1840 - Johnson, J. Pitts. Plain Truths, Told by a Traveller [New Zealand sections] - New Zealand, p 59-76

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  1840 - Johnson, J. Pitts. Plain Truths, Told by a Traveller [New Zealand sections] - New Zealand, p 59-76
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New Zealand.

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I quitted Sydney on the 15th of August, and intended to proceed on to Valparaiso direct, but the captain of the merchant vessel, in which I was a passenger, having some whale-boats on board which he wished to dispose of, resolved to run into the Bay of Islands, New Zealand, whither many of the whalers resort, and there endeavour to barter them away for oil; but the wind blowing very contrary, he made up his mind to run for Cook's Straits, and drop anchor between Entry Island and the large northern island. Here we anchored after a run of ten days. We found three Black Whalers here, that is to say, ships out in search of black whales, which are very plentiful on the coast of New Zealand, and about this part particularly so, as they always come into shoal water to calve, and the spermaceti whale never goes into soundings.

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Within a short distance of the spot where we anchored, is a place called Cloudy Bay, where an almost innumerable number of vessels remain annually during the calving season, particularly Americans. They make every thing snug, and send out their boats every morning in search of their prey. There was a whaling establishment belonging to the firm of Messrs. Wright and Long, of Sydney, within a cable's length of where we were lying. The three ships and this whaling establishment, took in all, about twenty whales during the time we were there, a space of about ten days. It was very amusing to see the whales taken, which we could distinctly with a telescope from our decks. They seem very plentiful in Cook's Straits, inasmuch as, during the short time we were passing across the Straits, from Entry Island to the great Northern Island, a distance not exceeding five miles, several came up and blew close to us; one rather disagreeably so, inasmuch as it thoroughly drenched the whole of us in the boat. Our captain purchased a large quantity of oil from one of the vessels at 22l. and 18l. per ton, whereas, had the man taken it to Sydney, (he was a Sydney whaler) he would have got 26l. and 28l. per ton. We were offered large quantities of whalebone at a very low price. After the ships had cut off the blubber sufficiently clean to answer their purpose, the carcase was towed on shore by a crew of men, who call themselves "tonguers." These men take off what little blubber the ship's crew have passed over, and also take out the tongue and try it all out; by this means they procure a tolerable quantity of oil, which they sell to the captain of the vessel from which they have taken the carcase. The effluvia from the carcase is very nauseous, as it is sometimes two or three days before the crews can cut in, owing to the roughness of the sea; whereas in the trying out, the smell is not, in my opinion, very disagreeable, but the ships are

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in a most beastly state. In sperm whale fishing, it is customary to clean the ship after every trying out, but in the black whale fishery in port, it is impossible to do it, owing to the continued succession of lucky fishing. After the oil is boiled out of the blubber, the latter serves for fuel, and makes most brilliant fires, and the ashes which it produces, cleans the ship, rigging, &c. better than any thing else. A great portion is kept for this purpose. The whalers all sail upon the lay, or in clearer terms, every person on board receives according to a graduated scale, a portion of the oil, which is to be given up as per agreement, to the employers at a certain price, not above half of the amount they would obtain for it, were they to sell it themselves at Sydney. The natives of New Zealand are, in person tall and robust, equal in stature to most Europeans. They are a very manly, warlike race, and amongst themselves are continually quarrelling and bickering. Every petty quarrel proving the incentive to direful warfare. Their dress is very uncouth, consisting of mats of their own manufacture, wrapped round their persons. They are very filthy in their persons, which seem the feeding ground of vermin. The colour of the natives is in general brown; the features of both sexes are good. Tattooing is very prevalent amongst them, and few are seen without it. The women are tattooed with blue round the lips only: the men are tattooed over the whole of their face and posteriors, some of them very handsomely. They can draw their own tattooing; this I saw done while we were at anchor, by a native who was on board. I presume it is from the pain it gives them, that their scarification is thus indelibly impressed on their memories. They traffic with the ships for potatoes, Swede turnips, pigs, fire-wood, mats, models of canoes, and baked heads: in exchange for which they receive muskets, blankets, gunpowder, tobacco, tobacco-pipes, spirits, gun-flints,

