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But this nilc docs not hold good. For instance, West Scotland — which comprises the Lanarkshire and Ayrshire districts, one of the oldest coal-producing localities that we have — is far more free from accident than South Wales, which is more recently developed than any other; and even Northumberland ranks above the latter in immunity of life. For whereas South Wales, raising (in round numben) 6,900,000 tons, has one man killed for every 277 colliers working, and for every 66,000 tons of coal raised; East Scotland, raising very little less coal, has only one man killed for ever}' 622 colliers, and every 188,000 tons brought to the surface. Northumberland, which produces more than 10,000,000 of tons, loses only one man for every 147,000 tons; and yet the Newcastle coal-field has been in working order centuries before South Wales was thought of.
One great reason for this unpleasant superiority of South Wales in adding to the death-roll, is the fiery nature of the coals, especially in the Merthyr and Aberdare seams; on account of which it often happens that, when an explosion docs occur, it is the means of destroying a great number of men at the same time.
Of all the districts, that of West Lancashire and North Wales are the most destructive in the proportion of death to the number of colliers working, being 1 to every 221; while South Wales has most deaths in proportion to the number of tons of coal raised, being 1 to every 66,000. Yorkshire heads the list in freedom from accident, although it will be seen, in referring to the list, that the number of colliers employed in each district does not always bear the same relation to the number of tons of coal raised. Thus, Northumberland and North Durham employ 24,400 men, and yield more than 10,000,000 tons; whereas the next to it, South Wales, employs 29,000, and yields not quite 7,000,000 tons. This may be accounted for in two or three ways; it partly depends on the geological formation of the conntry, the character of the seams, and Bo on. The collieries in Northumberland are only 165 in number, against 332 in South Wales; but, on the other hand, they are infinitely larger in staff and materiel, some of them forming perfect colonies of themselves, and very few being as small as most of the establishments in South Wales. The latter district, too, is of a very extensive area, and the pits are much scattered; whereas, in the former, which is much less extensive in acreage, every square yard is made available for mining purposes, although the separate collieries are fewer in number.
In South Staffordshire it appears that there are no less than 540 collieries, which nevertheless do not employ so many men as South Wales does with 200 less pits; and this arises from the thickness of the Beams, the extreme value of the ground, and the consequent crowding together of numbers of collieries into a very small compass, — as indeed most be evident to any traveller by railway through the Black Country.
Let us now glance at the various forms in which death usually appears to the collier, as tabulated by the Inspectors' Reports. Perhaps the one best known to the public, and certainly the most dreaded by those liable to it, on account of the wholesale slaughter so frequently involved, is that of explosion; from which cause we see that 257 perished in the years 1863-64. It is scarcely fair to estimate any one district as regarding explosion by any one year, as, from some fatality or mischance, a coal-field
that is usually tolerably free from this misfortune, may all of a sudden be the scene of a widespread catastrophe, which numbers its victims by hundreds. Yet, as a general rule, the character of the coalseams may be ascertained by consulting the black list; since, let what will be done, it is impossible always to control the fiery clement so as to prevent its stamping in burning letters a certain individuality on the district. Against this, however, it may be said that the. more fiery a coal is known to be, the greater care is taken to guard against danger.
As many of my readers probably know, an explosion of fire-damp arises from the presence of carburetted hydrogen in such a quantity in the air of the pit that it becomes explosive when a light is introduced. Nor is the danger over when this crisis happens; for one of the results of the explosion is to generate an enormous quantity of carbonic acid, indifferently called after-damp, choke-damp, or black-damp, which surely suffocates those whom the scorching flame has spared, unless they have been fortunate enough to reach purer air. When such a frightful calamity as this overtakes a pit, it may easily be conceived what numbers are swept off at one blow; and how hopeless it is, generally speaking, for any one to escape who comes within the radius of its influence. Nearly all our most fatal colliery accidents have happened from this cause.
