To the Gold Coast for Gold
By Richard F. Burton

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Chapter V.


When I left, in 1865, the western coast of the Dark Continent, its transit and traffic were monopolised by the A(frican) S(team) S(hip) Company, a monthly line established in 1852, mainly by the late Macgregor Laird. In 1869 Messieurs Elder, Dempster, and Co., of Glasgow, started the B(ritish) and A(frican) to divide the spoils. The junior numbers nineteen keel, including two being built. It could easily ’eat up’ the decrepit senior, which is now known as the A(frican) S(tarvation) S(teamers); but this process would produce serious competition. Both lines sail from Liverpool on alternate Saturdays, and make Funchal, with their normal unpunctuality, between Fridays and Sundays. This is dreary slow compared with the four days’ fast running of the ’Union S. S. C.’ and the comfortable ’Castle Line,’ alias the Cape steamers.

The B. and A. s.s. Senegal is a fair specimen of the modern West African trader ’improved:’ unfortunately the improvements affect the shareholders’ pockets rather than the passengers’ persons. The sleeping-berths are better, but the roomy, well-lighted, comfortable old saloon, sadly shorn of its fair proportions, has become the upper story of a store-room. The unfortunate stewards must catch fever by frequent diving into the close and sultry mine of solids and fluids under floor. There being no baggage-compartment, boxes and bags are stowed away in the after part, unduly curtailing light and air; the stern lockers, once such pleasant sleeping-sofas, and their fixed tables are of no use to anything besides baskets and barrels. Here the surgeon, who, if anyone, should have a cabin by way of dispensary, must lodge his medicine-chest. Amongst minor grievances the main cabin is washed every night, breeding a manner of malaria. The ice intended for passengers is either sold or preserved for those who ship most cargo. Per contra, the cook is good, the table is plentiful, the wines not over bad, the stewards civil, and the officers companionable.

Both lines, however, are distinctly traders. They bind themselves to no time; they are often a week late, and they touch wherever demand calls them. The freight-charges are exorbitant, three pounds for fine goods and a minimum of thirty-six shillings, when fifteen per ton would pay. The White Star Line, therefore, threatens concurrence. Let us also hope that when the Gold Mines prosper we shall have our special steamers, where the passenger will be more prized than the puncheon of palm-oil. But future rivals must have a care; they will encounter a somewhat unscrupulous opposition; and they had better ship American crews, at any rate not Liverpudlians.

The night and the next day were spent at sea in a truly delicious climate, which seemed to wax softer and serener as we advanced. Here the moon, whose hue is golden, not silvern, has a regular dawn before rising, and an afterglow to her setting; and Venus casts a broad cestus of glimmering light upon the purple sea. Mount Atlas, alias the Pike of Teyde, gradually upreared his giant statue, two and a half miles high: travellers speak of seeing him from Madeira, a distance of some 260 (dir. geog.) miles; but this would be possible only were both termini 15,000 feet in altitude. The limit of sight for terrestrial objects under the most favourable conditions does not exceed 210 miles. Yet here it is not difficult to explain the impossible distances, 200 miles instead of 120, at which, they say, the cone has been sighted: mirage or refraction accounts for what the earth’s convexity disallows.

We first see a low and regular wall of cloud-bank whose coping bears here and there bulges of white, cottony cloud. Then a regular pyramid, at this season white as snow, shows its gnomon-like point, impaling the cumuli. Hour by hour the outlines grow clearer, till at last the terminal cone looks somewhat like a thimble upon a pillow–the cumbre, or lofty foundation of pumice-plains. But the aspect everywhere varies according as you approach the island from north, south, east, or west.

The evening of January 9 showed us right abeam a splendid display of the Zodiacal Light, whose pyramid suggested the glow of a hemisphere on fire. The triangle, slightly spherical, measured at its base 22 degrees to 24 degrees and rose to within 6” of Jupiter. The reflection in the water was perfect and lit up with startling distinctness the whole eastern horizon.

At 7 A.M. next morning, after running past the Anaga knuckle-bone–and very bony it is–of the Tenerife gigot, we cast anchor in the Bay of Santa Cruz, took boat, and hurried ashore. In the early times of the A.S.S. halts at the several stations often lasted three days. Business is now done in the same number of hours; and the captain informs you that ’up goes the anchor’ the moment his last bale or bag comes on board. This trading economy of time, again, is an improvement more satisfactory to the passenger than to the traveller and sightseer who may wish to see the world.

Brusque was the contrast between the vivid verdure of Sylvania, the Isle of Wood, and the grim nudity of north-eastern Tenerife; brusquer still the stationary condition of the former compared with the signs, of progress everywhere evident in the latter. Spain, under the influence of anticlerical laws and a spell of republicanism, has awoke from her sleep of ages, and we note the effects of her revival even in these colonies. A brand-new red fort has been added to La Ciudadela at the northern suburb, whence a mole is proposed to meet the southern branch and form a basin. Then comes the triangular city whose hypothenuse, fronting east, is on the sea; its chief fault is having been laid out on too small a scale. At the still-building pier, which projects some 500 yards from the central mass of fort and cuadras (insulae or house-blocks), I noticed a considerable growth of buildings, especially the Marineria and other offices connected with the free port. The old pink ’castle’ San Cristobal (Christopher), still cumbers the jetty-root; but the least sentimental can hardly expect the lieges to level so historic a building: it is the site of Alonso Fernandez de Lugo’s first tower, and where his disembarkation on May 3, 1493, gave its Christian name ’Holy Cross’ to the Guanche ’Añasa.’ Meanwhile the Rambleta de Ravenal, dated 1861, a garden, formerly dusty, glary, and dreary as the old Florian of Malta, now bears lovers’ seats, a goodly growth of planes and tamarinds, a statue, a fountain, and generally a gypsy-like family. By its side runs a tramway for transporting the huge blocks of concrete intended to prolong the pier. The inner town also shows a new palace, a new hospital, and a host of improvements.

