Thursday, 31 May 2012
A Book Review from ~1930/drf
"Inestimable Stones, Unvalued Jewels."
Being and appreciation of “Lost Treasure: True Tales of Hidden Hoards,”By A. Hyatt Verrill (Published by Appleton)
From Illustrated London News, 1930. Researched by Dennis Lien; digitized by Doug Frizzle, May 2012.
In the history of the art of fiction there is no greater pioneer and innovator than Edgar Allan Poe. It is to him that we owe the detective story; it was he who discovered in the search for Treasure, a theme more profitable for novelists than for pirates. The "Gold Bug" has had numerous progeny. Auri sacra fames is an appetite so deeply implanted in the human breast (at any rate in the European breast) that its potency communicates itself onto the printed page; and the same force that impels men to crime also persuades them to read.
In real life, the quest for the Lost Treasure, like the quest for happiness, seems destined to fail. Of all the enterprises recorded by Mr. Verrill, beginning with the activities of the Spaniards in Mexico and Peru, and going down to the present day, few have been completely successful. One of the luckiest treasure-seekers was Captain Phips, afterwards Sir William Phips and Governor of Massachusetts. His first venture, in which he has a partner no less distinguished than King Charles II., came to nothing; but the second, sanctioned by James II, and financed by the Duke of Albemarle, yielded a harvest worth two million dollars. Of this Phips received only eighty thousand; but it was enough to set him up for life. The king's share was two hundred thousand.
Phips’s treasure came from a Spanish galleon, one of a fleet of sixteen bearing silver from the Peruvian mines, that had gone ashore only forty years before on the Island of the Silver Shoals. Phips kept a log in which he put down the daily progress made in the work of salvage. The entries are thrilling.
“This morning our Captain sent a longboat on board Mt. Rogers which in a shoart time returned, weh made our hearts very gladd to see, which was 4 Sows of silver, 4 barr, 7 Champers, 2 dowboyds, 2000 and odd dollars, by wch. we understood they had found the wrecke." Phips was evidently a man who expected his employees to work their utmost. Even when treasure began to come up by the ton he was still unsatisfied. On March 3 he reports: “2399 poundes weight of coined silver which we putt in 32 baggs. The dyvers could make no great hand of their work." He did not forget to observe the Sabbath: "This day being ye Lordsday we rested, notwithstanding ye weather was fair, it is almost tempting Providence so to waste His gifts." They went on working, with occasional pauses to give the divers a rest, until April 14, by which time "Ye dyvers find there is but little left within ye wrecke."
Two million dollars seems a lot of money; but it must have gone to Phips's heart to sail away leaving the remaining fifteen galleons with their treasure intact, as, perhaps, it remains to this day.
But this considerable sum is a mere bagatelle compared with the treasure which the Spaniards left behind in Peru. They were not only very cruel but very foolish in their treatment of the Indians. "Prior to the seventeenth ceutury,” says Mr. Verrill, "the greatest treasures in the history of the world were the incalculable accumulations of gold, silver, pearls, and gems of the Aztec and Incan civilisations. Such things had no intrinsic value in the estimations of the natives. They were not regarded as riches, as wealth, not as money, but were prized merely for their beauty, their imperishable character, the ease with which they could be worked, and their symbolism, and they were used only as ceremonial and religious objects, as ornaments, and as decorations. Among the Aztecs, copper was more highly prized than gold, jadeite was looked upon as more desirable than gems, and bits of sea-shells were regarded as preferable to pearls.
"Moreover, as the precious metals were not in general use, but were largely restricted to the temples, the palaces, the nobility, and the priesthood, they were concentrated, so to speak, instead of being scattered among millions of individuals."
At first the Spaniards could have had, and did have, all they wanted for the asking. The natives, regarding them as demi-gods, and immortal, loaded them with presents. But they were so greedy and immortal, loaded them with presents. But they were so greedy and importunate, at any rate in Peru, that they soon lost their reputation both for divinity and immortality. For combined treachery and tactlessness Pizarro's treatment of Atahualpa is surely without parallel. It is some consolation to think that, besides making his name a by-word in history, it cost him and his myrmidons about a hundred and thirty million dollars.