No one who has not lived in a colliery district can have the slightest conception of the dreadful panic and terror that seizes on all concerned at the very suspicion of an explosion; although it has happened, in extensive mines, that one section of colliers working in a far-off place was unaware of the sad havoc going on in another part. Above ground, the excitement is intense; at the first intimation that there is anything wrong, too often heralded by a dull, deep boom issuing from the pit's mouth', hundreds of those residing near, principally women and children, rush to the scene of action, each bewailing the possible loss of a parent, husband, or child.
For a brief period men's wits seem to have deserted them; but that soon ceases, and with the pluck and presence of mind that characterizes the true Englishman in time of danger, a cordon is soon established round the pit's mouth, and the thronging crowd kept off; the doctors hastily appear with the necessary appliances for restoring suspended animation; the viewers and managers of neighboring collieries hurriedly consult on the safest mode of proceeding, and an apparatus is soon rigged up for the purpose of descent, if, as often happens, the usual machinery is injured. Then a brave band of men, disregarding aught but the fact that their fellowmen are dying or dead underground, cautiously descend, the first great object being to restore some degree of ventilation to the workings, in order that tho earliest possible exploration may be carried out in safety. While some are effecting this object, others are proceeding carefully amidst the almost overpowering gases, to tho locality where it is known that tho colliers were at work; and soon they come upon the horrible traces, — men, who have flown with ili-, wings of fear towards the shaft in the hopes of escaping from the demon behind, but who having been overtaken, lie either gasping for breath or senseless. As they approach the scene of the explosion, the horrors assume a different aspect. Here the victims lie in every possible attitude, scorched, blackened, mangled, and unrecognizable, even by the fond relations waiting at the pit's mouth.
I know nothing more solemn and distressing than to form one of that crowd, as soon as it is known that the first ghastly cargo has started from the bottom. As the chain winds slower and slower, every head cranes forward with horrible dread, to see what the next turn of the wheel will reveal. Up comes the cage, with, may be, a couple of dead bodies in charge of the living, when there is one eager look, and straightway some wretched wife or mother rushes forward, shrieking and wailing to see the hope and stay of the family, who, only a few hours before, left the homo in health and spirits, now brought up a corpse. The whole scene, when the explosion has been of any great extent, is enough to haunt one to one's dying day; — the never-ending stream of bodies carried to their homes, the rows and rows of coffins, and lastly the funerals with their thousands of mourners, stamp such an occurrence with an indescribable gloom and horror. And to think that all this death and destruction has possibly arisen from the carelessness of one man, who, may be, has gone into a place into which he had no business to go, or who has lighted his pipe in defiance of rules.
One would have thought that the very knowledge that there was gas in any particular place would be sufficient to deter a workman from going there with naked light, i. e. without a safety-lamp, even were there no special rule to prevent his doing so; but the reports show a number of cases in which this has happened, the transgressors not being boys or strangers to the underground arrangements, but old, experienced men, and in one case, the owner of the pit himself, who was engaged in surveying, and who was perfectly well aware of the dangerous locality. By another rule no collier is allowed to have a safetylainp unless it is locked, the key being in the hands of a proper officer, whose place it is to see to them; but it unfortunately happens that the overt act of picking the lock, to get a light for the pipe, is only too easy and too common. When discovered, the offence is severely punished; but it is too usual an occurrence for the punishment to come in a terrible and sudden form, and carry off the culprit in a single second beyond the reach of any earthly tribunal. In pits where the fire-damp is at a minimum, and where the ventilation is very good, it is at the discretion of the manager to allow the men to work with naked lights, as is often done in some of the bituminous pits of South Wales. Even then the presence of the gas may easily be tested by applying a light to the roof, when a sheet of pale tinted flame instantly runs along, as if warning one that the playing with such edged tools must not be carried too far.