Landing at Santa Cruz, a long dull line of glaring masonry, smokeless and shadeless, was to me intensely saddening. A score of years had carried off all my friends. Kindly Mrs. Nugent, called ’the Admiral,’ and her amiable daughter are in the English burial-ground; the hospitable Mr. Consul Grattan had also faded from the land of the living. The French Consul, M. Berthelot, who published [Footnote: Histoire naturelle des Iles Canaries, par MM. P. Barker Webb et Sabin Berthelot, ouvrage publié sous les auspices de M. Guizot, Ministre de l’Instruction Publique, Paris, 1839. Seven folio vols., with maps, plans, and sketches, all regardless of expense.] by favour of the late Mr. Webb, went to the many in 1880. One of the brothers Richardson had died; the other had subsided into a clerk, and the Fonda Ingleza had become the British Consulate. The new hotel kept by Señor Camacho and his English wife appeared comfortable enough, but it had none of those associations which make the old familiar inn a kind of home. En revanche, however, I met Mr. Consul Dundas, my successor at the port of Santos, whence so few have escaped with life; and his wife, the daughter of an Anglo-Brazilian friend.

Between 1860 and 1865 I spent many a week in Tenerife, and here I am tempted to transcribe a few extracts from my voluminous notes upon various subjects, especially the Guanche population and the ascent of the Pike. A brief history of the unhappy Berber-speaking goatherds who, after being butchered to make sport for certain unoccupied gentlemen, have been raised by their assailants to kings and heroes rivalling the demi-gods of Greece and Rome, and the melancholy destruction of the race, have been noticed in a previous volume. [Footnote: Yol. i. chap, ii., Wanderings in West Africa. The modorra, lethargy or melancholia, which killed so many of those Numidian islanders suggests the pining of a wild bird prisoned in a cage.] I here confine myself to the contents of my note-book upon the Guanche collections in the island.

One fine morning my wife and I set out in a venerable carriage for San Cristobal de la Laguna. The Camiño de los Coches, a fine modern highway in corkscrew fashion from Santa Cruz to Orotava, was begun, by the grace of General Ortega, who died smoking in the face of the firing party, and ended between 1862 and 1868. This section, eight kilomètres long, occupies at least one hour and a half, zigzagging some 2,000 feet up a steep slope which its predecessor uncompromisingly breasted. Here stood the villa of Peter Pindar (Dr. Walcott), who hymned the fleas of Tenerife: I would back those of Tiberias. The land is arid, being exposed to the full force of the torrid northeast trade. Its principal produce is the cactus (coccinellifera), a fantastic monster with fat oval leaves and apparently destitute of aught beyond thorns and prickles. Here and there a string of small and rather mangy camels, each carrying some 500 lbs., paced par monts et par vaux, and gave a Bedawi touch to the scene: they were introduced from Africa by De Béthencourt, surnamed the Great. We remarked the barrenness of the bronze-coloured Banda del Sur, whose wealth is in cochineal and ’dripstones,’ or filters of porous lava. Here few save the hardiest plants can live, the spiny, gummy, and succulent cactus and thistles, aloes and figs. The arborescent tabayba (Euphorbia canariensis), locally called ’cardon,’ is compared by some with the ’chandelier’ of the Cape, bristling with wax tapers: the Guanches used it extensively for narcotising fish. This ’milk plant,’ with its acrid, viscid, and virulent juice, and a small remedial shrub growing by its side, probably gave rise to the island fable of the twin fountains; one killed the traveller by a kind of risus Sardonicus, unless he used the other by way of cure. A scatter of crosses, which are impaled against every wall and which rise from every eminence; a ruined fort here and there; a long zigzag for wheels, not over-macadamised, with an older short cut for hoofs, and the Puente de Zurita over the Barranco Santo, an old bridge made new, led to the cuesta, or crest, which looks down upon the Vega de la Laguna, the native Aguere.

The ’noble and ancient city’ San Cristobal de la Laguna was founded on June 26, 1495, St. Christopher’s Day, by De Lugo, who lies buried in the San Miguel side-chapel of La Concepcion de la Victorias. The site is an ancient lava-current, the successor of a far older crater, originally submarine. The latest sub-aerial fire-stream, a broad band flowing from north to south–we have ascended it by the coach-road–and garnished with small parasitic craters, affords a bed and basis to the capital-port, Santa Cruz. After rains the lake reappears in mud and mire; and upon the lip where the town is built the north-east and the south-west winds contend for mastery, shedding abundant tears. Yet the old French chronicler says of the site, ’Je ne croy pas qu’il y eu ait en tout le monde aucune autre de plus plaisante.’ The mean annual temperature is 62° 51’ (F.), and the sensation is of cold: the altitude being 1,740 feet. Hence, like Orotava, it escaped the yellow fever which in October 1862 had slain its 616 victims.

[Footnote: The list of epidemics at Santa Cruz is rather formidable, e.g. 1621 and 1628, peste (plague); 1810 and 1862, yellow Jack; 1814, whooping cough, scarlatina, and measles; 1816-16, small-pox (2,000 victims); 1826, cough and scarlet ferer; 1847, fatal dysentery; and 1861-62, cholera (7,000 to 12,000 deaths).]