Mr. Verrill’s account of the negotiations which preceded the murder of the King is extremely graphic and well told. Captured by treachery, Atahualpa, who had "discovered that the Spaniards' one and paramount desire was gold," tried to strike a bargain with their commander for his ransom. Standing in a room twenty feet by eighteen (the room existed until a few years ago), he offered to cover the floor with gold if only they would set him free. The Spaniards shook their heads, thinking be could never fulfil his promise; and he, mistaking their meaning, thought that his offer had been insufficient. Standing on tip-toe, he made a mark on the wall as high as his hand could reach (he was not a tall man, so the height would be about seven feet). "Not only will I cover the floor of the room with the metal you desire, but I will fill it to this height," he said. "And twice as much silver will I give besides." Quick to take advantage of his opportunity, Pizarro immediately indicated a spot two feet further up; and Atahualpa agreed to fill the room to this height.
The treasure was not, of course, forthcoming on the spur of the moment. It had to be fetched long distances, much of it from the Temple of the Sun at Cuzco, which Atahualpa had never visited. The Spaniards grew impatient as the arrival of the ransom was still delayed; perhaps they thought that the King would not or could not produce it. At all events, they murdered him. The news of his death reached simultaneously two long trains of carriers loaded with treasure, one coming from Chuquis, the other from Cuzco. (In the Cuzco consignment there was a chain of gold seven hundred feet long, weighing ten tons, and worth five million dollars.) When the bearers realised that their burden could not save the King and would only swell the pockets of the Spaniards, they straightway hid it, and hidden it still remains.
Cortes was much more humane and tactful than Pizarro. He told Montezuma's representative that the Spaniards suffered from a malady of the heart for which the only cure was gold. When one of the Aztecs expressed admiration for a helmet worn by a Spanish archer, Cortes offered to send it to Montezuma, and suggested that it should be returned "filled with gold dust." These pacific tactics succeeded admirably. Montezuma's entire treasure was placed at the disposal of the Spaniards. But Cortes, in his religious fanaticism, was not content with taking the votive offerings the Aztecs had made to their gods; he wanted the gods as well. This the Aztecs could not stomach. They turned on their persecutors and despoilers. One night, the Noche Triste, there was a frightful massacre, four hundred Spaniards, weighed down with booty, were killed or drowned in the canals that intersected the city of Tenochtitlan—and Montezuma's treasure was lost to Spain.
The first part of Mr. Verrill's book describes the fate of the treasures in Mexico and Peru. It is, perhaps, the most enthralling part. Nations were involved, cities besieged, and the sums at stake were enormous. Afterwards come chapters dealing with the treasures of pirates and buccaneers: Captain Kidd, Pirate Quelch, Brother Jonathan, Billy Bowlegs. These treasures, though there are romantic stories attached to them, seem small beer by comparison with the others. Captain Kidd, poor man, though hanged as a pirate, never had any treasure at all—or at most a small one, which he dutifully handed over to his Majesty's Government: the inventory of it still exists and is reproduced in the book. Brother Jonathan's treasure still lies, Mr. Verrill says, in Tristan da Cunha, "somewhere on the left hand side of the last house down in the direction of Little Beach, between the two waterfalls." In such a limited area it should be easy to find the treasure of the man who styled himself "Emperor" of that lonely island. Sir Francis Drake, one of the most successful of treasure-seekers, though he had to jettison a great part of his precious cargo for the sake of lightening the Golden Hind, brought back a very respectable amount to London; but his memoirs record that he was "greatly troubled" because some of the "chiefest men of the Court" refused to accept the gold on the ground that it had been won by piracy—squeamshness that does them great credit.
