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The Maroon   By: (1818-1883)

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The Maroon By Captain Mayne Reid Published by Hurst and Blackett, 13 Great Marlborough Street, London. This edition dated 1862.

Volume One, Chapter I.

A JAMAICA SUGAR ESTATE.

A sugar estate, and one of the finest in the "land of springs," is that of "Mount Welcome."

It is situated about ten miles from Montego Bay, in a broad valley, between two rounded ridges. These ridges, after running parallel for more than a mile, and gradually increasing in elevation, at length converge with an inward sweep at their point of convergence, rising abruptly into a stupendous hill, that fairly merits the name which it bears upon the estate the "mountain ."

Both the ridges are wooded almost down to their bases; the woods, which consist of shining pimento trees, ending on each side in groves and island copses, pleasantly interspersed over a park like greensward.

The "great house" or "buff" of the estate stands under the foot of the mountain, just at the point of union between the two ridges where a natural table or platform, elevated several feet above the level of the valley, had offered a tempting site to the builder.

In architectural style it is not very different from other houses of its kind, the well known planter's dwelling of the West Indies. One storey the lower one, of course is of strong stone mason work; the second and only other being simply a wooden "frame" roofed with "shingles."

The side and end walls of this second story cannot with propriety be termed walls: since most part of them are occupied by a continuous line of Venetian shutters the "jalousies" of Jamaica.

These impart a singular cage like appearance to the house, at the same time contributing to its coolness a quality of primary importance in a tropical climate.

Outside in the front centre a flight of broad stone steps, resting upon arched mason work, and bordered by strong iron balustrades, conducts to the level of the second storey the real dwelling house: since the ground floor is entirely occupied by store rooms and other "offices."

The entrance door is from the landing of the aforesaid escalier , and conducts at once into the "hall" a spacious apartment, of crucifix shape, running clear across the building from side to side, and end to end. The current of air admitted by the open jalousies, passing constantly through this apartment, renders it at all times delightfully cool; while the lattice work serves to mellow the glare of light, which, under the sky of the tropics, is almost as disagreeable as the heat. An uncarpeted floor, composed of the hardest sorts of native wood, and subjected to a diurnal polish, contributes to increase the coolness.

This great hall is the principal apartment of the dwelling. It is dining and drawing room in one where side boards and cheffoniers may be seen in juxta position with lounge chairs, fauteuils, and ottomans a grand chandelier in the centre extending its branches over all.

The bed chambers occupy the square spaces to one side of the cross; and these also have their jalousied windows to admit the air, and exclude, as much as possible, the sultry rays of the sun.

In Mount Welcome House, as in all other country mansions of Jamaica, a stranger would remark a want of correspondence between the dwelling itself and the furniture which it contains. The former might be regarded as slight, and even flimsy. But it is this very character which renders it appropriate to the climate, and hence the absence of substantiality or costliness in the style and materials of the building.

The furniture, on the other hand the solid tables of mahogany, and other ornamental woods the shining carved side boards the profuse show of silver and cut glass that rests upon them the elegant couches and chairs the glittering lamps and candelabras all combine to prove that the quasi meanness of the Jamaica planter's establishment extends no farther than to the walls of his house. If the case be a cheap one, the jewels contained in it are of the costliest kind... Continue reading book >>




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