La Laguna offers an extensive study of medieval baronial houses, of colonial churches, of ermitas, or chapels, of altars, and of convents now deserted, but once swarming with Franciscans and Augustines and Dominicans and Jesuits. These establishments must have been very rich, for, here as elsewhere,

Dieu prodigue ses biens À ceux qui font voeu d’être siens.

St. Augustine, with its short black belfry, shows a Christus Vinctus of the Seville school, and the institute or college in the ex-monastery contains a library of valuable old books. The Concepcion boasts a picture of St. John which in 1648 sweated for forty days. [Footnote: Evidently a survival of the classic aera sudantia. Mrs. Murray notices the ’miracle’ at full length (ii. 76).] The black and white cathedral, bristling with cannon-like gargoyles, a common architectural feature in these regions, still owns the fine pulpit of Carrara marble sent from Genoa in 1767. The chef d’oeuvre then cost 200l.; now it would be cheap at five times that price. In the sacristy are the usual rich vestments and other clerical curios. The Ermita de San Cristobal, built upon an historic site, is denoted as usual by a giant Charon bearing a small infant. There is a Carriera or Corso (High Street) mostly empty, also the great deserted Plaza del Adelantado, of the conqueror Lugo. The arms of the latter, with his lance and banner, are shown at the Ayuntamiento, or town-house; I do not admire his commercial motto–

  Quien lanza sabe tener,
  Ella le da de comer.
   Whose lance can wield
   Daily bread ’twill yield.]

Conquering must not be named in the same breath as ’bread-winning.’ There, too, is the scutheon of Tenerife, given to it in 1510; Michael the Archangel, a favourite with the invader, stands unroasted upon the fire-vomiting Nivarian peak, and this grand vision of the guarded mount gave rise to satiric lines by Vieira:–

   Miguel, Angel Miguel, sobre esta altura
     Te puso el Rey Fernando y Tenerife;
   Para ser del asufre y nieve fria
     Guardia, administrador y almoxarife.
   Michael, archangel Michael, on this brow
     Throned thee King Ferdinand and Tenerife;
   To be of sulphur grough and frigid snow
     Administrator, guard, and reeve-in-chief.]

The deserted streets were long lines with an unclean central gutter. Some of the stone houses were tall, grand, solid, and stately; such are the pavilion of the Counts of Salazar, the huge, heavy abode of the Marquesses de Nava, and the mansions of the Villanuevas del Pardo. But yellow fever had driven away half of the population–10,000 souls, who could easily be 20,000–and had barricaded the houses to the curious stranger. Most of them, faced and porticoed with florid pillars, were mere dickies opening upon nothing, and only the huge armorial bearings showed that they had ever been owned. Mixed with these ’palaces.’ were ’cat-faced cottages’ and pauper, mildewed tenements, whose rusty iron-work, tattered planks, and broken windows gave them a truly dreary and dismal appearance. The sole noticeable movement was a tendency to gravitate in the roofs. The principal growth, favoured by the vapour-laden air, was of grass in the thoroughfares, of moss on the walls, and of the ’fat weed’ upon the tiles. The horse-leek (sempervivum urbium), brought from Madeira, was first described by the ’gifted Swede’ Professor Smith, who died on the Congo River. Finally, though the streets are wide and regular, and the large town is well aired by four squares, the whole aspect was strongly suggestive of the cocineros (cooks), as the citizens of the capital are called by the sons of the capital-port. They retort by terming their rival brethren chicharreros, or fishers of the chicharro (horse-mackerel, Caranx Cuvieri.)

From La Laguna we passed forward to Tacoronte, the ’Garden of the Guanches,’ and inspected the little museum of the late D. Sebastian Casilda, collected by his father, a merchant-captain de long cours. It was a chaos of curiosities ranging from China to Peru. Amongst them, however, were four entire mummies, including one from Grand Canary. Thus we can correct M. Berthelot, who follows others in asserting that only the Guanches of Tenerife mummified their dead. The oldest description of this embalming is by a ’judicious and ingenious man who had lived twenty years in the island as a physitian and merchant.’ It was inserted by Dr. Thomas Sprat in the ’Transactions of the Royal Society,’ London, and was republished in John Ogilby’s enormous folio [Footnote: The ’physitian’ was Dr. Eden, an Englishman who visited Tenerife in 1662.–Bohn’s Humboldtr, i. 66] yclept ’Africa.’ The merchant ’set out from Guimar, a Town for the most part inhabited by such as derive themselves from the Antient Guanchios, in the company of some of them, to view their Caves and the corps buried in them (a favour they seldom or never permit to any, having the Corps of their Ancestors in great veneration, and likewise being extremely against any molestation of the Dead); but he had done many Eleemosynary Cures amongst them, for they are very poor (yet the poorest think themselves too good to Marry with the best Spaniard), which endeared him to them exceedingly. Otherwise it is death for any Stranger to visit these Caves and Bodies. The Corps are sew’d up in Goatskins with Thongs of the same, with very great curiosity, particularly in the incomparable exactness and evenness of the Seams; and the skins are made close and fit to the Corps, which for the most part are entire, the Eyes clos’d, Hair on their heads, Ears, Nose, Teeth, Lips, and Beards, all perfect, onely discolour’d and a little shrivell’d. He saw about three or four hundred in several Caves, some of them standing, others lying upon Beds of Wood, so hardened by an art they had (which the Spaniards call curay, to cure a piece of Wood) that no iron can pierce or hurt it.[Footnote: The same writer tells that they had earthen pots so hard that they could not be broken. I have heard of similar articles amongst the barbarous races east of Dalmatia.] These Bodies are very light, as if made of straw; and in some broken Bodies he observ’d the Nerves and Tendons, and also the String of the Veins and Arteries very distinctly. By the relation of one of the most antient of this island, they had a particular Tribe that had this art onely among themselves, and kept it as a thing sacred and not to be communicated to the Vulgar. These mixt not themselves with the rest of the Inhabitants, nor marry’d out of their own Tribe, and were also their Priests and Ministers of Religion. But when the Spaniards conquer’d the place, most of them were destroy’d and the art perisht with them, onely they held some Traditions yet of a few Ingredients that were us’d in this business; they took Butter (some say they mixed Bear’s-grease with it) which they kept for that purpose in the Skins; wherein they boyl’d certain Herbs, first a kind of wild Lavender, which grows there in great quantities upon the Rocks; secondly, an Herb call’d Lara, of a very gummy and glutinous consistence, which now grows there under the tops of the Mountains; thirdly, a kind of cyclamen, or sow-bread; fourthly, wild Sage, which grows plentifully upon this island. These with others, bruised and boyl’d up into Butter, rendered it a perfect Balsom. This prepar’d, they first unbowel the Corps (and in the poorer sort, to save Charges, took out the Brain behind): after the Body was thus order’d, they had in readiness a lixivium made of the Bark of Pine-Trees, wherewith they washt the Body, drying it in the Sun in Summer and in the Winter in a Stove, repeating this very often: Afterward they began their unction both without and within, drying it as before; this they continu’d till the Balsom had penetrated into the whole Habit, and the Muscle in all parts appear’d through the contracted Skin, and the Body became exceeding light: then they sew’d them up in Goat-skins. The Antients say, that they have above twenty Caves of their Kings and great Personages with their whole Families, yet unknown to any but themselves, and which they will never discover.’ Lastly, the ’physitian’ declares that ’bodies are found in the caves of the Grand Canaries, in Sacks, quite consumed, and not as these in Teneriff.’