As time goes on and we reach the nineteenth century, piracy loses some of its glamour; men like Charles Gibbs (hanged in 1831) seem like common criminals. More interesting than the pirates themselves are the accounts of expeditions undertaken to recover their various treasures. It is no easy task among so many wonderful tales to select the most enthralling. Nothing could be more romantic than the history of the golden altar in the treasure of Panama, which has survived to the present day, thanks to the coat of white paint which deceived the sharp eyes of Sir Henry Morgan. Very lovely and romantic is the story of “El Dorado," the "Gilded Man," who gave his name to a great city. Every year the King and his people visited Lake Guatavita, to make sacrifice to its presiding deity; the people bearing their most precious possessions, the King smeared with gum and anointed with gold dust. Embarking on a raft, the King was rowed to the middle of the lake. Then he plunged in and washed off his golden coat, while the multitudes around sang and threw their offerings into its waters. How ignoble, by comparison, seems the action of the British company which, in 1903, obtained permission to drain the lake! The operation proved easy enough, for the lake is a small one. But the goddess was not to be robbed of her treasures. No sooner was the water drawn off than the mud at the bottom set as hard as cement, defying the picks and shovels of the excavators. Like nearly all treasure-seekers, they had to retire discomfited.
I have no space to describe the search for the mysterious treasure of Oak Island, the most extraordinary story of the whole collection, and one which shows Mr. Verrill's narrative gift at its best. His literary style is not impeccable; it contains some curious phrases—e.g., "he kept his level head." But no one can read his book without longing, a score of times, to leap from his chair and set out incontinently for Cuzco or Cocos Island. L. P. H.
Wednesday, 30 May 2012
It's a rainy day and I am supposed to be cleaning up the bills, paperwork and the house. This was in our recent 'Panama papers'. It's an interesting article on molas and the Kuna Indians./drf
Textile Art of The Cuna Indians - - - Molas
THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR; AN INTERNATIONAL DAILY NEWSPAPER; MONDAY, MARCH 9, 1992; THE ARTS; By David Clark Scott. Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor: PANAMA CITY
THE queen of mola marketing is undoubtedly Flory Saltzman. This diminutive, brash Jewish grandmother has probably the biggest collection of new and used molas for sale in Panama. And if you don't know a mola from a Monet, be warned: Everyone who crosses the threshold of her shop outside the Panama Hotel takes "the test."
Flory grabs your elbow, tosses two molas on the linoleum floor, and demands, "Which are you going to choose?"
You hesitantly point to the design on the left. "Ha! Wrong!" she says delightedly for probably the 10,000th time.
"Ladies underwear. See? There are six pairs," says Flory, using a walking stick to tap the garments hidden in the design. "You want ladies underwear on your wall? Of course you don't. You should have chosen this turtle. That you can put on your wall and be happy." she states firmly.
Flory recalls a stubborn European tourist who declined her lesson. "He did not want to listen. He wanted to be ignorant. I'm telling him: 'I pay the rent, I do the talking.' "
Between educating customers in her own sledge-hammer style, Flory bargains with a non-stop stream of Cuna Indians who arrive to sell the unique carvings in cloth.
But the fact that she buys almost everything means the Cunas know they can rely on her when they need funds.
Molas are created by Panama's indigenous Cunas, who number some 40,000. Most live on the San Bias archipelago running along the Caribbean side of Panama. The term "mola" refers to the multilayered, hand-stitched panel (about 13 by 16 inches) of cotton cloth worn by Cuna women on the front and back of their blouses. It's believed the mola evolved from a Cuna tradition of body painting, which became cloth painting, and then sewing of decorative belts.
Today's mola style came into being about 125 to 150 years ago, according to Captain Kit S. Kapp, who studied the Cuna culture for more than a decade and wrote the book "Mola Art from the San Bias Islands."
Each mola panel is comprised of two to seven layers of different colored cloth. Made almost exclusively by Cuna women, the average contains three or four layers basted together. Designs are usually sketched out first with pencil and then snipped out layer by layer, exposing the different colors. The rough edges of the cloth are turned under and hemmed to the next layer of cloth, concealing the stitches. Additional detailed decorative stitching, such as animal claws or cat's whiskers, is more common today than a few decades ago.
The motifs are primarily zoological or related to Cuna religious beliefs. Molas showing everything from water demons, medicine men, celestial objects, crabs, ducks, and butterflies were recently displayed by Cunas hawking their work at Stevens Circle, a market area near the Panama Canal Zone.
But molas also reflect what's happening in Panama. Some of them depict aircraft, trademarks (such as the RCA Victor dog), and astrological signs. Political views and historical events can also be traced through molas. At Flory's shop one can find molas dedicated to the invasion by the United States: "Operacion Causa Justa -20 Dec. 1989."
