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A Little Girl's Impressions of Madeira by Katie C. Yorke

 

It was a beautiful clear day in October when I had my first view of Madeira. The high blue mountains, the green shores, and the white city of Funchal gleaming in the distance, looked very lovely to us as we approached the island.

About noon we anchored at a little distance from the city, and swarms of row-boats came around the ship. Some of them were full of half-naked brown boys, and if we threw a piece of money into the beautiful blue water, they would dive down and catch it before it reached the bottom. Some of the other boats were full of men, who came on board, bringing fans, canary-birds, parrots, feather flowers, basket-work, filigree jewelry, and many other things to sell.

We and some of the passengers got into a row-boat, after a good deal of trouble, because there is always a heavy swell there, so one minute the boat was very high up, and the next very low down. When we had managed to get in, we rowed to the city. There were great waves dashing up on the shore, and four or five bare-legged men rushed into the water, and drew the boat on land just as a wave came in.

What was our surprise to see waiting for us, instead of a horse and carriage, a great sleigh drawn by bullocks. This is called a bullock-car in English, and a carro in Portuguese. We got into one of them, with a great deal of laughter, and drove to the hotel. The driver walked by the side of the carro, and threw the end of a greasy rag first under one runner and then under the other, to make it run more easily.

When we arrived at the hotel, we found it was a great white building, with a lovely garden, which contained mango, guava, banana, custard-apple, and many other trees. Among them was what was called the moon-tree; it was covered with great white bell-like flowers, and was very beautiful. There were a great many gorgeous flowers and curious plants that we do not have in this country. The garden was surrounded by a wall eight feet high, and there were some fish-geraniums which reached above the top of it. There was a little arch covered with the night-blooming cereus, and that evening, when the buds had opened, we went out to see them in the moonlight. They were beautiful white blossoms, as large as your head, and had a faint perfume.

Next day we took a hammock ride about the town and surrounding country. Each hammock was fitted out with a mattress, pillows, and canopy, and slung on a long pole carried by two men. We reclined lazily against the pillows, and enjoyed the ride very much. The men, when they went up hill, carried us feet downward, but once they forgot, and carried us feet upward, and as the hill was very steep, we felt as if we were standing on our heads.

The houses of Funchal are low; and covered with white stucco, which looks very neat, but those of the poor have only one window without any glass, and are very dark and dismal inside. The streets are narrow, and some of them very steep. We often passed gardens surrounded by high walls, over which hung lovely flowering vines. Out in the country there were lantanas, geraniums, and fuchsias which seemed to be growing wild, and great cactus plants everywhere.