Monday, December 13, 2010

Stephens and Catherwood (5)

Noting that Yzabal was a sickly place where one ran the gauntlet for life "even to pass through it", Stephens undertook to visit the grave site there of one Mr Shannon, his predecessor as US chargé to Central America. He was accompanied in this "sacred duty" by a compatriot, or at least...

"...a man who called himself my countryman, a mulatto from Baltimore, and his name was Philip. He had been eight years in the country, and said that he had once thought of returning home as a servant by way of New Orleans, but he has left home in such a hurry that he forgot to bring with him his 'Christian Papers;' from which I inferred that he was what he would be called in Maryland a runaway slave. He was a man of considerable standing, being fireman on board the steamboat at $23 a month; besides which, he did odd jobs at carpentering, and was, in fact, the principal architect in Yzabal, having then on his hands a contract for $3500 for building the new house of Messrs. Ampudia and Purroy. In other things, I am sorry to say, Philip was not quite so respectable; and I can only hope that it was not his American education that led him into some irregularities, in which he seemed to think there was no harm. He asked me to go to his house and see his wife, but on the way I learned from him that he was not married; and he said, what I hope is a slander upon the good people of Yzabal, that he only did as the rest did."

Stephens duly tried to persuade the said Philip to take full advantage of the padre's presence, to set a fine example to the erring non-Americans within the community, but met with only "obstinance" on the part of the handy man, who..

"...said he did not like to be trammelled, and that he might go elsewhere and see another girl whom he liked better."

1 comment:

Miss Trudy said...

This is great! Loved it.