Flory Saltzman deplores what she calls "tourist molas," which are bold, bright-colored, geometric designs that look like "comic books." Until educated, "that's the kind of molas people think they want. And the Cunas will make what sells," she says.
Attempts have been made to increase mola production with sewing machines and therefore provide a better income for the Cunas, Flory's approach is to take "good" molas and make them more marketable by repackaging.
For example, she will stitch together a dozen mola panels of similar style to create a wall hanging or a quilt. The feisty marketeer hopes that by continuing to educate mola buyers, she can slow the adulteration of a "dying art."
"Molas" are a a wonderful brightly-colored artistic expression designed and handmade by Cuna Indians even today. They consist basically in a number of different colors of pieces of cloth laid one top of the other, the maker then cutting down through the layers forming primitive and ingenuous designs of natural figures, and mythological or geometric concepts, and then sewing the layers with incredibly small and perfect stitches.
"Mola" means blouse, and a Cuna woman always makes a pair with related though, not identical themes which she then wears, one to form the back and the other the front of her blouse. They usually measure 16x13 inches each.
Different, attractive, decorative, ingenious, unique, are some of the ways to describe this art of great beauty and mysterious origin.
Tel.: (507) 223-6963
In Front of Entrance Hotel El Panama
Frente a la Entrada del Hotel El Panama
Via Venetto, Via Espana
Monday, 28 May 2012
In the Seas of the Dead Man’s Chest: A Pirate-Ship’s Cruise,
A book review of "In The Wake of the Buccaneers." By A, Hyatt Verrill.*
From the Illustrated London News, 1923. Researched by Dennis Lien; digitized by Doug Frizzle, May 2012.
Sam, black as ebony and muscled like a Hercules, pilot and “captain" of the Vigilant, cared nothing about pirates and had no desire to emulate their doings. “Ah's a man o' peace, Ah is," he said, “An’ Ah’s tellin’ you true. Chief, if Ah sees a man wif a gun or pistol approachin’ me, Ah don' mek to remain to argify. No, Sir! Ah jus' says to mah feet. ‘The Lord put you on mah laigs for to run, an' now you obey the Lord.' "
On the other hand, his Chief's enthusiasm was ecstatic. His heart sang and his mind thrilled to the names and the deeds of the buccaneer: "Strange incomprehensible, quixotic men, these reckless buccaneers. Cruel, relentless, unprincipled, and yet with their own inexorable laws, their own code of honour, their streak of gallantry and their bravery which, despite their sins and their wickedness, we cannot but admire . . . we must not judge them by modern standards. In their days piracy was a profession rather than a crime, and, while openly frowned upon by the powers, privately abetted and encouraged. To us these men appear bloodthirsty monsters, but we must bear in mind that in their day life was cheap and torture was legalised as a punishment for the most trivial crimes. Such pleasantries as burning holes through liars' tongues, cutting off eaves-droppers’ ears, branding the palms of thieves' hands, or putting out eyes were in the same category as ten days’ imprisonment or ten dollars' fine to-day. . .In the days when the Virgins were a haven for pirates the bodies of men hanging in chains and surrounded by carrion crows were almost an essential part of the waterside landscape in all seaports, and attracted no more attention than an illuminated advertisement on Broadway does at the present time."
They were essentially of their hour—and what characters to conjure with: "Fifteen men on the Dead Man’s Chest—Yo-ho-ho, and a bottle of rum!"
Blackbeard, or, Old Teach; "Of immense size and coarse and brutal aspect, Teach nurtured a huge black beard which covered his ugly face to his eyes, and which, falling to his waist, was braided into innumerable small pigtails, the ends being tied together over his ears. His hair, also of inky hue, fell to his shoulders, and almost met his beetling, bushy black eyebrows over his forehead. As though not ferocious-looking enough naturally, he was accustomed, when making an attack, to stick burning slow-matches in his hair and beard which surrounded his fierce face and gleaming eyes with a ring of fire and smoke, and, according to a contemporaneous description, 'glowed most horribly.'" Add to this fourteen wives and a fighting death while he held his "all but decapitated head in place with one hand" and pulled pistol-trigger with the other, and what picture could be more completely satisfactory?
