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Before I could disembark, or take farewell of my companions of the voyage to Jamaica, there stood before me a ministerial brother, whom I had several times seen in Scotland. It was an agreeable surprise, when conscious of a peculiar loneliness to see a well-known face. As I received the hearty greeting of a "brither Scot," and a brother in office, I felt as if the dear old mother country had followed me to this strange land, and the Master was assuring me He had brought me hither, and would be with me.
In Kingston, I had the privilege of forming an acquaintance with Dr. Robb, and some of his students, which has now ripened into friendship. I formed an acquaintance also with the streets of Kingston, where I had a very warm reception. With night came coolness and something else. While I was prepared to sleep, other creatures were prepared to keep awake. Demonstrations of their ability to guard the city, or signalize victory, were unsparingly given. I could have been satisfied with less, and not at all displeased, had a turn in the bed defended me against the noise, as a turn around a corner sometimes did against the heat. But, if Royalty could learn a valuable lesson from a persevering spider, might not a plebeian be instructed by faithful Ceberus or ambitious Chanticleer?
My fellow passengers from Kingston to Spanish Town, hailed from France: the ladies of the party having set foot on the Island that day, and without any English, as the gentlemen informed me. With politeness I was offered a cigarette, which I accepted to my subsequent regret. If any of my readers attempt to picture the scene in that railway carriage: the French carrying on a lively conversation with abundant gesticulations, and the Scotchman in silence doing honour to the King of Smoke, let there be in the countenance of the latter, and ashy paleness and somewhere the words "Don't Smoke."
Smoking, let me say, is a prevalent habit here, even of women, especially of those of riper years.
At Spanish Town, there was a competition for the honour of transmitting my luggage to the Mail Coach much after the fashion in Scotland and with something like the usual flutter of tattered garments. The drive in the Mail was after the manner of Jehu and the three fine fat mules took to it, as to the manner born. Steep declivities, and sharp curves, seemed beneath the notice of both mules and driver. I was to be excused, I hope, for occasionally clutching the seat, or side of the coach, making up my mind to die heroically, or fancy a sensational paragraph, in next day's papers headed: "Terrible Accident to the Mail Coach." The rapidity, however, became enjoyable, as the mules clearly were not only swift, but surefooted animals. The driver calmly communicated to me, that he sometimes drove faster, and seemed both astonished and pleased to know that, not in Scotland, or anywhere else, had I been driven so fast.
My home, for the next fortnight, was the residence of a gentleman, who is not only a Scotchman, but of kindred spirit with the Patons, and Coatses and Learmonths of Scotland. Two journeys thence brought me to my present abode, where I was honoured the first night, with strange company. Early in the evening, I suspected the pleasure of a certain animal not usually regarded as worthy of domestication. This suspicion having been communicated to the genius of the kitchen, and by her confirmed, I consoled myself with the hope that the bed room at least would be reserved for myself. The hope was vain: the sniffling and scampering in my immediate neighbourhood, when all was dark, convinced me that, my private chamber was invaded. I dissented, and indicated the serious objections I had to such invasions, by sudden and emphatic stampings upon the floor; and kindled a light, that they might see I belonged to a superior race, and ought to be treated with greater respect. They were not easily defeated however, When I awoke the next morning the rats had gone, and so had portions of a slipper, and of good Scotch white linen.
Having been a year in the Island, I would like to say one or two things about the people. One of the first things with which I was impressed was their courtesy. Generally speaking, I have seen nothing like it. Always ready are they with their kindly greetings, which, in the case of the old especially, sometimes take the form of the Benediction: "God bless you my dear Minister." On entering the school, the scholars stand up, and with one voise, say: "Goof morning Minister." The same respect is shown on departing. Meet them by the way it is the same. When on my way to Bellevue, to preach there for the first time, we came across a number of people from the neighbouring village, seated by the way-side, awaiting our approach, who, as we passed by, rose to their feet, and gave us such a gracious, and cordial salutation that, the Scotch brother who was to introduce me that day, turned to me as soon as we had returned the people's salutation, and said: "You will not see any thing like that in Scotland." I remember well the first service I held in Jamaica. There had been no time to give notice of my coming, which was seemingly regarded as little short of a calamity, by the church officer, who, in his care for that church, brought to mind the poor man and his little lamb in Nathan's parable. There was a good audience, not less interesting than novel. The black faces and peculiar head-pieces of some of the women, were soon put into the shade by what was more interesting. The stillness during prayer, the hearty Amens at its close, the glistening eyes, complacent smiles, approving nods during sermon, not to speak of friendly greetings when service was over, excited within me a special interest. At the close of my last service there, I awaited their exit, but, after a prolonged stillness, I was informed the people were waiting to bid me good-bye. The hand-shaking and introductions, bowing courtseying, expressions of thankfulness and good-will, which followed, astonished, gratified, and quickened me. Only occasionally since, have there been similar demonstrations, still it is not uncommon for them to be excited at the close of a service. Frequently have thanks been tendered, and more than once by deputation. They are a musical people and fond of singing. Simple melodies, such as are used by the Salvation Army, are great favourites. When I introduced such among them, there were large gatherings, and enthusiastic singing. Now I never have a service with my own people without them.
This people have to me not a few attractions, and, not without hope, do I labour and pray that, they may yet rise above the grave and gross depravities which keep them low.
Hugh L. McMillan.
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