ePub 版

are almost as real and essential a part of the Catholic religion, as are a belief in the supremacy of the Pope, and the chanting of prayers for the dead. The priests, too, are constant attendants at the theatre, are often at masquerades, and sometimes at the gambling-table, and Catholics in Spain think it strange that a Protestant clergymen should object to joining in the same amusements. Intelligent laymen do not pretend to deny the frequent and often gross and abandoned licentiousness of their clergy, nor is such conduct regarded as at all disqualifying them for the duties of the priesthood. There is, indeed, one Catholic city in which the priesthood are so notoriously profligate and abandoned that it has been necessary, in order to prevent the dissipation and riot which they caused by night, to pass a law forbidding all priests and friars from appearing in the streets after seven o'clock in the evening. One of the officers of our ship informed me, that he was once at a cockfight in that city on a Sabbath, when a friar entered, and, having carried around his hat for alms, forthwith staked the money received on the result of the fight.



Geology of the Island. - Stone Walls. — Early and Latter Rain. - Famine.

Food for the Poor. - Great Suffering. - Climate. - Scenery.- Languages. -A Spanish Friend. - Epistle of Severus. -- Early Conversion of Jews in Mahon. - Relics of St. Stephen. - Orosius. - Miracles. — Persecution.Results. - Traces of the Moors. - Agricultural Implements. - Smoking, Butter and Cheese. - Catholic Bulls. — Antidote to the Cholera. – Visit to Mount Toro.- Donkeys. – Peasants. - Dress and Manners. - Convent. - Friars. — Their Mode of Life. - Neglect of Duty. — Morals of Friars.

The island of Minorca presents a singular appearance to the eye of the stranger there. From the head of the harbour of Mahon, a valley extends back, dividing two tracts of country, which are quite unlike each other." On the right of this valley, the rocks are all of the species called greenstone, or trap. These, however, on the northern shore, in some places give way to ledges of slate. Beneath this greenstone is a strata of red earth, which, in some places, has become hardened to stone. This earth is used for making brick, and the tiles with which houses are covered. The hills on this side of the island, instead of abrupt cliffs, have commonly a smooth and gentle slope. This is owing to the loose structure of the rocks of which they are composed, and the ease with which they are broken to pieces.

The surface of the southern portion of the island is composed of limestone, of various qualities. Near the surface it is hard, and much of it is very porous, containing caverns and small holes. Where it has been cut through it is often almost as open as a honey-comb, and, where it is sufficiently compact, is easily cut into blocks of any shape which may be required for building. This strata of limestone is forty or fifty feet thick, and beneath it is a deposit of sand, earth, and round stones of various sizes, which have been much worn by the action of water upon them, at some former period. This deposit rises, in some places, many feet above the present level of the sea, and the traces of each wave, as, ages ago, with its undulating motion, it left behind the earth and stone with which it was laden, may still be distinctly seen. The

same fact is often noticed in the United States and elsewhere, in connexion with deep cuts and excavations, for railroads and canals. It shows conclusively that the earth has, at some former period, undergone a mighty convulsion, by the action of water.

Almost the whole of this island was once nothing but solid rock, and the slight covering of soil which there now is has been formed mainly by the attrition of the rock, and the decay which has been going on at the surface. The limestone cliffs are steep and abrupt, separated often by deep chasms, and containing many caverns, some of which are quite large. On the sides of the hills, a succession of terraces are in some places built, to prevent the rain from washing away the scanty soil placed there, and these, when covered with the olive and the vine, present a most beautiful appearance. The same method of improving every foot of ground is still practised in Malta, and elsewhere, and prevailed among the ancient Jews, in those days when Palestine was spoken of as a land flowing with milk and honey.

In Minorca, in order to free the surface from the mass of stones which covered it, immense walls have been built, which are from four or five to ten or twelve feet high, and rarely less than three or four feet thick. These divide almost the whole island into lots of from half an acre to three or four acres each, and all the numerous roads and lanes are lined with similar walls. Immense labor has thus been expended, and still the points of the rocks so rise above the soil that it would be impossible to use an American plough in tilling the ground. While taking my daily walks, I often thought what a striking illustration there was everywhere around me of that part of our Saviour's parable of the sower, which speaks of the seeds which fell upon stony places, and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth; and, when the sun was up, they were scorched, and, because they had not root, they withered away.