This assertion is somewhat doubtful; apparently the practice was common to the archipelago. It at once suggests Egypt; and, possibly, at one time, extended clean across the Dark Continent. So Dr. Barth [Footnote: Travels, &c., vol. iv. pp. 426-7.] tells us that when the chief Sonni Ali died in Grurma, ’his sons, who accompanied him on the expedition, took out his entrails and filled his inside with honey, in order that it might be preserved from putrefaction.’ Many tribes in South America and New Zealand, as well as in Africa, preserved the corpse or portions of it by baking, and similar rude devices. According to some authorities, the Gruanche menceys (kinglets or chiefs) were boxed, Egyptian fashion, in coffins; but few are found, because the superstitious Christian islanders destroy the contents of every catacomb.

In the Casilda collection I observed the hard features, broad brows, square faces, and flavos crines described by old writers. Two showed traces of tongue and eyes (which often were blue), proving that the softer and more perishable parts were not removed. There were specimens of the dry and liquid balsam. Of the twenty-six skulls six were from Grand Canary. All were markedly of the type called Caucasian, and some belonged to exceptionally tall men. The shape was dolichocephalic, with sides rather flat than rounded; the perceptive region was well developed, and the reflective, as usual amongst savages and barbarians, was comparatively poor. The facial region appeared unusually large.

The industrial implements were coarse needles and fish-hooks of sheep-bone. The domestic supellex consisted of wooden ladles coarsely cut, and of rude pottery, red and yellow, generally without handles, round-shaped and adorned with scratches. None of these ganigos, or crocks, were painted like those of Grand Canary. They used also small basaltic querns of two pieces to grind the gofio, [Footnote: The gofio was composed of ripe barley, toasted, pounded, and kneaded to a kind of porridge in leathern bags like Turkish tobacco-pouches. The object was to save the teeth, of which the Guanches were particularly careful.] or parched grain. The articles of dress were grass-cloth, thick as matting, and tamarcos, or smock-frocks, of poorly tanned goatskins. They had also rough cords of palm-fibre, and they seem to have preferred plaiting to weaving; yet New Zealand flax and aloes grow abundantly. Their mahones correspond with Indian moccasins, and they made sugar-loaf caps of skins. The bases of shells, ground down to the thickness of a crown-piece, and showing spiral depressions, were probably the viongwa, necklaces still worn in the Lake Regions of Central Africa. The beads were of many kinds; some horn cylinders bulging in the centre, and measuring 1.25 inch long; others of flattened clay like the American wampum or the ornaments of the Fernando Po tribes; and others flattened discs, also baked, almost identical with those found upon African mummies–in Peru they were used to record dates and events. A few were of reddish agate, a material not found in the island; these resembled bits of thick pipe-stem, varying from half an inch to an inch in length. Perhaps they were copies of the mysterious Popo-bead found upon the Slave Coast and in inner Africa.

The Gruanches were doomed never to reach the age of metal. Their civilisation corresponded with that of the Chinese in the days of Fo-hi. [Footnote: Abel Rémusat tells us that of the two hundred primitive Chinese ’hieroglyphs’ none showed a knowledge of metal.] The chief weapons were small triangles of close-grained basalt and iztli (obsidian flakes) for tabonas, or knives, both being without handles. They carried rude clubs and banot, or barbed spears of pine-wood with fire-charred points. The garrotes (pikes) had heads like two flattened semicircles, a shape preserved amongst negroes to the present day. Our old author tells us that the people would ’leap from rock to rock, sometimes making ten Fathoms deep at one Leap, in this manner: First they tertiate their Lances, which are about the bigness of a Half-Pike, and aim with the Point at any piece of a Rock upon which they intend to light, sometimes not half a Foot broad; in leaping off they clap their Feet close to the Lance, and so carry their bodies in the Air: the Point of the Lance comes first to the place, which breaks the force of their fall; then they slide gently down by the Staff and pitch with their Feet on the very place they first design’d; and so from Rock to Rock till they come to the bottom: but their Novices sometimes break their necks in the learning.’