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shirts, prints, beads, axes, &c. Their three first articles of produce, above enumerated, namely, potatoes, turnips, and pigs, all grow wild. Fire-wood is found in great abundance. They make the mats and models of their canoes, some of which are most beautifully carved. The baked heads above alluded to, are those of their enemies which they have killed in battle, whose bodies they eat. Their heads, after having taken out the brains, &c. and washed the interior of the skull, and sewn the lips together to prevent their drawing up with the heat, they put into a native oven, and let it remain there three days. These heads they sell to visitors. But to prove that the heads are not always those of their enemies whom they have slain in battle, the following anecdote, for the truth of which I will vouch, will, I think, satisfactorily corroborate. One head was brought on board our ship for sale; I bid for it, but it was ultimately bought by the doctor of the vessel, for a blanket (a very small one) and an old dirty shirt. The natives perceiving I was anxious to purchase one if possible, told me, through an interpreter, (the master of the Caroline whaler, who spoke the language remarkably well,) that there were no more enemies' heads to be bought, but he, Ecoo, had a great many slaves, which he enumerated to the number of seventeen, by counting them on his fingers and toes, whom he ranged along the side of the vessel, and I might pick any one out whose tattooing I liked best, and in three days I was to have his head, on condition of my giving him a cask of gunpowder; this offer, however kindly meant to gratify my feelings, of curiosity, I unhesitatingly declined; and on expressing through the interpreter, my surprise and horror at such a proposal, he laughed with astonishment, and said, that many of the heads the White-skins had bought, were procured in this manner. This will, I think, sufficiently prove the awful

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state in which these miserable, deluded, and unhappy creatures are placed, and how great ought to be the punishment on those inhuman and brutal whites, who thus encourage the crime of murder among an ignorant race of beings, who are, naturally of a blood-thirsty habit.

As a proof of the immorality of the New Zealanders, the following statement of the occurrences that took place on board our vessel, may, I am persuaded, be relied on. Immediately on our arrival, before we had dropped anchor, a great number of canoes came off to us, some of them containing only two or three, whilst other canoes brought as many as a dozen or fourteen of the natives--consisting of men, women, and children. We were obliged to keep a very sharp look out, or they would have cut off the ends of rope, or stolen any thing they could by any possibility lay hands upon; some of them endeavouring even to draw the nails of the ship's deck. When evening came on, I am certain that we had not less than two hundred and fifty of these persons on board. A man, accompanied by several females, came up to the chief officer, who was standing on the poop, and very quietly asked him, in about the following manner, if he wanted a wife during his stay:--

"White man, you wantee womanee, littlee one, big one, old one, young one?"

Three of the youngest women who were with him, two of whom were most decidedly very pretty, he told us, were his daughters, and that he only let those go to the captains; that is to say, to any person who dines in the cabin, all of whom they suppose bear this honourable distinction. They were not more than twelve to fourteen years of age, delicately formed, and well proportioned.

I was told by the second officer, the following morning, that there was not one of the sailors, from the carpenter and boatswain down to the cook and youngest apprentice, who had not a wife that night, and the ill state of the

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healths of the crew fully proved that they had paid most dearly for their licentiousness. These girls remained on board during the whole of our stay in Cook's Straits, and the day previous to our sailing, the captain had some very heavy demands upon his slop chest, for articles of clothing, to remunerate these damsels, and during the whole time continual applications for tobacco from the sailors, to gratify the almost insatiable desire their wives had for the taste and perfume of this destructive weed. The men also parted with a portion of their grog every day to these ladies, who, in my opinion, took it more greedily than I ever saw a European. On board the whaling vessels, when they stay any length of time, these women are very useful to the sailors in washing their clothes.

