The Voyage of the Beagle HTML version

Mauritius To England
Mauritius, beautiful appearance of -- Great crateriform ring of Mountains -- Hindoos --
St. Helena -- History of the changes in the Vegetation -- Cause of the extinction of Land-
shells -- Ascension -- Variation in the imported Rats -- Volcanic Bombs -- Beds of
Infusoria -- Bahia -- Brazil -- Splendour of Tropical Scenery -- Pernambuco -- Singular
Reef -- Slavery -- Return to England -- Retrospect on our Voyage.
APRIL 29th. -- In the morning we passed round the northern end of Mauritius, or the Isle
of France. From this point of view the aspect of the island equalled the expectations
raised by the many well-known descriptions of its beautiful scenery. The sloping plain of
the Pamplemousses, interspersed with houses, and coloured by the large fields of sugar-
cane of a bright green, composed the foreground. The brilliancy of the green was the
more remarkable because it is a colour which generally is conspicuous only from a very
short distance. Towards the centre of the island groups of wooded mountains rose out of
this highly cultivated plain; their summits, as so commonly happens with ancient
volcanic rocks, being jagged into the sharpest points. Masses of white clouds were
collected around these pinnacles, as if for the sake of pleasing the stranger's eye. The
whole island, with its sloping border and central mountains, was adorned with an air of
perfect elegance: the scenery, if I may use such an expression, appeared to the sight
I spent the greater part of the next day in walking about the town and visiting different
people. The town is of considerable size, and is said to contain 20,000 inhabitants; the
streets are very clean and regular. Although the island has been so many years under the
English Government, the general character of the place is quite French: Englishmen
speak to their servants in French, and the shops are all French; indeed, I should think that
Calais or Boulogne was much more Anglified. There is a very pretty little theatre, in
which operas are excellently performed. We were also surprised at seeing large
booksellers' shops, with well-stored shelves; -- music and reading bespeak our approach
to the old world of civilization; for in truth both Australia and America are new worlds.
The various races of men walking in the streets afford the most interesting spectacle in
Port Louis. Convicts from India are banished here for life; at present there are about 800,
and they are employed in various public works. Before seeing these people, I had no idea
that the inhabitants of India were such noble-looking figures. Their skin is extremely
dark, and many of the older men had large mustaches and beards of a snow-white colour;
this, together with the fire of their expression, gave them quite an imposing aspect. The
greater number had been banished for murder and the worst crimes; others for causes
which can scarcely be considered as moral faults, such as for not obeying, from
superstitious motives, the English laws. These men are generally quiet and well-
conducted; from their outward conduct, their cleanliness, and faithful observance of their
strange religious rites, it was impossible to look at them with the same eyes as on our
wretched convicts in New South Wales.