I observed more civilisation in articles from the other islands, especially from the eastern, nearer the African continent. In 1834 Fuerteventura yielded, from a depth of six feet, a dwarfish image of a woman with prominent bosom and dressed in the native way: it appeared almost Chinese. A pot of black clay from Palmas showed superior construction. Here, too, in 1762 a cavern produced a basalt plate, upon which are circular scrawls, which support the assertions of old writers as regards the islanders not being wholly ignorant of letters. I could trace no similarity to the peculiar Berber characters, and held them to be mere ornamentation. The so-called ’Seals of the Kings’ were dark stones, probably used for painting the skin; they bore parallelograms enclosed within one another, diaper-work and gridirons of raised lines. In fact, the Guanches of Tenerife were unalphabetic.

Hierro (Ferro), the Barranco de los Balos (Grand Canary), Fuerteventura, and other items of the Fortunates have produced some undoubted inscriptions. They are compared by M. Berthelot with the signs engraved upon the cave-entrance of La Piedra Escrita in the Sierra Morena of Andalusia; with those printed by General Faidherbe in his work on the Numidic or Lybian epigraphs; with the ’Thugga inscription,’ Tunis; and with the rock-gravings of the Sahará, attributed to the ancient Tawárik or Tifinegs. Dr. Gran-Bassas (El Museo Canario), who finds a notable likeness between them and the ’Egyptian characters (cursive or demotic), Phenician and Hebrew,’ notes that they are engraved in vertical series. Dr. Verneau, of the Academy, Paris, suggests that some of these epigraphs are alphabetic, while others are hieroglyphic. [Footnote: El Museo Canario, No. 40, Oct. 22, 1881.] Colonel H. W. Keays-Young kindly copied for me, with great care, a painting in the Tacoronte museum. It represents a couple of Guanche inscriptions, apparently hieroglyphic, found (1762) in the cave of Belmaco, Isle of Palma, by the ancients called Benahoave. They are inscribed upon two basaltic stones.



I also inspected the collection of a well-known lawyer, Dr. Francisco Maria de Leon. Of the three Guanche skulls one was of African solidity, with the sutures almost obliterated: it was the model of a soldier’s head, thick and heavy. The mass of mummy-balsam had been tested, without other result than finding a large proportion of dragon’s blood. In the fourteenth century Grand Canary sent to Europe at one venture two hundred doubloons’ worth of this drug.

By the kindness of the Governor I was permitted to inspect four Guanche mummies, discovered (June 1862) in the jurisdiction of Candelaria. Awaiting exportation to Spain, they had been temporarily coffined upon a damp ground-floor, where the cockroaches respected nothing, not even a Guanehe. I was accompanied by Dr. Angel M. Yzquierdo, of Cadiz, physician to the hospital, and we jotted down as follows:–

No. 1, a male of moderate size, wanted the head and upper limbs, while the trunk was reduced to a skeleton. The characteristic signs were Caucasian and not negro; nor was there any appearance of the Jewish rite. The lower right leg, foot, and toe-nails were well preserved; the left was a mere bone, wanting tarsus and metatarsus. The stomach was full of dried fragments of herbs (Ohenopodium, &c.), and the epidermis was easily reduced to powder. In this case, as in the other three, the mortuary skins were coarsely sewn with the hair inside: it is a mistake to say that the work was ’like that of a glove.’

No. 2 was large-statured and complete; the framework and the form of the pelvis were masculine. The skin adhered to the cranium except behind, where the bone protruded, probably the effect of long resting upon the ground. Near the right temporal was another break in the skin, which here appeared much decayed. All the teeth were present, but they were not particularly white nor good. The left forearm and hand were wanting, and the right was imperfect; the lower limbs were well preserved even to the toe-nails.

No. 3, also of large size, resembled No. 2; the upper limbs were complete, and the lower wanted only the toes of the left foot. The lower jaw was absent, and the upper had no teeth. An oval depression, about an inch in its greater diameter, lay above the right orbit. If this be a bullet-mark, the mummy may date from before the final conquest and submission in A.D. 1496. But it may also have resulted from some accident, like a fall, or from the blow of a stone, a weapon which the Guanches used most skilfully. Mr. Sprat, confirmed by Glas, affirms that they ’throw Stones with a force almost as great as that of a Bullet, and now use Stones in all their fights as they did antiently.’

No. 4, much smaller than the two former, was the best preserved. The shape of the skull and pelvis suggested a female; the arms also were crossed in front over the body, whereas in the male mummy they were laid straight. The legs were covered with skin; the hands were remarkably well preserved, and the nails were darker than other parts. The tongue, in all four, was absent, having probably decayed.

These crania were distinctly oval. The facial angle, well opened, and ranging from 80° to 85°, counterbalanced the great development of the face, which showed an animal type. A little hair remained, coloured ruddy-chestnut and straight, not woolly. The entrails had disappeared, and the abdominal walls not existing, it was impossible to detect the incisions by which the tanno-balsamic substances, noted by Bory de Saint-Vincent and many others, were introduced. The method appears uncertain. It is generally believed that after removing the entrails through an irregular cut made with the tabona, or obsidian (knife), the operators, who, as in Egypt, were of the lowest caste, injected a corrosive fluid. They then filled the cavities with the balsam described above; dried the corpse; and, after, fifteen to twenty days, sewed it up in tanned goatskins. Such appears to have been the case with the mummies under consideration.