The appetites of both sexes are remarkably keen, and they certainly look to quantity prior to their inspection of the quality of their food, or the cleanliness of the cooking. They are very fond of salt beef and pork, commonly known by the name of junk. I saw one female eat an eight pound piece of beef, large quantities of potatoes, and four pounds of ship biscuit in one day, and afterwards partake of some whale meat with another native, the very scent of which, when it came alongside, was sufficiently strong to take away any decent person's appetite for a week; yet she seemed to relish it with a great deal of gout--no doubt fancying it a most tempting morsel. The flesh of the calf of the whale they consider a most extraordinary delicacy; and having tasted it myself on board the Roslin Castle, I certainly did not consider it bad; and had I not known what it was, should have said it was rather old veal. Their principal food is pork and potatoes, varied at times by the above mentioned delicacy, some fresh fish, or a small steak of human flesh--but this latter delicacy, however, is only to be found when they receive visits of ceremony from neighbouring chiefs, on

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which occasion a female slave girl is generally sacrificed to these monstrous appetites. Their pork is any thing but delicate, as many of the pigs, particularly those on the sea shore, are fattened, or rather say, reared, on whale carcase, that drift ashore during the season, and also upon fish, large quantities of which are caught by the natives with a very ingenious sort of hook they have; the back is wood, the face is mother-of-pearl, and the bend and barb are made of bone, strongly tied on to the wood. The pork in consequence of this mode of feeding always tastes fishy.

You can buy a pig weighing from five to seven and eight stone, of 14 lbs., for a pound of negrohead tobacco--a pound of tobacco is ten figs, be they large or small; and as some of the small fig tobacco runs as many as eighteen to the pound, it is of course best for any person to purchase. It costs about 1s. 6d. to 2s. per lb. generally in Sydney. A basket of potatoes or turnips, both of which are very good, for a fig of tobacco per basket of about forty pounds weight. Fire-wood may be purchased at about three New Zealand pounds of tobacco for about two tons weight. Many vessels trade continually from Sydney and Hobart Town to New Zealand in the purchase of pigs, potatoes, and firewood, which pays them remarkably well.

I had my wife with me during my stay in New Zealand, and their surprise at seeing a white woman was certainly prodigious. The cabin doors were literally crammed with visiters to pay their respects to her. They were very civil, and made her presents of two native birds, but unfortunately they died, from being confined, before we reached Valparaiso. I have not seen any of the description any where else; they were small birds, about the size of sparrows, perfectly black, except a white top-not, and white feathers under the bill, hanging down. The whalers call them parsons, from the two white feathers hanging out.

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The native name is paaroo. My wife gave one of the dames a pair of gilt ear-rings, of which she was excessively proud, and immediately fastened them to her nose and neck. To another she gave a dress, and I can assure my readers, this lady was the envy of the whole of the dark race. Many of the females appeared in shirts, the gifts of various lovers, some red, some blue, and some had once been white, but from their continually wearing them, both day and night, it was next to impossible to describe their colour, something however between black and grey.

Their war-canoes, many of which will carry from twenty to forty men, are some of them very handsomely carved at the head and stern. All the men have a musket; and from enquiries made amongst them, we found there were few boys of thirteen or fourteen, who were not provided with their weapons of offence. They will not purchase a gun with a percussion lock; flint locks ranking highest in their estimation.

The land that we saw was generally of a light black nature, well supplied in every direction with fresh water, on which were a great many ducks; we also saw a great many wild dogs and pigs; we passed through large fields of both hemp and flax. On Entry Island there are about one hundred and twenty head of horned cattle, the offspring of a bull and cow left there by Captain Cook. They are of course excessively wild, and it is very difficult to get near them. We went out to shoot one if possible, but could not succeed. A gentleman who was with us wounded one, a young bull, but it got away. Had we succeeded in killing one, we should have had to give the natives a musket, as that is the only condition on which they will allow you to take a bullock on board.

They were in most luxuriant pasturage, and in most excellent condition.

In the neighbourhood of the Port of Hokianga, on the western side of the Northern Island, are immense forests

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of trees, particularly adapted for spars for shipping, great quantities of which are annually brought to England for the use of Her Majesty's navy, as well as the merchant service. They are not sufficiently large for the lower masts of large vessels, but very well adapted for topmasts, yards, and bowsprits. Large quantities are also exported to New South Wales. It is the admitted opinion of all the naturalists that have visited New Zealand, that every kind of European fruits, grain, and plants, would flourish here with the greatest luxuriance. The winters are milder than in England, and the summers, though not much warmer, are more equal; and it has all along been supposed, that were this country settled by people from Europe, they would with moderate industry, be very soon supplied with not only the necessaries but the luxuries of life. Sheep breeding was tried here, by Richard Jones, Esq. of Sydney, but was not found to succeed.