A very common occurrence in firing pits is the presence of " blowers," by which is meant a cavity in the coal that has served as a receptacle for all the gas around it, which, of course, is instantly liberated by the stroke of the pick, doing more or less damage according to the size of the hollow. The same thing is occasionally repeated on a much larger scale by the chance breaking in upon old workings which have been closed up for years, and upon the walls of which a too incautious approach has been made either from carelessness or a misapprehension as to the proximity of the dangerous locality. Such a mistake is most terrible and fatal in its consequences; for sometimes water, and sometimes gas, is evolved in such prodigious quantities that destruction infallibly overtakes everybody working in that quarter. Is there no guaranty against this hidden danger,
and can no protection be devised for those who are thus daily working over a barrel of gunpowder? The only protection is summed up in one word, — "Ventilation "; and, thanks to the mining schools, the physics of ventilation are pretty well understood. As Mr. Brough well says in his report for Monmouthshire : —
"There are no secrets in ventilation. Furnace power in excess, Bo that less or more wind may be had as required, and when wanted; great sectional area wherever air travels underground, splitting it judiciously; abundant supervision and complete discipline, — these are the simple methods by which approximate safety may be arrived at and relied on. It matters but little which may be the prevailing danger, fire-damp or black-damp; thorough searching ventilation, never neglected, will sweep both or either harmlessly and speedily away."
Of course, it is not to be expected that so much ventilation can ever be applied as to render every portion of the workings sate at all times and seasons. We have seen that it is the practice to wall off disused workings, in order that no one might venture in; and it is the duty of the firemen thoroughly to inspect every stall and leading morning and evening, so that no workman is allowed to enter any place where gas is reported to exist, until it has been the subject of special attention. The air of some pits, however, is always at a point at which explosion is more or less liable to occur. Apropos of which, Mr. Evans, in his Derbyshire report, strongly shows the care which should be taken under these circumstances, and debates upon "The impropriety and danger of continuing to work even with a safotylanip in an explosive mixture. The feeling among some is, that, when gas is discovered and men are furnished with safety-lamps, all is done that is necessary, and that it is safe to continue to work with a lamp, which in fact means nothing more or less than substituting these instruments in lieu of ventilation, — a practice most dangerous to life and property, and one too common in Nottinghamshire."
North Staffordshire heads the list from deaths by explosion during the year 1864, with a total of 22. being exactly double the number of the year previous.
The fluctuations, however, are better exemplified in the case of the South Wales basin, which, in the last year, only lost 6 men from this cause, but in 18G3, 66. This enormous increase was mainly owing to the terrible explosion at the Morfa Pit, near Neath, which was generally looked upon as the best conducted and ventilated colliery in the district. Nevertheless, at a moment's notice, 39 were sacrificed; and it may be mentioned as an instance of the destructive force, that although the accident happened in the early part of October, the last body was not discovered till the end of November, owing to the blowing away of all the timbers that supported the roof, and the consequent choking up of the works. The number of deaths from explosion in this single district, which does not include Monmouthshire, during the last nine years, has been over 1,100!
But notwithstanding this formidable array of figures, death by explosion is not the most common form that occurs. The greatest number of casualties arise from falls of the roof or of the coal itself, and 400 deaths are attributed to this cause in 1864, South Wales again taking the lead with an obituary of 67, closely followed by South Staffordshire with 51, and West Lancashire with 43.
This excess of death in some localities is due to the fact that the roof or strata that lies immediately over the coal-seams is shaky and liable to come down in masses, whereas the roof of other coals is hard and rocky. The protection against this kind of accident is very simple, and consists of a sufficient supply of timber to prop up the roof as the excavation of the coal goes on.
