ON the way from San Juan de Puerto Rico to San Domingo the steamer passes close to Mona Island. This remarkable piece of land appears to have planted itself in these seas as a protest against the luxury, the extravagance, and the general profligacy of the whole gathering of West Indian Islands. These islands are characterisedas none can gainsayby a recklessness of out-line, by a lavish display of hills and peaks, by frivolous capes and coves, and by a meretricious flaunting of garish colours.
Mona the Protestant stands alone among this giddy company, a St. John crying in the wilderness. Solemn and austere, it would claim to be, in a careless land, a pattern of righteousness. Its surface is an absolutely dead, monotonous, self-mortifying level. Nothing so gay even as a hillock disturbs its surface. No suspicion of green, no trace of colour, defiles its sanctimonious outline. From point to point it is one relentless monastic grey. As a rebuke to such furbelows as creeks and promontories, its chaste circuit is marked by an undeviating, sour cliff, as numb as a prison wall.
This sea-girt recluse appears, indeed, to have stripped itself of every possible feature that could make an island joyous. Viewed from a distance it looks like a slab of dull paving stone resting on the ocean. As even the severest ascetic has probably some hidden weaknesses, so Mona is said to present certain pits and holes on its solemn surface, where are surreptitious scrub and even patches of grass. It nourishes in its shrunken bosom, moreover, goats, hogs, and tortoises, and has so far yielded to the temptations of the mercenary world as to harbour a German company who dig foul-smelling guano within its melancholy confines.
It boasts also of a tortured rock which is in a state of eternal penance, for it is balanced on the brink of a precipice where it appears to be ever on the point of toppling over. This purgatorial stone is called ” Caigo-o-no-caigo ” (” Shall I fall or not? “) Across the Mona passage, to which this island gives its name, stands Haiti, to the chief city of whichSan Domingothe steamer is bound.