The wild hemp and flax growing in New Zealand, has been tried by several, but has not been found to pay the expence of collecting; as, although it is a very good sort, and equal to any cultivated, and is to be found through both the islands, it grows very thinly. There is a sort of settlement at the Bay of Islands, but composed, unfortunately, of very bad characters, many of them being run-away prisoners from Sydney and Van Diemen's Land. There are several grog-shops, indeed nearly every house sells spirits. Many of the persons who keep these dens of infamy, for nothing better can they be called, go alongside the various whalers as they arrive, and offer the sailors, who are proverbially a discontented race, half-a-crown and three shillings a day, and their grub and grog. The unfortunate men, deluded by these seeming fair promises, quit the ship, leave their share in the cargo, to the amount perhaps of twenty pounds, behind them, and with their clothes, go to the house of these infernal harpies. As

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soon as the vessel has left, and the seaman has no longer any clothes, and perhaps a few shillings in debt, they force him to supply the place, on board some other vessel, of some other sailor they have thus seduced. There are several whaling establishments about the coasts; that of Messrs. Weller's, however, at Otago, on the south-eastern point of the Southward Island, is, I believe, the most extensive, as well as the most lucrative.

People have been endeavouring to pass a bill through parliament for the colonization of New Zealand, but have not succeeded; and in consequence of the favorable reports given by Mr. Polack and another person, whose name I at present forget, some gentlemen have formed themselves into two companies for the colonization of these islands, and by their advertisement, I perceive, are offering land for sale. May I ask by what authority these lands are sold? Of whom are they purchased? If these gentlemen answer, the native chiefs, I would ask them one other question, --are they aware that if the British Government hereafter make up their minds to take possession of New Zealand, they will not recognise these purchases, but take possession of the whole and re-sell the land, which this company has already sold to the emigrant--upon which land he has most probably expended his all, and is at that moment just beginning to reap the sweets of all his labour, toil, and money?

I would by all means strenuously impress upon the minds of those who are contemplating purchasing land in this pretended company, to sift this bubble to the bottom, or he may perhaps find himself a beggar as he begins to think of enjoying the residue of his life in that otium cum dignitate, which we all of us hope one day to arrive at, and instead of leaving his offspring a property that will enable them to live in comfort so long as life remains, they will be worse off than he was on his arrival.

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I cannot help expressing my firm conviction, that to the enterprising emigrant of small capital, New Zealand opens a field for his exertions which is very seldom to be met with, whilst at the same time he will not have to undergo so many of those disastrous privations which the early settlers who went to Swan River experienced, who, although they had money, could not purchase any of the most common necessaries of life. At New Zealand a person is certain not to starve, as he can purchase pigs and potatoes of the natives, which, if not of the most delicate sort, will at any rate keep him and his family from want, and, moreover, his labour would not come by any means so expensive, as by kind treatment and very moderate remuneration, the natives, who are extremely intelligent and ingenious, would act as servants in any way in which their services can be made available. They are much accustomed to ship-board, and as far as the duties of an ordinary seaman go they act with a quickness, and attention to duty seldom surpassed by Europeans; and I am fully persuaded, that they might be equally serviceable in any other laborious capacity. In whale boats they pull very strongly and steadily, but through their not being so powerful as Englishmen, they cannot vie with them in that respect.

Their kykes or villages are more ship shape than any savage villages I ever saw. Their houses are very small, and used only to sleep in, and remain in during wet weather, as they never eat under cover; they have a small aperture not above two feet and a half, or three feet high, and two feet broad, on which it is necessary to go down on your hands and knees to pass through, which serves them as a doorway. There is another aperture above this, which serves the treble purpose of letting in light and air and letting out smoke, as it is the only chimney.

