Kaffir Letter Carrier by Unknown

"I knew" (says the pleasing writer of "Letters from Sierra Leone") "that the long-looked-for vessel had at length furled her sails and dropped anchor in the bay. She was from England, and I waited, expecting every minute to feast my eyes upon at least one letter; but I remembered how unreasonable it was to suppose that any person would come up with letters to this lonely place at so late an hour, and that it behoved me to exercise the grace of patience until next day. However, between ten and eleven o'clock, a loud shouting and knocking aroused the household, and the door was opened to a trusty Kroo messenger, who, although one of a tribe who would visit any of its members in their own country with death, who could 'savey white man's book,' seemed to comprehend something of our feelings at receiving letters, as I overheard him exclaim, with evident glee, 'Ah! massa! here de right book come at last.' Every thing, whether a brown-paper parcel, a newspaper, an official despatch, a private letter or note is here denominated a 'book,' and this man understood well that newspapers are never received so gladly amongst 'books' from England as letters." The Kaffir, in the Engraving, was sketched from one employed to convey letters in the South African settlements; he carries his document in a split at the end of a cane.

Kaffir Letter-Carrier.

It is a singular sight in India to see the catamarans which put off from some parts of the coast, as soon as ships come in sight, either to bear on board or to convey from thence letters or messages. These frail vessels are composed of thin cocoa-tree logs, lashed together, and big enough to carry one, or, at most, two persons. In one of these a small sail is fixed, and the navigator steers with a little paddle; the float itself is almost entirely sunk in the water, so that the effect is very singular—a sail sweeping along the surface with a man behind it, and apparently nothing to support them. Those which have no sails are consequently invisible and the men have the appearance of treading the water and performing evolutions with a racket. In very rough weather the men lash themselves to their little rafts but in ordinary seas they seem, though frequently washed off, to regard such accidents as mere trifles, being naked all but a wax cloth cap in which they keep any letters they may have to convey to ships in the roads, and swimming like fish. Their only danger is from sharks, which are said to abound. These cannot hurt them while on their floats; but woe be to them if they catch them while separated from that defence. Yet, even then, the case is not quite hopeless, since the shark can only attack them from below; and a rapid dive, if not in very deep water, will sometimes save them.