Then the much-maligned Captain Kidd, victim of a “frame up"; the "sparkish" Prince Rupert of the Rhine, who turned from privateering to piracy, only to die in his bed, at Spring Gardens; Red Legs, the moral "pirate who scuttled ships and sacked towns, but was never known to harm a woman or torture or kill a prisoner; Bartholomew Sharp, "sea-artist and valiant commander," whose "Dangerous Voyage" included the crossing of that Bridge of the World, the Isthmus of Panama, a canoe-attack on the Spanish Fleet off Perico Island, and the ravaging of the western coast of South America; Major Stede Bonnet, a wealthy pillar of the Church in Barbadoes, who went adventuring, joined Blackbeard, and in due course was hanged at White Point, thus escaping finally from the nagging wife who had driven him to roving; George, Earl of Cumberland, Knight of the Garter, who "as privateer, always flaunted in his hat a claret-coloured diamond-studded glove given to him by Queen Elizabeth; Rock Brasiliano, who “had no good
behaviour or government over himself in his domestic or private affairs”; the “most esecrable scoundrel” Lolonais; William Parker, who took San Jerome by storm; and most remarkable of all, Henry Morgan, who, in a scant five years, scourged the Caribbean and the Spanish Main, was knighted, and became Lieutenant-Governor of Jamaica and whipper with scorpions—an unfitting reward for his astonishing attack on Panama, then so rich that it was called the Castle of Gold.
Their names are legion; many they "bereaved of life"; many were tortured, many butchered out of hand, hanged at the yard-arm or forced to walk the plank. They profited none but themselves, and that of course, they did handsomely. Their ways were co-operative; all shared according to plan. This was the method of it. The boatswain would get to work under the eye of the Captain. "Dumping a chest of coins upon a sheet of tarry canvas, this fellow would count them out in piles, one for each man, and to every coin he tossed on the piles for the crew he would throw five upon that which formed the Captain's share. Pieces of eight crudely struck from silver bullion, dull-golden onzas, castellanos, doubloons, guineas, louis d'or, oddly shaped 'cross-money,’ in turn were divided. Then came ingots of gold and bars of silver, altar-pieces and chalices, dishes of beaten gold, jewelled girdles, rings and bracelets, necklaces of pearls and emeralds—a collection worth a king's ransom. And these, after the glowering chieftain had taken his pick, were gambled for by the tossing of coins or with dice, for so varied and miscellaneous, was the lot that to apportion the articles fairly was impossible. Last of all came the women…”
And note the value of the "dividends"; "Not infrequently a successful foray would result in so vast an amount of loot that when the prizes were divided even the common sailors would receive as much as five thousand pieces of eight. . . The purchasing power of such a sum was then equivalent to about a quarter of a million (dollars) at the prevent time."
With such "easy money" to be had for the boarding and sinking, it seems almost uncanny that the pirates should have thought it necessary to "insure" themselves before sailing but they did! Having decided that "No prey, no pay" was to be the rule they proceeded to the drawing up of a schedule of compensations for injuries.
Such are a few of the unusual "points" resulting from Mr. Hyatt Verrill’s cruise in the wake of the buccaneers. There are a fascinating number of others.
How many know the origin of the term "buccaneer"? Here it is. "One of the principal articles of food and of sport was the smoke-dried flesh of cattle and hogs, a product peculiar to Hispaniola and the neighbouring islands, and known by the Carib name of boucan or bucan. Tortuga, with limited agricultural resources but innumerable wild animals, was particularly well adapted to the bucanning industry, and a very large proportion of the settlers devoted virtually all their time to hunting and curing meat. As a result, the inhabitants soon became known as boucaniers, bucaneers, or buccaneers, a name which was to become famous throughout the world. The original significance of 'buccaneer' was wholly lost, and, becoming synonymous with 'pirate,' it was destined to carry terror to the hearts of Spaniards far and near."