Pit-wood, however, is an expensive article, and there is too often a short supply at the colliery, so that workmen, rather than leave off their occupation, will venture on in a sort of happy recklessness as to whether the roof will hold or not; indeed, it is not uncommon for the men to neglect applying for timber rather than give themselves the trouble to go and look for the officer whose place it is to supply it, until at last the trembling mass gives way and comes down upon the unhappy collier, who, if he is fortunate enough to escape death, seldom comes off without a broken leg or thigh. The large totals of deaths from falls, — viz. 395 in 1864, and 407 in 1863, — lead one to think that much greater carefulness should be bestowed on this point, and particularly during the removal of timber from abandoned workings Mr. Atkinson, in his South Durham report, calls special attention to the great danger incurred, and particularly by the deputy overmen, whose duty it is to perform this removal. Next to accidents by falls underground, come those connected with the shafts or machinery, — a prevalent source of evil, by which 184 persons lost their lives. And yet, there is no portion of a colliery that is in general so thoroughly well-managed and so provided with the newest appliances as that affecting the winding gear; but, on the other hand, there are so many things to be guarded against, and so many little points liable to get disarranged, that we cannot wonder that so many fatalities are included under this head. The simple accident of tumbling down the shaft by misadventure is not uncommon; and a very singular variety occurred in South Staffordshire by which six men were killed. A horse was being bridled by the ostler in the stable near the pit's mouth, when it got restive, knocked the latter down, and bolted out of the building. Unfortunately it made directly for the shaft, down which it tumbled, falling upon the six men who were descending at the time. Of course both men and horse were all precipitated to the bottom in a heap.
This would have been prevented if the safety wicket which is now adopted in all good collieries had been placed to fence the shaft round. A similar accident sometimes happens from men who are descending, and have to stop midway to enter a particular working or gallery, mistaking their landing-place, and stepping off under the impression that their journey is ended, instead of which, poor fellows, they find that they have undertaken one with a more speedy and terrible termination. Death sometimes arises from things falling on the colliers as they are descending, such as pebbles or a clod of earth from the side of the shaft; and it is surprising to find what a very small stone will kill a man when it tumbles from a great hight. Prevention, however, is easily attained by fixing to the top of the cape an iron roof of no great thickness or weight, called a bonnet, which under ordinary circumstances is calculated to resist the blow.
Cases, however, have been known where even the bonnet has been penetrated. The safest and most
the shaft of a pit securely bricked or walled throughout the whole depth, so as to form a perfectly smooth face and do away with all irregularities of" surface. Many large pits have had this improvement carried out at an enormous expense, and no pit-shaft is ever sunk now without walling being considered a sine qua non. Some of the Somersetshire collieries are very defective in the formation of their shafts, being remarkably uneven and jagged from top to bottom, and not more than four and a half feet in diameter, which seriously tells on the amount of air which can be admitted for ventilation. When a pit is so bad in this respect as to require a peculiarly constructed machine to travel up and down it, we can easily fancy the constant danger to which the travellers are exposed. Yet this is the case in a colliery in Gloucestershire, where a machine called a "manhudge" is used, and where, partly in consequence of the state of the shaft, six men lost their lives. They had to get out a little before they arrived at the bottom, where there was a certain amount of standage water, technically called the "sumph." By means of some inaccuracy of the signals, the men were lowered into the water, and although the engineer found out his mistake in about half a dozen seconds, — viz. that the machine had been lowered too much,—it was not rectified in time to prevent its occupants from all stepping off into the water and being drowned.
An accident equally fatal with that of being lowered too far sometimes occurs, viz. that of being lifted too high, generally arising from the engine that controls the winding gear running wild, and being unable to be stopped in time. Near Dudley, four boys were ascending a pit shaft about sixty yards deep, when it appeared that an iron key belonging to part of the engine machinery had slipped out of its place, so the engineer lost his control over it, and the lads were drawn up over the pulley and of course killed. For those who are not familiar with the outside appearance of a coal-pit it may be explained that the winding chain is connected with the engine by means of pulleys, or " sheaves," placed on a framework about twenty feet above the mouth of the pit. It will be obvious,therefore, how little escape there could be for anybody brought over these revolving wheels with such force.
Death from the snapping of the winding-chain is not an unfrequent occurrence, although not so common as of yore, owing to the substitution of flat wire ropes instead of the chains that formerly were in universal use. Nevertheless, wire ropes, although infinitely superior, will snap sometimes, more especially if subject to the vapor and steam of an upcast shaft, — i. e. a shaft at the bottom of which there is a furnace for the purpose of ventilating the galleries.
