England. She does not appear too clean, her hair is
reduced to mangy patches of dusty black curls, showing here and there on
the top of her smooth black pate. The forehead is furrowed and her
cheeks sunken, the chin protrudes, and is the heaviest and most
noticeable of all the features. Her lips have vanished, and the eyes
peer through dull-red rims from behind a half-screen of fallen skin. She
is bent double by age and the infirmities born of rough work. There, all
day long, she sits selling gingerbread cake beneath the half-shade of
decaying archways. No one ever seems to buy her dainties, but there she
sits all day long staring vacantly into nothing. Occasionally she
fingers her cakes, and the movement of her hands disturbs a cloud of
flies who claim her cookies as their own. She is listless and entirely
dumb; there is no crowd of chattering loafers round her stall, no group
of children playing hide-and-seek under the shadow of her protection.
She is alone–a picture of desolation. She will sit there gazing at
nothing, heeding nothing, until she finds the consolation of the sleep
of death. As a conversationalist she is quite impossible. If a white man
stops to give her greeting, she replies not by word of mouth, but with
an out-thrust hand. She has money greed. Half her day is spent in silent
pleading for alms. Altogether she is not picturesque; she lacks the
elements of cleanliness, and her cookies are not wholesome. She is
something to pass by with a shudder–a human being of the lowest species
undergoing a very slow process of decay. If she has intelligence, it is
hidden with her life-story behind the shrunken eyes half-hidden by the
dull-red rims and hanging skin.

The most obvious inhabitants of Kingston are the drivers of the buggies.
A Jamaican buggy is a spider-like species of the four-wheeled vehicle,
known in England as the country fly. It is drawn by one horse, which is
neither a horse, nor a pony, nor a mule, but something remotely
resembling all these things, and raising sentiments of deep pity in the
hearts of all beholders. The driver of the buggy, the buggyman,
supplies the necessary enthusiasm to the horse and buggy alike. One
instinctively feels that but for the elevating spirit of sublime
optimism which the buggyman possesses to the fullest degree, the poor
horse would drop dead and the vehicle would fall to bits. The buggyman
ignores everything in life save possible customers. If you hire a buggy
you are the life and soul of the driver until you enter his crazy
carriage; then you become as less than nothing, and the driver
shamelessly bargains with pedestrians for the use of his coach when the
time comes for you to leave. The buggymen know Kingston as well as the
London cabby knows his London, and that is saying much. He drives with a
rattling carelessness which is entirely good for weakly nerves. He
ignores the protests of his nervous fare, and smiles in derision of the
warning hand of an outraged police. He cannons other buggies as though
they were billiard balls, and finally lands his victim, in a condition
entirely demoralised and feverish, at a place where he has no desire to
go. Then the driver blames the passenger for not giving correct
directions, and explains that to drive on will be another sixpenny fare.
The law in Jamaica reads, “Sixpence per passenger to any place in town,”
so the driver gallops to an unfrequented corner of the place and demands
an extra sixpence. The fare must pay, or walk back in the sun through
the stench of poorer Kingston. It is really better for tourists to buy a
buggy and a horse and to hire a driver if they intend to stay in the
island for

[Illustration: WAITING MAIDS]

more than three weeks. These can be as easily sold as they can be
purchased, and the possession of them saves the waste of much precious
energy, and it is better for the language and morals of a vigorous
person.

When he is not pursuing possible customers, the buggyman is asleep
inside his carriage. His battered hat is carelessly balanced on the tip
of his little nose, his feet are resting on the cushion of the front
seat, his hands hanging limp, and he slumbers deeply, exhibiting the
deep caverns of his mighty jaw. Flies settle and nest in his open mouth,
children swarm round his buggy and tickle him with half-chewed
sweetstuffs, women chaff him from the side walks, but he stirs not, not
an eyelid moves. But let a tourist or a white man come within one
hundred yards of him and he is alive again and in pursuit. He discovers
a possible fare by the sense of smell. He is all eyes and ears and nose
for white men. When he sleeps, his horse sleeps also. It is in many
cases all the rest the poor beast hopes to get. It is usual for the poor
beast to be dragged from his resting-place (it is neither stable, nor
nest, nor open field) and harnessed at 8 A.M. He retires when the night
is far spent, and the last straggler has settled beneath the mosquito
netting of his bungalow bedroom. During the day he is driven to the full
extent of his capabilities. He must always run his quickest. There are
no words spoken to him: he is driven with the whip, and with the whip
only. His food is coarse guinea-grass, and he is lucky if he finds much
of that; his water comes should his journeying carry him past a water
tank. For all that, he has the heart and soul of a carriage horse, and
he is as keen in his master’s hunt for fares as a trained polo pony is
in following the ball. In colour he is usually a bright yellowy red,
with mane and tail of light yellow. He always shows his ribs, and the
whip is pleasant to him because the lash disturbs the flies. He never
falls or stumbles; he has learned to be sure of his feet by carrying
tourists up high mountains by way of narrow winding paths. If he has one
vice it is sleepiness, but in that matter he is well under the control
of his driver.

When the buggy driver has finished his work he lolls about the drinking
shops–an important man. He is the hardest drinker in Kingston. He mixes
more with white men than do most of the other natives, and his calling
puts him in touch with the doings of men of all types. He calls for his
rum, and chaffs the barmaid, for all the world like a city clerk; and
his conversation is of horse-racing and betting odds, and worse. He is
well-to-do, and proud that the Government has sufficient confidence in
his personal character and in his prowess as a coachman to entrust him
with a license to drive a hackney coach. This license is to the Jamaica
buggyman exactly what his commission is to a newly-joined young officer.
It gives the black man status. It is a link between him and the
Government. It shows him and all Jamaica that he, buggy-driver, with a
license and a number, is not an unknown man, but an official with a
position recognised by officialdom.

When a buggyman marries he usually chooses his wife from among the
yellow women. The negress is beneath him. He likes to have as his wife a
woman who may call herself white when she receives his guests or attends
his chapel on the Sabbath. He will tell you that he married white, and
you will wonder how he managed it, until you see his lady. If you are so
inclined, you may abuse the driver and his wife and his children, his
horse and his buggy, his incapacity and everything that is his. He will
only laugh and crack his whip and sway about in his seat with merriment.
He will do anything to please you, on the chance of your dealing
generously with him when the time comes for payment. He is a
thick-skinned black man. He has no delicacy, and no false pride, and
little shame. This you will find out when you hand him your silver and
tell him to be gone. Compared with him the London four-wheel cabby is an
angel of mercy. The buggyman will abandon his horse and his buggy, and
follow you down side streets, shouting that you have paid him too
little. He will fling your silver to the ground and stamp on it. Then,
picking it up, he will follow you shouting that you owe him money. No
one heeds him. It is a common scene, and not worthy the attention of
Jamaicans.

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