The cruelty they have shewn towards strangers has

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now worn off, and unless goaded on to commit murder by scoundrelly white men, who reside amongst them, I firmly believe they would not attempt it, as they find it is by far the better plan to get what they can by fair means only, except a little theft or so of any small trifle that might lie in their way; but this last trait is nothing more than the character of all savages. Any person may, by taking proper notice, however, have due warning of the intention of the New Zealanders to commit any crime, independent of petty thefts, as taking possession of a ship or murder; as they always send the women away from the ship, or wherever the place may be of the intended outbreak; so that as long as you see the women remain on board the vessel, you may be sure it is safe. I have heard many persons, who have been trading about the islands several years, declare that many of the crimes committed by the savages at various places, were at the instigation of the missionaries. That many of these men are most shamefully immoral there can be no question; and is it, I ask my readers, at all probable that an illiterate country cobbler is fit to direct the minds of these unfortunate beings? I will only adduce one instance of many I could mention of missionaries being the incentives to some of the crimes committed by savages.

The following circumstance took place in the early part of 1836, at one of the Feejee Islands, I think Vasou. It was related to me by a captain of a whaler who was there at the time: an Englishman, who was by trade a carpenter, had some years since run from his vessel when at this place, and lived with the natives, amongst whom he had two wives--a chief's two daughters. Shortly after the missionary's arrival, he became acquainted with this man, who made him many little things, as well as put up the frame-work for his house. The man grew tired of living amongst savages, and

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wished to leave the island, and a master of a whaler who was there agreed to take him. He mentioned it to the missionary, who as soon as he heard it, sent immediately for the chief, whose daughters this carpenter had married, and told him of his intention to quit the island, and recommended his detaining him by force; this, however, the chief refused to do; but before the man quitted the island inflicted summary punishment on him by flogging, of which the missionary was aware, but did not attempt to prevent. There were two highly respectable members of the Society of Friends, who had been round the world visiting the various countries and islands, and they also described the conduct of many of the missionaries as gross and immoral in the extreme, and calculated to set the unfortunate creatures, among whom they were placed, most awfully bad examples, instead of those of morality and integrity; countenancing, and in many instances strenuously encouraging, the continuance of that system of plurality of wives so common amongst savages of the South Sea Islands.

A gentleman whom I met at Valparaiso, who had recently resided as a missionary from the Church of England at Pitcairn's Island, where the mutineers of the Bounty took refuge, and whose descendants at present populate the Island to the number of about ninety, whose conduct and characters were most exemplary, perfectly coincided with the opinion of the two gentlemen above-mentioned, Messrs. James Walker and George Backhouse; and even went so far as to say, that the scenes of drunkenness amongst the missionaries at the Society Islands were very frequent, and, particularly disgusting to these simple-minded natives; he also told me of a man, who is at present a missionary at one of the Society Islands, who, instead of residing with his wife and family, lives with a native girl, not so old as his own youngest daughter!! Is it not horrifying to think

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that the pure religion of our Saviour should thus be corrupted and defiled! and by those very persons selected to spread its blessed influence to the heathen, and who are sent out and paid by the subscriptions of deluded English persons? These "unfruitful drones," who are an insult and disgrace to Christianity, are almost fed by the natives of the places where they go, and continually receiving presents of food, fruit, &c. The great rock, it appears, on which the Wesleyan Mission Society has split, is, in their sending persons whom they have taken from a low grade of society, instead of selecting them from a more respectable sphere of life.

After we quitted New Zealand, we bore down to about 45° south latitude, as the fresh breezes are more constant there than in the lower latitudes. After six weeks' sail, we made the land of South America on the morning of the 14th of October, and when mid-day came, we found ourselves about ninety miles to the southward of our destined port, Valparaiso, and drifting towards rocks that were considerably higher than our mast heads, and against which the sea was breaking with awful fury. These were discovered to be the rocks of Topocalmo. At one, it became a complete calm, and we continued, of course, drifting with the current, which ran about four and a half knots an hour. In this awful predicament we remained till about four, at which time, the rocks were not one hundred and fifty yards from us, and we expected in ten minutes to strike on them, when a fresh breeze sprung up from the southward, and carried us clear of the whole.

Our dinner had been on the cuddie table an hour, but, until the breeze came, it remained untouched by any of us; so great was our state of excitement in consequence of the proximity of this unfavourable land.