The catacombs, inviolable except to the sacrilegious, were numerous in the rockiest and least accessible parts of the island. Mr. Addison found them in the Cañádas del Pico, 7,700 feet above sea-level. [Footnote: Tenerife: ’An Ascent of the Peak and Sketch of the Island,’ by Robert Edward Alison. Quarterly Journal of Science, Jan. 1806.] Hence it has been remarked of the Guanches that, after a century of fighting, nothing remained of them but their mummies. The sharp saying is rather terse than true.

The Guanches were barbarians, not savages. De Béthencourt’s two chaplains, speaking in their chronicle of Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, tell us ’there are many villages and houses, with numerous inhabitants.’ The ruins still found in the Isles are called ’casas hondas’ ("deep houses”); because a central excavation was surrounded by a low wall. The castle of Zonzamas was built of large stones without lime. In Port Arguineguin (Grand Canary) the explorers sent by Alfonso IV. (1341) came upon 300 to 400 tenements roofed with valuable wood, and so clean inside that they seemed stuccoed. They encircled a larger building, probably the residence of the chief. But the Tenerifans used only caves.

The want of canoes and other navigating appliances in Guanche-land by no means proves that the emigration took place when the Canaries formed part of the Continent. The same was the case with the Australians, the Tasmanians, and the New Zealanders. The Guanches, at the same time, were admirable swimmers, easily able to cross the strait, nine miles wide, separating Lanzarote from La Graciosa. They could even kill fish with sticks when in the water. The fattening of girls before marriage was, and is still, a Moroccan, not an Arab custom. The rude feudalism much resembled that of the Bedawi chiefs. George Glas, [Footnote: The History of the Discovery and Conquest of the Canary Islands, &c. 4to. London, 1764. I have given some notices of the unfortunate ’master mariner’ in Wanderings in West Africa, vol. i. p. 79] or rather Abreu Galindo, his author, says of their marriages, ’None of the Canarians had more than one wife, and the wife one husband, contrary to what misinformed authors affirm.’ The general belief is that at the time of the conquest polyandry prevailed amongst the tribes. It may have originated from their rude community of goods, and probably it became a local practice in order to limit population. Possibly, too, it was confined to the noble and the priestly orders.

Humboldt remarks, [Footnote: Personal Narrative, chap, i. p. 32, Bohn’s ed. London, 1852.] ’We find no example of this polyandry except amongst the people of Thibet.’ Yet he must have heard of the Nayr of Malabar, if not of the Todas on the Nilagiri Hills. D. Agustin Millares [Footnote: Historia de la Gran Canaria. Published at Las Palmas.] explains the custom by ’men and women being born in almost equal proportions,’ the reverse being the fact. Equal proportions induce the monogamic relation.

Learned M. d’Avezac derives ’Guanche’ from Guansheri or Guanseri, a Berber tribe described by El-Idrisi and Leo Africanus. This is better than finding it in the Keltic gwuwrn, gwen, white. Older authorities hold it a corruption of ’Vinchune,’ the indigenous name of the Nivarian race. Again, ’the inhabitants of Tenerife called themselves Guan (the Berber Wan), one person, Chinet or Chinerf, Tenerife; so that Guanchinet meant a man of Tenerife, and was easily corrupted to Guanche. Thus, too, Glas’s ’Captain Artemis’ was Guan-arteme, the one or chief ruler. Vieira derives ’Tenerf’ or’Chenerf’ from the last king; and old MSS. have ’Chenerife.’ The popular voice says it is composed of ’Tener,’ mountain or snow, and of ’ryfe,’ snow or mountain. Pritchard [Footnote: Researches into the Physical History of Mankind, book iii. chap. ii.] applied the term Guanche to all the Canarian races, and he is reproached for error by M. de Macedo, [Footnote: ’Ethnological Remarks,’ &c., by J. J. de Costa de Macedo, of Lisbon, Royal Geographical Society’s Journal, vol. ii. p. 172. Wanderings in West Africa, i. 116, contains my objections to his theory.] who would limit it to the Tenerifans. The same occurs in the Eev. Mr. Delany [Footnote: Notes of a Residence in the Canary Islands, &c. London, 1861.] and in Professor Piazzi Smyth, [Footnote: An Astronomer’s Experiment, p. 190. L. Reeve, London, 1868.] who speaks of the ’Guanches of Grand Canary and Teneriffe.’ According to popular usage all were right, ’Guanche’ being the local and general term for the aborigines of the whole archipelago. But the scientific object that it includes under the same name several different races.

The language is also a point of dispute: some opine that all the islanders had one tongue, others that they were mutually unintelligible; many that it was Berber (Numidian, Getulian, and Garamantan), a few that it was less distinctly Semitic. The two chaplains of De Béthencourt [Footnote: Bontier and Le Verrier, Histoire de la première Découverte e Conquête des Canaries. Bergeron, Paris, 1630.] noted its resemblance with that of the ’Moors’ of Barbary. Glas, who knew something of Shilha, or Western Berber, made the same observation. But the Genoese pilot Niccoloso di Recco during the expedition of A.D. 1344 collected the numerals, and two of these, satti (7) and tamatti (8), are less near the original than the Berberan set and tem.

The catalogue of Abreu Galindo, who lived here in 1591 and printed his history in 1632, preserves 122 words; Vieira only 107, and Bory de Saint-Vincent [Footnote: Essai sur les Iles fortunées. Humboldt has only five.] 148. Webb and Berthelot give 909. Of these 200 are nouns, including 22 names of plants; 467 are placenames, and 242 are proper names. Many are questionable. For instance, sabor (council-place) is derived from cabocer, ’expression par laquelle les nègres de la Sénégambie dénotent la réunion de leurs chefs.’ [Footnote: Vol. i. part i. p. 223.] As all know, it is the corrupted Portuguese caboceiro, a headman.