The people of Minorca, like those in Judea, and other countries in this part of the world, are mainly dependent on the early and the latter rain, for the growth of their crops. The year previous to that in which we wintered there, with the exception of a shower in May, there was no rain from March till September, and but little for eight months. This, with the heat of the summer's sun, caused the wheat and other crops so to wither, that scarce enough was raised for


seed for the following year. Thus, when we were there, a distressing famine prevailed among the poor, and their sufferings for want of food, were great. Many families lived on little else than cabbage, carrots, and other vegetables, which they devoured raw, because they had no fuel with which to cook them. It was painful to see the poor creatures in their boats, rowing about the ships of the squadron, and with a little scoop-net, fastened to the end of a long stick, eagerly fishing from the salt water the fragments of sea-bread, and other articles of food which were thrown overboard. The soup left by the men on board our ships, after dinner was thrown into the boilers, and water added to it, when, after being heated, it was sent on shore, and a great number of poor, ragged, wretched looking objects, of all ages and sizes, would come, from a distance of a mile or more, with their old tin cups, and broken dishes, to receive their scanty pittance.

There had formerly been much difficulty, on account of custom-house restrictions, in distributing to the poor the damaged rice, bread, and other provisions of our squadron. Our Commodore, however, at the instance of the chaplain of his ship, obtained permission of the Governor of the island to distribute thirty or forty barrels of bread, and other injured articles, among the poor. This was done under the direction of the chaplain, who, on applying to the police, obtained a list of about five hundred families in Mahon, who were in a suffering condition. The population of the town is not far from twelve thousand; so that about one third of the whole number of inhabitants felt the bitterness of famine. It was also found that, notwithstanding this amount of suffering such was their pride of character, and so strong were the feelings of other and better days within them, that but three of these five hundred families had resorted to street begging, or were willing, except under cover of night, to come to any public place to receive their allotted portion. They were, therefore, divided off into districts, and a certain quantity of provisions was sent to each division, to be distributed among them in such a manner as to wound, in the least possible degree, their delicacy of feeling.

A number of wealthy gentlemen in Mahon, to save themselves the trouble of constant applications from street beggars, took each a given day in the week, on which they gave to every one, who applied at their doors, a copper coin of the value of half a cent. At such times, the streets in which this charity was given, would be thronged with ragged, and halfstarved beings, the deformed, the lame, and the blind, some of whom came from miles in the country, to obtain this wretched pittance.

A tenant of our former consul at Mahon, came to him one day, and told him, that fifty pigs and lambs had been stolen from him, and that he knew who had taken them. They were those who had often come to him to beg employment, and would never have stolen, except to keep their families from starving. Hundreds would have gladly labored for the scanty pittance of their daily bread. Such facts speak for themselves, and while they should lead us to pity the suffering, they should also fill our hearts with gratitude to God. that in our own favored land, such is the division of property, that poverty is scarcely known, and readily relieved, and the wealthy landholder cannot, if he would, with a view to fill his own coffers, starve the suffering poor around him.

When the soul is pained with beholding the misery and moral darkness with which man is oppressed, there is some relief in turning to gaze upon the face of nature, all bright and blooming with the smiles of Spring. During the winter referred to above, there was neither frost nor snow in Minorca, nor was there a day, when green peas, and the finest salad, with a great variety of garden-flowers, of richest hue and coloring, could not be obtained; and yet, Spring brought with it new beauties.

There were various landscapes around us, which were fitted to excite peculiar pleasure, but there was one which, to my taste, far surpassed the rest. Standing upon the heights at the head of the harbour, just above the town of Mahon, on the right was the quiet expanse of water, in which our stately and beautiful ships, all full of life and motion, were lying at anchor, while over its surface, numbers of neat and elegant sail-boats, like so many sea-fowl, were gliding about. Beyond these, were the spacious buildings of Hospital and Quarantine Islands, and the Lazaretto, all of purest white. Then there was the range of waving hills, which, extending from the open sea, at the mouth of the harbour, and enclosing here and there a quiet cove, at length spread out, and was divided into a group of the most graceful and beautiful little billocks that my eyes ever beheld. These retreated, one behind another, back towards the sea, the deep green verdure with which

« 上一頁繼續 »