About eight o'clock the following morning, Sunday the 15th, we arrived in Valparaiso Bay; but the wind falling

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suddenly, just as we entered, Commodore Sullivan, who was the senior British officer upon the station, sent a barge with eighteen men from his vessel, the Stag, to tow us in. Great thanks are generally due from masters of merchant vessels to the captains commanding Her Majesty's ships on foreign stations; but particularly to Commodore Sullivan for his uniform kindness and attention in assisting ships into harbour, and in every other way in which the services of his crew or his officers can be made available.

We found Her Majesty's ships, Stag, Rover, Imogene, Fly, and Basilisk; two American and two French men-of-war. There was also one Chilian war schooner called the Colocolo. Apropos des bottes, --this vessel, a short time before we quitted Sydney, brought there, from this port, a General Freyre, supposing he would be made to work on the roads, in irons, in consequence of his having caused a revolution in Chili; of which he was at one time President, and wished to be so again. He was a man of middle height, rather inclined to embonpoint; good looking, and of gentlemanly address. This vessel was formerly in the Peruvian service; but at the commencement of the war between Chili and Peru, was run away with from the Peruvian to the Chilian squadron, by her captain, a Frenchman; and it seems that the greater villain a man is in Chili, the more he is respected: this man is courted by every Chilian.

The bay is a very fine large one; and vessels may anchor in any depth of water. The town looks very pretty from the bay; particularly the residences of the foreigners, which are of a very tasty description, and situated on the side of a hill, called English Mount. There is but one jetty for landing throughout the whole of the bay; one side of which is kept for shore and merchant vessels' boats, the other for the boats belonging to the men-of-war.

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Landing, however, can be effected in any part of the bay; although you must not always count upon dry feet, as the water shallows very gradually. The town consists of but one principal street, which leads from the market place to the Almandral, or Almond Grove, which commences at Plaza das Auragas. From this street, narrow lanes strike out, in which the poorer classes reside; they are called Quebrados, and a small rivulet runs through them during the summer months, which, in winter, is increased to a mountain torrent. Quebrado signifies a valley; as these streets always lead up between two hills. The houses are generally built of bricks baked in the sun: some few, however, are built of stone. The floors are also brick, except in the houses of the English residents, where timber is substituted. The rooms are large, airy, and well proportioned, and in general, very comfortably furnished; except that they have no carpets, nor any stoves; the latter is remedied by brass pans containing charcoal, which are termed brasseros, and are placed in the centre of the room. On entering a Spaniard's house, they immediately offer you brandy, cherries, and a cigar (anchita), which are made of tobacco rolled up in the inner leaves of the Indian corn, and have a very sweet flavour. So common is smoking, that they smoke in the merchants' offices, and even in the native ball-rooms.

The Spaniards are excessively hospitable and kind to strangers; particularly to the English, for whom they profess great attachment: nor are the English at all backward in their acts of friendship and kind attention. In walking through the streets of Valparaiso of an evening, should you hear music and dancing, and enter the house, you are received in the Spanish families with great courtesy, and requested to join their festivities sans ceremonie. It is requisite, if you wish to continue the acquaintance, to call an evening or two afterwards.

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The only attractive building in the town is the Custom-house; which is a very prominent feature in the view of the town from the bay; it is a handsome stone building, and has more the appearance of a church than what it really is. The streets are very ill paved, and without footways. The vast quantities of prostitutes, in comparison with the size of the town, is surprising. In the Quebrados, nearly half the houses belong to these women. They are not licensed as in France; but when any of them die, there is a law which empowers the police to burn their clothes, and it is strictly adhered to. The women are, in general, remarkably fine, with handsome features, small hands and feet, and very beautiful hair. The men are not so fine in proportion; but like the women, have good heads of jet black hair, and fine black eyes. The females walk about the streets without bonnets, and their heads dressed with flowers. They are particularly fond of gaudy-coloured prints; such as scarlet, with large yellow, blue, or black flowers interspersed; their shawls also are of the same gaudy colours; many of them are worked in flowers, and look very neat and becoming.

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