I would wish to declare, at the beginning of this story, that I shall never regard that
cluster of islets which we call Bermuda as the Fortunate Islands of the ancients. Do not
let professional geographers take me up, and say that no one has so accounted them, and
that the ancients have never been supposed to have gotten themselves so far westwards.
What I mean to assert is this--that, had any ancient been carried thither by enterprise or
stress of weather, he would not have given those islands so good a name. That the
Neapolitan sailors of King Alonzo should have been wrecked here, I consider to be more
likely. The vexed Bermoothes is a good name for them. There is no getting in or out of
them without the greatest difficulty, and a patient, slow navigation, which is very heart-
rending. That Caliban should have lived here I can imagine; that Ariel would have been
sick of the place is certain; and that Governor Prospero should have been willing to
abandon his governorship, I conceive to have been only natural. When one regards the
present state of the place, one is tempted to doubt whether any of the governors have
been conjurors since his days.
Bermuda, as all the world knows, is a British colony at which we maintain a convict
establishment. Most of our outlying convict establishments have been sent back upon our
hands from our colonies, but here one is still maintained. There is also in the islands a
strong military fortress, though not a fortress looking magnificent to the eyes of civilians,
as do Malta and Gibraltar. There are also here some six thousand white people and some
six thousand black people, eating, drinking, sleeping, and dying.
The convict establishment is the most notable feature of Bermuda to a stranger, but it
does not seem to attract much attention from the regular inhabitants of the place. There is
no intercourse between the prisoners and the Bermudians. The convicts are rarely seen by
them, and the convict islands are rarely visited. As to the prisoners themselves, of course
it is not open to them--or should not be open to them--to have intercourse with any but
the prison authorities.
There have, however, been instances in which convicts have escaped from their
confinement, and made their way out among the islands. Poor wretches! As a rule, there
is but little chance for any that can so escape. The whole length of the cluster is but
twenty miles, and the breadth is under four. The prisoners are, of course, white men, and
the lower orders of Bermuda, among whom alone could a runagate have any chance of
hiding himself, are all negroes; so that such a one would be known at once. Their clothes
are all marked. Their only chance of a permanent escape would be in the hold of an
American ship; but what captain of an American or other ship would willingly encumber
himself with an escaped convict? But, nevertheless, men have escaped; and in one
instance, I believe, a convict got away, so that of him no farther tidings were ever heard.