THE great chain of islands swinging east and south from Puerto Rico to the coast of Venezuela forms a quadrant of vestigial colonies peopled largely by the heirs of Negro slaves. The white man’s commerce is maintained by a seasoning of professional expatriates; but a piquant spice is added, from the tropical Left Bank of St Thomas to the slums of Trinidad, by a soupçon of social deviates from North America and Europe.
Some are refugees from police, or wives, or other forms of organized oppression;
others there are who escape from urban obscurity to strut in the flickering
candelight of pale skin prestige. Some delude themselves in search for
the golden beach: others deceive the world at large to feed on the generosity
of fools. Visionaries, sensualists, fugitives and seekers - essentially
individualists warring with some aspect of convention or craving the distant
lotus, they are characterized by forms of odd behaviour the more easily
practised among tolerant Caribbeans.
|I was the only European who arrived, my
luggage was stowed in a striped sack and slung across my shoulder, and
one hand gripped a viciouslooking speargun; but there was thoughtful speculation
in his gaze which suggested he might soon find some excuse to ask me questions.
A familiar figure, I decided; the ardent exile who eats loneliness, ever
ready to snatch the stranger to his bosom and suck his heart for the sweetness
of admiring sympathy. Ah, but was he? No rigid formula could anticipate
the pattern of such folk; and I wondered who he was.