Continuing our way from Tacoronte we reached Sauzal, beyond which the coach did not then run; the old road was out of condition, and the new not in working order. We offered a dollar each for carrying our light gear to sturdy men who were loitering and lying about the premises. They shook their heads, wrapped their old blanket-cloaks around them, and stretched themselves in the sun like dogs after a cold walk. I could hardly wonder. What wants have they? A covering for warmth, porridge for food, and, above all, the bright sun and pure air, higher luxuries and better eudaemonics than purple and fine linen. At last some passing muleteers relieved us of the difficulty.

The way was crowded with Laguneros, conspicuous in straw-hats; cloth jackets, red waistcoats embroidered at the back; bright crimson sashes; white knickerbockers, with black velveteen overalls, looking as if ’pointed’ before and behind; brown hose or long leather gaiters ornamented with colours, and untanned shoes. Despite the heat many wore the Guanche cloak, a blanket (English) with a running string round the neck. The women covered their graceful heads with a half-square of white stuff, and deformed the coiffure by a hideous black billycock, an unpleasant memory of Wales. Some hundreds of men, women, and children were working on the road, and we were surprised by the beauty of the race, its classical outlines, oval contours, straight profiles, magnificent hair, and blue-grey eyes with black lashes. This is not the result of Guanche blood, as a town on the south-western part of the island presently showed me. Also an orderly of Guanche breed from the parts about Arico, who had served for years at the palace, was pointed out as a type. He stood six feet four, with proportional breadth; his face was somewhat lozenge-shaped, his hair straight, black like a Hindu’s, and his tawny skin looked only a little darker than that of Portuguese Algarves. The beauty of the islanders results from a mixture of Irish blood. During the Catholic persecution before 1823 many fled the Emerald Isle to Tenerife, and especially to Orotava. The women’s figures in youth are charming, tall, straight, and pliant as their own pine-trees. All remark their graceful gait.

We passed through places famed in the days of the conquest–La Matanza, the native Orantapata, where De Lugo’s force was nearly annihilated. Now it is the half-way station to Orotava; and here the coche stops for dinner, prices being regulated by Government. The single inn shows the Pike, but not the subjacent valley. Then to Acentejo, the local Roncesvalles, where the invaders were saved only by St. Michael; and next to La Vitoria, where they avenged themselves. At Santa Ursula we first saw the slopes of Orotava, the Guanche Tavro or Atanpalata; and on the Cuesta de la Villa we were shown near its mark, a date-palm, the cave that sheltered the patriot chief, unfortunate Bencomo. As the fashionables came forth to walk and drive we passed the calvario and the place leading to the Villa Orotava, and found quarters in the fonda of D. José Gobea. The sala, or chief room, some 30 feet long, wanted only an Eastern divan round the walls; it was easily converted into a tolerable place of bivouac, and here we resolved to try country life for a while.

The first aspect of the Orotava Tempe was disappointing after Humboldt’s dictum, ’Voici ce qu’il y a de plus délicieux au monde.’ But our disappointment was the natural reaction of judgment from fancy to reality, which often leads to a higher appreciation. At last we learned why the Elysian [Footnote: In Arabic El-Lizzat, the Delight, or from the old Egyptian Aahlu,] Fields, the Fortunate Islands, the Garden of the Hesperides–where the sea is no longer navigable, and where Atlas supports the firmament on a mountain conical as a cylinder; the land of evening, of sunset, where Helios sinks into the sea, and where Night bore the guardians of the golden apples–were such favourites with the poets. And we came to love every feature of the place, from the snowy Pike of Teyde flushing pink in the morning sun behind his lofty rampart, to the Puerto, or lower town, whose three several reef-gates are outlaid by creamy surf, and whose every shift of form and hue stands distinct in the transparent and perfumed air. The intermediate slopes are clothed with a vegetation partly African, partly European; and here Humboldt, at the end of the last century, proposed to naturalise the chinchona.

La Villa lies some two miles and a half from and about 1,140 feet above the Puerto; and the streets are paved and precipitous as any part of Funchal. The population varied from 7,000 to 8,000 souls, whereas the lower town had only 3,500. It contains a few fine houses with huge hanging balconies and interior patios (courts) which would accommodate a regiment. They date from the ’gente muy caballerosa’ (knightly folk) of three centuries ago. The feminine population appeared excessive, the reason being that some five per cent. of the youths go to Havannah and after a few years return ’Indianos,’ or ’Indios,’ our old ’nabobs.’

At the Puerto we were most kindly received by the late British Vice-Consul, Mr. Goodall, who died about the normal age, seventy-seven: if this be safely passed man in Tenerife becomes a macrobian. All was done for our comfort by the late Mr. Carpenter, who figures in the ’Astronomer’s Experiment’ as ’the interpreter.’ Amongst the scanty public diversions was the Opera. The Villa theatre occupied an ancient church: the length of the building formed pit, boxes, and gallery; and ’La Sonnambula’ descended exactly where the high altar had been. At the Puerto an old monastery was chosen for ’La Traviata:’ the latter was realistic as Crabbe’s poetry; even in bed the unfortunate ’Misled’ one could not do without a certain truncated cylinder of acajou. I sighed for the Iberian ’Zarzuela,’ that most charming opera buffa which takes its name from a ’pleasaunce’ in the Pardo Palace near Madrid.