I have already alluded to the danger of too closely approaching old and disused workings, from the risk of tapping the walls and letting out the accumulated gas, or, may be, water. From this latter eight colliers lost their lives at Mold, in Flintshire, owing to a misunderstanding on the part of the surveyors of the mine. A very common thing in coal strata is the presence of a "fault," or intrusion of some rock or various thickness, which may, and generally does, have the effect of severing the continuity of the coal-beds, and of altering their position, causing them to disappear for a time, and reappear at a higher or lower level, according as the fault is an upthrow or a downthrow. Generally speaking, faults are held in abhorrence by the coland are expected, they, to say the least of it, cause B temporary check to the working of the coal, together with a certain amount of doubt as to where the latter may turn up again. Faults, however, have their advantages sometimes; and amongst others, that of serving as a natural barrier to hold back those accumulations of water which exist in every underground working.
Now, it appears that in the case of this accident at Mold it was certain that a quantity of water existed in the old working; but it was also known that there were two faults, which in the natural course of things would have been amply sufficient to have kept it back; and so it would, had not unfortunately one fault been cut through, and exploretions carried very much beyond it, until the working plans were within a yard or two of the walls of the "goaf," ar an old working is professionally called; and so a mast torrent of water burst in, and the eight mew were drowned.
I have not yet exhausted the black catalogue of accidents underground; but have, I think, shown sufficient to enlist some sympathy with the daily life and risk of our black-diamond hewers, who, what with fire and water, carelessness and recklessness, follow the most dangerous occupation of any class of laborers, except perhaps those who work in gunpowder mills. The great question, after all, is, — what good has the present system of government inspection done, or has it done any good? Undoubtedly it has, as is evidenced by the reports of the Inspectors themselves, and by what is far more to the point, a diminishing death-rate.
TRAITS OF REPUBLICAN LIFE.
"Why, Juan," said I, as I sat examining my first week's account at Caracas, " things are exorbitantly dear in this land of liberty. There 's that dinner I gave the day before yesterday. It was a very plain dinner to thirteen, and they have charged twenty-three pounds for it! That's a charge one might expect in London with real turtle, ten kinds of fish, and as many courses; but here we had nothing very much beyond the usual, table d'hdte fare, except, indeed, a turkey, — yes, there was a turkey, and—"
"Things are dear, sir," interrupted Juan, "and if they were n't so in a general way they would be to us. Why, there is not a man, woman, or child in the whole city that does n't know we brought two boxes of gold to La Guaira, and that you are a oomisionado."
"And what difference does that make? The gold was for the government, as everybody knows. And if any man ought to be careful of money, and to examine well into accounts, it should be a financial commissioner."
"Well, sir," replied Juan, "that's one view, and I 'm not a-going to say that it's a wrong one; but it's not a Creole view. Sir, it's of no manner of use being too honest out here, for no one gets the credit of it. As for government business, there's perhaps more cheating in that than in anything, for it's a kind of proverb, La mejor hacienda es el Gobierno mat admmistrado, —' The best estate is the government ill administered.' So, no offence, sir, but if you would really like to know what is thought, I 'll be bound the general opinion is, that being a very sensible man, you won't part with those boxes of gold without keeping a cuartillo for yourself out of every real, and of course they think that when you
have such a lot of money you ought to leave some of it behind for the good of the country. As for the bill, the rule for marketing here is,' Get all you can, and make him who has most, pay most.'"
So saying, Juan walked off with the intention of passing the morning at various friends' houses. In the evening, at my dinner-hour, he would show himself again for a short time, after which I should see nothing of him till next day. This frec-and-eajv style of service is regarded as quite the correct thing in Venezuela,— a country which might, indeed, be called the paradise of servants, were the name of servant applicable at all to the vagrant gentlemen and ladies who pay you short visits to replenish their purses and wardrobes, leave you without notice, and severely repress any attempt to communicate with them as to your domestic arrangements. But you may talk with them on general topics, such as the weather or the theatre, and on politics you may be as expansive as you please; for where any one may become a general or a president in a few days, that subject is universally interesting.