Few, also, can be aware of Saba, neighbour of St. Eustatius, and "jutting from the tumbling sea for nearly three thousand feet—the most remarkable island, the most topsy-turvy, as bit of land in all the seven seas. . . Viewing the island from the sea, one would scarcely dream that a human being dwelt upon this mid-sea pinnacle, but a thousand feet above the water, snugly hidden in an extinct crater as though dropped from the clouds, is a delightfully neat, pretty, and typical Dutch village. . . A flight of roughly hewn stone steps leads upwards towards the clouds . . . eight hundred steps," and everything and everybody has to pass up them, even the wood for the fashioning of the boats, which have to be let down the sides of the cliffs by the builders, "exactly as though their island were a ship and they were lowering their craft from the davits."
Then there are Nevis, once the world's most famous Spa, where "Horatio Nelson, Esq., Captain of H.M.S. Boreas," wedded "Frances Herbert Nisbet, widow"; the "drowned city" which was the capital of Jamestown; a few miles beyond Puerto Plata, the site of Isabella, the first European settlement in the New World, which Columbus believed to be a great gold-mining centre; the golden altar of San José, hidden from Morgan by a coat of white paint; and many another Romance.
Never in her old age could the Vigilant—pirate-ship, privateer, slaver, man-o'-war—have sailed more blithely than when our author sent her adventuring again; seldom can author have reaped richer harvest of the seas. "In the Wake of the Buccaneers" is vastly entertaining, a Skeltery of Skelteries—and all the tuppenny-colouring is true! How Claud Lovat Fraser would have revelled in illustrating it! E. H. G.
“The piece of eight was the granddaddy of our own American dollar. This famous coin (still very common and known as the 'Spanish dollar’) was a silver piece with a value of 4 pesetas or 8 reales. Roughly, a real was worth 12½ cents, or 1-100th of a doubloon." A piece of eight was thus worth about 1 dollar, and a doubloon, 12½ dollars. The onza, or double doubloon of 200 reales or 100 pesetas, was equivalent to about 25 dollars. "Cross-money" was a curious fractional currency consisting of slugs of various sizes cut from pieces of eight and so hammered as to obliterate the inscriptions except the cross-like part of the Spanish coat-of-arms.”
Photographs from "In the Wake of the Buccaneers," by A. Hyatt Verrill. By Courtesy of the Publisher, Leonard Parsons.
*"In the Wake of the Buccaneers" by A. Hyatt Verrill. Illustrated with Drawings and Photographs by the Author, and Rare Old Engravings. (Leonard Parsons: 21s. net.)
Monday, 21 May 2012
Here are a few pages from The Youth’s Companion magazine, they are collected together and relate to Verrill only because they mention the man and his work. They are from a variety of issues.
The Youth's Companion; Jul 26, 1923; 97, 30; pg. 452. Researched by Pat Pflieger, digitized by Doug Frizzle, May 2012.
The Boss Elephant
ELEPHANTS in Asia are easily trained; a trick or a certain kind of work soon becomes habitual with them. In fact, says Mr. Charles Mayer in Trapping Wild Animals in Malay Jungles, they can form habits more rapidly than any other animals I have ever seen.
In Burma there are large lumber mills, and elephants are used for rolling the logs into position for the saws. Pushing with their heads, they run the logs up two inclined skids to the platform; two elephants do the pushing, and a third elephant acts as boss. The boss need not be an especially intelligent animal; he is taught simply that the log must go up the skids in a certain way, and that he must keep the two pushers even. In his trunk he carries a few links of anchor chain, which he uses as a whip if one elephant falls behind. When the log is on the platform the pushers turn and plod back for another. The boss elephant is quite unimpressed with his authority, and the other elephants show no resentment when he swings the chain on them.
When the whistle blows they all know that it is time to stop work and eat. It makes no difference whether they have a log within a fraction of an inch of the platform; the boss drops his anchor chain and gets out of the way, and the pushers step to one side and let the log crash. Then without the least expression of interest they turn toward the stalls. Because they obey signals so mechanically the engineer steps out when feeding time comes and looks up and down the runway to see whether an elephant crew has a log on the skids. If so he waits until it reaches the platform before he pulls the whistle cord.
