It is the first island reached from Trinidad. The steamer finds its way into a small almost land-locked harbour which is one of the most beautiful in the West Indies. It is said to be the crater of an ancient volcano the seaward wall of which has been blown away, so that the water has poured in and filled the basin. It is through the breach that the ship steams to her moorings. Anyhow it is a homely haven, cosy and well sheltered from the sea. A curving bank of green hills covered with trees and gardens makes an amphitheatre, the arena of which is such a pool of blue water as can only be seen in these latitudes.
On one side of the pool is the town of St. George’s. The houses which compose it have white or grey walls and rust-red roofs. They clamber up the slope among the palms and balance themselves on the summit of the ridge, where, too, is a church with a square tower standing up against the sky. Beyond the town, on a spit of high land making for the sea is an old stolid grey fort. It was built by the French just two hundred years ago. Although long deserted it has still an aspect of great solemnity and importance, still the look of the grim watch-dog. There are now paths around its ponderous walls, and it is evident that children come here to play. They even put stones into the cannons’ mouths as if they were teasing a giant of the soundness of whose sleep they were well assured.
The town creeps down to the water’s edge, to a foreign-looking quay with such warehouses and buildings on it as are seen along the wharf side of a French seaport. This is no matter for wonder since the place has been French for the greater part of its life.
With the waterside houses are mixed up, in some strange way, the masts and rigging of white-hulled schooners and of trading sloops. From a further acquaintance with St. George’s it appears that the town sits astride of the ridge as a rider sits on a saddle, and that the real capital is on that side of the slope which is away from the harbour. The road from the quay to the market-place is therefore over a bank so steep that some years ago the governor of the time drove a tunnel through the base of the ridge to the great comfort of the inhabitants and of their horses and mules.
The town is picturesque and French. It possesses many old and dignified houses with ample roofs, great dormer windows and liberal sun-shutters. The central square, or market-place, might belong to any modest French town were it not for the black folk, the blaze of colour and light, the strange trees and the still stranger wares exposed for sale.
The country inland is singularly fascinating. Its surface is that of the crumpled handkerchief of which Columbus spoke to his Queen, an extravagant jumble of verdant hills and valleys. It is wilder than Trinidad if, possibly, less luxuriant. Some call Grenada the Spice Island because of its nutmegs and other spices. It may as well be named the Island of Ferns by reason of the damp banks of moss and fern which line its tortuous roads.
A good idea of the island, of its peaks and glens, and of some fragment of its coast line, can be gained by a journey to the Grand Etang, a large pool on the summit of a hill some 1740 feet above the sea level. The lake is distant from St. George’s seven miles, and out of these steamy miles are six which are persistently uphill and as tedious as a road in Purgatory. The lake lies sunken in a deep hollow among the woods, which hollow is no other than the basin of an ancient crater. It may be Sleepy Hollow from its quietness. The crater is now a crater of leaves for its steep sides, which were once a slope of cinders, are lined by rushes and palms and a closely standing company of sedate trees. The water is two and a half miles round and is impressive mainly by reason of the great tankard it fills and of the utter solitude in which it sleeps. The negro, with an exercise of imagination which he rarely displays, calls the pool ” The Home of the Mother of the Rains.”
There is on the northern coast a height named Le Morne des Sauteurs. It is said that the French, when they came to Grenada, ill-used and robbed the Caribs whom they found on this island of spices. Through many a sordid year they hunted them down until, in the end, the few who remained were hounded to the top of this hill. There the harried, starving band of islanders made a stand. The French closed in upon them. The cruel circle narrowed until the way back even to the burnt cabins was cut off. Nearer and nearer the bushes rustled as they were bent aside by the shoulders of advancing men. Here was a hand pushing a branch out of the way ; here the gleam of a cutlass. Murder was creeping upon them like a creeping fire. Before them was the kindly sea, blue, tranquil and limitless. The time of farewell had come, so from the top of the precipiceas from the jutting brink of the worldthey leapt into the air and in such wise the last of the race found peace.