The doctrine of perfect equality is so well carried out that, in one of the best houses where I was a guest, the gentleman who cleaned the boots alwavs came into my room with his hat on and a cigar in his mouth; and another gentleman, whom I engaged to assist Juan, left me the day after his arrival,.on being refused the custody of my keys and purse, which he candidly stated was the only duty he felt equal to. At dances, as soon as the music strikes up in the drawing-room, the servants begin to waltz in the passages and anterooms, and as entertainments are almost always on the ground floor, and generally in rooms looking into the street, the great "unwashed" thrust their naked arms and greasy faces between the bars of the windows and criticise the dancing with much spirit. I have seen a gentleman in rags leaning into a window from the street, with his bare arms almost touching those of a beautifully dressed lady, while his most sweet breath finned her tresses. On another occasion I was talking to some ladies at an evening party, when a worthy sans-culotte jerked in his head so suddenly to listen to our conversation, that I stopped, on which he called out, "O these are the aristocrats we have here, who won't talk to any one but their own set!"
On my sitting down to play chess with the wife of the president of one of the states, half a dozen female servants of every shade, from tawny twilight to black night, surrounded the table and began to watch the game. The first time I went to a tailor I was accompanied by a Creole friend, who undertook to show me the best place. We had to wait some time before the gentleman of the shop appeared. When he did, he came in with the inevitable cigar in his mouth. He raised his hat politely to my friend, walked straight up to me, shook hands, and asked me how I did. He then sat down on the counter, put various questions to me regarding my coming to Venezuela, talked on general subjects, and at the end of about a quarter of an hour intimated that he was ready to oblige me if I wanted a coat. This tailor was an officer of rank in the army, and he was wearing his uniform and spurs when he came in to measure a friend of mine.
Juan was an excellent valet, but he would have lost caste had he been too attentive to his duties in Venezuela. So he walked off, as I have said, to amuse himself, and left me to think over the difficulties of the business intrusted to me. I had no
experience in South American affairs, so my first measure had been to secure a coadjutor, who was thoroughly au/ail in them. C, the son of an Englishman, had all the integrity characteristic of his race, and being a Creole by birth", that is, born in Venezuela, knew all about the country. He chanced to come in just as Juan left the room, and seeing that he had taken a cigar and settled himself for a chat, I said: "Now tell me, C, how is it that this country is so wretchedly poor, and so eternally borrowing money? For my part, I can't make it out. You have n't a particle of show. Your government house looks like an East Indian godown, your great men make no display, and as for your soldiers, one would think that the last successful campaign had been against the fripiers, and that the victors were carrying off the plunder on their backs. It is evident that you Venezuelans are not extravagant, and it is plain that you have great resources, if you knew how to use them. Your soil is the richest in the world, and has never been trodden byan invader since the Spaniard was driven out. Then what is the reason that you are always borrowing from other countries? How is it, too, that while the United States of North America have made such progress, the population in your republic is all but stationary, the seas and rivers without steamers, the country without roads, and commerce languishing?" C. knocked the ashes from the end of his cigar, assisted thought by perching his legs conveniently on the top of a chair, and finally replied as follows: "You see, in the first place, there 's a difference in the breed. The Yankees are a go-ahead lot, there's no mistake about that. There's plenty of quicksilver in English blood, but fog and damp keep it down in England. At New York it rises to fever heat, and to the boiling point down South. Besides, long before Lexington and Bunker Hill, the North Americans were ripe for self-government.