The Wrong Outfit
SOME years ago a well-known physician of Tulsa, Oklahoma, observed three unusually forlorn, ragged little darkies standing on a corner of the main street. They were dressed in almost any kind of covering that could be either buttoned or tied on, so that more than one glance was necessary before anyone could determine just what garments they actually were wearing. The sight touched the physician, and he took them into a men's clothing store near by and had them fitted out with new suits.
The two older ones showed their appreciation by broad smiles, but the smallest wept bitterly throughout the whole proceeding and refused to be comforted with the new coat, the new shirt and the new trousers. Questioning only increased the child's agitation, and at last the physician turned in desperation to one of the older boys and said, "What's the matter with him? What's his name?"
"Please, sir," the brother replied with a grin, "his name is Alice."
A Mystery Even to Sam
THE natives of the Bahamas are expert sailors. Somehow without a compass and in all kinds of weather they are able to guide their boats intelligently over the pathless ocean. How they do it is a mystery even to themselves. In his recent book, In the Wake of the Buccaneers, Mr. A. Hyatt Verrill says that he tried to learn from Sam, his colored steersman, why he was so confident of reaching the tiny island of St. Croix after a voyage of one hundred miles over a deserted sea.
"Why, chief," replied the native, "Ah don't need to know where we is for to get where we's goin'."
"Well, how on earth do you do it, Sam?"
"Ah can't say," was the reply. "Ah jus' knows where 'bouts th' lan' is, an' Ah steers for he."
He Needed Another Year
"POSITION wanted" ran an advertisement in a Shanghai newspaper. "A young Chinese with four years' experience in English seeks place as a junior clerk. Salary no objection." As a matter of fact, it usually isn't.
The Youth's Companion; Oct 11, 1923; 97, 41; pg. 616. Researched by Pat Pflieger, digitized by Doug Frizzle, May 2012.
Uncle Joe’s Good Bargain
THAT veteran Congressman "Uncle Joe" Cannon is a picturesque figure round whom good stories naturally cluster. Whether they are all true we do not know, but so long as they are good Mr. Cannon does not trouble to deny them. The Argonaut recently printed this one:
Uncle Joe, although one of the most generous of men, is sparing in his personal expenses and particularly begrudges excessive payments for clothing. He wore one overcoat for several years, but his daughter finally persuaded him to buy a new one. He went to a clothier's and selected a coat, but upon being told the price, which was eighty-five dollars, refused to take it.
Highly indignant, he reported the outrageous affair to his daughter, who told him that she was sure he could get a good coat for thirty dollars. Thereupon she negotiated with the shop to give him the coat he liked, charge him thirty dollars, and let her pay the difference.
Several days later Uncle Joe, very well satisfied, was sporting his new coat in the Capitol, when a friend and fellow member accosted him.
"Hello, Uncle Joe, got a new coat?"
"What did you give for it?"
"Thirty dollars, and that was enough tool"
The friend whistled. "I'll give you fifty for it right now."
"You're on," said Uncle Joe, and he gleefully removed his eighty-five-dollar coat and took the fifty dollars.
A Chagrined Sea Fighter
OUTSIDE the harbor of Charlotte Amalie, on the coast of St. Thomas Island, a huge rock looms out of the sea. Sail Rock it is called, and it bears a startling resemblance to a ship. As I gazed upon it, says Mr. A. Hyatt Verrill in his book In the Wake of the Buccaneers, I could not blame the bellicose captain of a French frigate who a century and more ago sighted the rock one night and, mistaking it for a privateer, ran close and hailed it
No response came back. Again he hailed, and as still no response came he blazed a broadside at the shadowy mass. Back came the echoing thunder of the cannonade, and the rebounding shot, falling on the frigate's deck, convinced the Frenchman that the privateer was returning his fire.
For hours the battle raged; the French gunners poured broadside after broadside at the massive cliff. Not until day dawned did the deluded commander of the frigate discover his mistake. Then, crestfallen and mortified, he crept away, leaving Sail Rock unscathed and triumphant.
He Had Already Stolen Her Heart
ELLEN, the cook, says the Argonaut, was of a suspicious nature. She distrusted mankind in general and banks in particular: she never banked her frugal savings. Part of her wages were hoarded in a stocking in some obscure corner of her room. Ellen's "gentleman friend" was the neighboring butcher, and as the friendship had proved enduring her mistress was not astonished when the girl announced her pending marriage.