The hotel diet was peculiarly Spanish; already the stews and ’pilaffs’ (puláos) of the East begin in embryo. The staple dish was the puchero, or cocido, which antiquated travellers still call ’olla podrida’ (pot-pourri). This lesso or bouilli consists of soup, beef, bacon, and garbanzos (chick-peas, or Cicer arietinium) in one plate, and boiled potatoes and small gourds (bubangos) in another. The condiments are mostly garlic and saffron, preferred to mustard and chillies. The pastry, they tell me, is excellent.

In those days the Great Dragon Tree had not yet lost its upper cone by the dreadful storm of January 3, 1868; thus it had survived by two centuries and a half the Garoe Laurel, or Arbol Santo, the miraculous tree of Hierro (Ferro). It stood in the garden of the Marquez de Sauzal, who would willingly have preserved it. But every traveller had his own infallible recipe, and the proprietor contented himself with propping up the lower limbs by poles. It stood upon a raised bank of masonry-work, and the north-east side showed a huge cavity which had been stopped with stone and lime. About half a century ago one-third came down, and in 1819 an arm was torn off and sent, I believe, to Kew. When we saw the fragment it looked mostly like tinder, or touchwood, ’eld-gamall,’ stone-old, as the Icelanders say. Near it stood a pair of tall cypresses, and at some distance a venerable palm-tree, which ’relates to it,’ according to Count Gabriel de Belcastel,

[Footnote: I quote from the Spanish translation, Las Islas Canarias y el Valle Orotava, a highly popular work contrasting wonderfully with some of ours. The courteous Frenchman even promised that Morocco would be the Algeria of the Canaries. His observations for temperature, pressure, variation, hygrometry, and psychrometry of the Orotavan climate, which he chose for health, are valuable. He starts with a theory of the three conditions of salubrity–heat-and-cold, humidity, and atmospheric change. The average annual mean of Orotava is 66.34 degrees (F.), that of Southern France in September; it never falls below 54.5 degrees nor rises above 73.88 degrees, nor exceeds 13.88 degrees in variation.]

’in the murmurs of the breeze the legends of races long disappeared.’

Naturalists modestly assigned to the old Dragon 5,000 to 10,000 years, thus giving birth to fine reflections about its witnessing revolutions which our planet underwent prior to the advent of man. So Adamson made his calabash a contemporary of the Noachian Deluge, if that partial cataclysm [Footnote: The ancient Egyptians, who ignored the Babylonian Deluge, well knew that all cataclysms are local, not general, catastrophes.] ever reached Africa. The Orotava relic certainly was an old tree, prophetic withal, [Footnote: It was supposed infallibly to predict weather and to regulate sowing-time. Thus if the southern side flowered first drought was to be expected, and vice versa. Now the peasant refers to San Isidro, patron of Orotava: he has only changed the form of his superstition.] when De Lugo and the conquistadores entered the valley in 1493 and said mass in its hollow. But that event was only four centuries ago, and dates are ticklish things when derived from the rings and wrinkles of little-studied vegetation. Already Mr. Diston, in a letter to Professor Piazzi Smyth, [Footnote: ’Astronomical Experiment on the Peak of Tenerife,’ Philosoph. Trans., part ii. for 1858.] declared that a young ’dragon,’ which he had planted in 1818, became in 38 years so tall that a ladder was required to reach the head. And let us observe that Nature, though forbidden such style of progression by her savans, sometimes does make a local saltus, especially in the change of climates. Centuries ago, when the fires about Teyde were still alight, and the lava-fields about Orotava were still burning, the rate of draconian increase, under the influence of heat and moisture, might have been treble or quadruple what it would now be.

[Footnote: The patriarch was no ’giant of the forest.’ Its stature did not exceed 60 feet. Humboldt made it only 45 French feet(= 47 ft. ll ins. English) round the base. Dr. Wilde (Narrative, p. 40) blames the measurer and gives about the same measurement, Professor Piazzi Smyth, who in 1856 reproduced it in an abominable photo-stenograph, reckons 48.5 feet at the level of the southern foot, 35.6 feet at 6 feet above the ground, and 28.8 feet at 14.5 feet, where branches spring from the rapidly narrowing conical trunk. The same are said to have been its proportions in the days of the conquest. In 1866 Mr. Addison made it 60 feet tall, 35.5 feet at 6 feet from the ground, and 49.5 in circumference at the base which he cleared. Mr. Barker Webb’s sketch in 1830 was the best; but the tree afterwards greatly changed. Mr. J. J. Williams made a neat drawing in boarding-school style, with a background apparently borrowed from Richmond Hill.]

The Jardin de Aclimatacion, or Botanical Garden, mentioned by Humboldt

[Footnote: Page 59. It is regretable that his forecasts have failed. Neither of the ohinohonas (C. tanoifolia and C. oblongifolia) has been naturalised in Southern Europe. Nor has the Hill of Duragno yet sent us the ’protea, the psidium, the jambos, the chirimoya of Peru, the sensitive plant, the heliconia, and several beautiful species of glyoine from New Holland.’]

as far back as 1799, still flourishes. It was founded in 1788-95 by an able savan, the Marquis de Villanueva del Pardo (D. Alonso de Nava y Grimon), who to a Government grant of 1,000l. added 4,000l. of his own, besides 400l. a year for an average generation. The place is well chosen, for the Happy Valley combines the flora of the north and the south, with a Nivaria of snow-land above it and a semi-tropical temperature on the shores of the ’Chronian Sea.’


Cover  •  Preface.  •  Chapter I.  •  Chapter II.  •  Chapter III.  •  Chapter IV.  •  Chapter V.  •  Chapter VI.  •  Chapter VII.  •  Chapter VIII.  •  Chapter IX  •  Chapter X.  •  Chapter XI.

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