"In South America things were very different. The Spaniards kept their American subjects in profound ignorance. Four fifths of the population coakl not even read, for there were no schools. Even at Caracas, the capital, there was no printingoffice till 1816, when one was set up by the Frenchman, Delpeche. The illiberality of the Spaniards went so far, that, after Isabella's death, nothing was done to introduce the cultivation of any plant, or improve farming. The culture of the vine and olive was prohibited, and that of tobacco was made a crown monopoly. Emigration, too, was all but entirely prevented, and, in the total absence of vivifying power, the wonder rather is that Venezuela should ever have become free, than that it should have made so little progress.
"Then as to the poverty of the government and its constant borrowing, there are several reasons for that. In the first place, the Creoles of South America, though they have many good qualities, are very averse to physical labor. They won't go to work in a new country, like Englishmen, — clear away timber, stub up, and drain. Their wits are sharp, and they do well for superintendents; but as to work, that tries the sinews: it is my belief that all the haciendas in the country would go to ruin, if it were not for the Indians and the mixed breeds. Again, the taxes levied by the Spaniards, — the alcabala,, or excise, the armada and corso, or coast taxes, the media? anatas, or deductions from salaries, the monopolies of salt, cards, cane-liquor, and tobacco, and numerous other imposts, wore all so odious to the Columbians, that as soon as they declared them
selves independent, they made a clean sweep of them, leaving only the customs to supply a revenue to the government. Now, it is in the customs that it is most easy to peculate and defraud the state. With a coast line of two thousand miles, how is it possible to keep down smuggling?
"To give you an idea of the extent of the contraband trade, I may mention that a finance minister of Venezuela has proved that, of the two hundred million dollars' worth of goods imported into the country during the first sixteen years of independence, one hundred and twenty-nine and a half millions' worth were smuggled! But, besides that, the venality and corruption of the custom-house officers is such, that, as Senors Brandt and Iribarren have shown, the defalcations of revenue from the Aduanas up to 1852, amounted to no less than one hundred and one and a half millions of dollars. At present the annual loss to government, by contraband and frauds of various kinds, is reckoned at six millions. But don't suppose that this calculation is based on information furnished by the accounts kept here. If other countries — France and the United States, for example — did not publish the amount of their exports to Venezuela, no one would know what is really brought into this country. It is only by comparing foreign statistics with home fictions that we come to know the extent to which the government is cheated. Indeed, one would not be wrong in saying that the incessant revolutions which distract this unhappy country all commence at the custom-houses.
"Owing to the frauds of the officials, the revenue falls short; to make up the deficiency, the customs are raised until the necessaries of life are too dear for men of small means. Thus discontent is sown broadcast, and discontent leads to conspiracies. Yet, great as the evil is, one cannot help laughing at the impudence of some of the frauds. According to the published returns, the people here must be the dirtiest in the world with any pretentions to civilization, since it is officially made out that a quarter of an ounce of soap in a week is all that each person uses. We know that the province of Caracas alone consumes a hundred barrels of flour a day, whereas, according to the custom-house returns, the daily consumption of all Venezuela does not reach sixtynine barrels. Under such cirenmstances, it is no wonder that the public treasury is empty, that the revenues of the Aduanas are all more or less mortgaged, and that there are no remittances to the capital except from La Guaira and Puerto Cabello. Of course the only resource is to borrow in foreign markets, and hence," said C, throwing away the end of his cigar, "I have the pleasure of meeting you here. Apropos of which, as there is a bull-fight to-day, and you have never seen one, let us stroll down to the Corrida."
Before we could reach the eastern outskirt of the town, where the building stands in which the bullfights are held, a mass ofclouds came drifting from the Avila, and a light rain began, in earnest of a more pelting shower. Looking about for shelter, and seeing at a window some ladies whom we knew slightly, we went in to talk to them. I said to one of them, a slim girl with immense dark eyes, and singularly long eyelashes, "We are going to the Corrida; does the senorita ever go?"
"No, seiior, I never go. The ladies of Venezuela think bull-fights very barbarous. As for me, I cannot understand how any one can take pleasure in such odious cruelty."