"And I want to ask you, mum," said Ellen, "what's the best way to put my money in the bank?"
Her mistress regarded her in astonishment, "Why, Ellen, I thought you didn't believe in banks!"
"No more I do, mum," replied the girl, "but since I'm going to be married next week I kinder feel the money would be safer in the bank than in the house with a strange man about."
The Youth's Companion; Jan 31, 1924; 98, 5; pg. 82. Researched by Pat Pflieger, digitized by Doug Frizzle, May 2012.
The Businesslike Pirate
STRANGE as it may seem, life and accident insurance began with the early buccaneers. Cruises, says Mr. A. Hyatt Verrill in ‘In the Wake of the Buccaneers’, were planned and carried out on a legitimate and open basis. An expedition against the active enemies of the country was advertised; a competent crew was obtained; articles were drawn up and signed; and finally the ship sailed away with the national ensign fluttering where in later days the Jolly Roger was to be.
When a pirating company was assembled it was first of all settled by vote what the captain was to receive for his services or for the use of his ship,—for very often the skipper was merely the owner of the vessel and was no navigator,— then what were to be the salaries of the other men such as the carpenter, the steward, the gunners and the surgeon. Then it was agreed that the provisions and liquors should be paid for; recompense was given to the individuals who had secured them. Finally came the matter of insurance, and a very complete schedule was drawn up with exact provisions for payment for nearly every form of injury or wound. The rates varied somewhat according to the danger of the undertaking, but as a rule they were about six hundred pieces of eight for the loss of a right arm; five hundred for a left arm; five hundred for a right leg; four hundred for a left leg; one hundred for an eye; one hundred for a finger; and one thousand for total disability or death.
In every case slaves might be taken in lieu of cash; the value of slaves, either white or black, male or female, was fixed at one hundred pieces of eight each. It was also provided that after the payment of all the aforesaid "salaries," refunds and compensations the rest of the loot should be equally divided among the survivors of the expedition—with the exception of the captain and other officers. It was the custom for the captain to receive five or six shares to each share of the men.
The Youth's Companion; Nov 13,1924; 98, 46; pg. 757. Researched by Pat Pflieger, digitized by Doug Frizzle, May 2012.
The Symbolic Ice Skates
A CURIOUS sight it was, an old pair of rusty skates hanging outside a shop on a tropical island in the West Indies! I wondered, says Mr. A. Hyatt Verrill in his book In the Wake of the Buccaneers, whom the proprietor expected to sell them to, so I entered and inquired. Imagine my astonishment when the shop-keeper solemnly informed me that they had been there for years, and that no one knew exactly what they were used for. "But," he added, "I am aware that they are significant of the holiday season, and so I hang them outside regularly each year as an indication to passers-by that my Christmas stock of merchandise is on sale."
Friday, 18 May 2012
- ► 2014 (52)
- ► 2013 (41)
- Inestimable Stones, Unvalued Jewels
- Textile Art of The Cuna Indians
- Review, 'In the Wake of the Buccaneers'
- Youths Companion Misc
- The Tribal Relationship of the Akawoias
- The Art of Photographing Birds
- Hercules Beetles from Dominica Island
- Book Chronology for A. Hyatt Verrill
- New Species of Goliath Beetles
- Additions to the Avifauna of the Bermudas
- Resource Pages
- Proof of Elephants in America
- Photographing the Human Voice by Radio
- The Wild West Show of Buffalo Bill
- ▼ May (16)
- ► 2011 (104)
- ► 2010 (43)
- ► 2009 (40)
- ► 2008 (48)
- As an armed forces brat, we lived in Rockcliff (Ottawa), Namao (Edmonton), Southport (Portage La Prairie), Manitoba, and Dad retired to St. Margaret's Bay, NS.
Working with the Federal Govenment for 25 years, Canadian Hydrographic Service, mostly. Now married to Gail Kelly, with two grown children, Luke and Denyse. Retired to my woodlot at Stillwater Lake, NS, on the rainy days I study the life and work of A. Hyatt Verrill 1871-1954.