Page images

It is true that the policy produced great credit expansion, on top of an expansion which had already reached phenomenal proportions. It promptly set up new high records in the volume of bank loans and investments, in stockmarket prices and brokers' loans, and in new capital flotations. But great as the expansion in credit has been, it must go much further yet if it is to create a situation where goods can come in over the tariff wall and provide cash for the interest coupons on foreign bonds. Will our antipathy to inflation dictate our future policy? Shall we stand in the way of a credit solution to the problem of international payments? There is always the risk that

we may.

There is still another danger to be faced. When we once reach the stage where we begin to get a substantial import balance, it is probable that we shall want to superimpose new tariff duties. Such action would be strictly in line with our basic theory of tariff making, which is that the duty on a given product should be approximately equal to the difference in the cost of production at home and abroad. From day to day we are endeavoring to apply this theory to individual products under the 'flexible provisions' of the Fordney Act. We have in actual operation the machinery which could thus effect a general increase in tariff duties without any new legislation on the subject, merely by singling out for

consideration seriatim those products which persisted in scaling the tariff wall. It may be that the flexible provisions of the tariff law have proved a failure thus far, but our questionable tariff theory goes on.

It is time that we gave serious consideration to our situation. We are no longer a nation in isolation. Our commerce and finance have become international. The industrial and financial hegemony of the world has been thrust upon us. We cannot 'sit tight' and ignore the responsibilities of this new position without suffering the consequences. We prosper in proportion as we go with the tide, not as we go against it.

The occasion is not one which calls for philanthropic considerations. It is enough that we make sure what selfinterest is, and then let ourselves be guided accordingly. If in the course of our business dealings with the outside world we are motivated by a genuine desire to better our position, we shall protect the equity of our investors in foreign bonds by keeping our policies in tune with inexorable economic forces; we shall recognize the commercial advantages of an import as well as of an export trade; and, finally, we shall show a disposition to do our part, in an economic way at least, in bridging the gulf between ourselves and foreign countries countries a gulf in the making of which our trade and monetary policies have been mighty factors.




I HAD dived deep beneath the waters of Haiti; I had climbed her mountains, horseback and afoot; but I had not stopped halfway and looked with any attention at the shore. I doubt if there is really any more dramatic place in the world than 'tween tides. We usually pass it by with a comment on high or low water, but if we will lie flat on our backs just above high tide (because of our unamphibian infirmity) we may see miracles.

I picked out a clump of trees above a white beach half a mile from the schooner and rowed thither. They were my old friends the mangroves, the red kind, Avicennia, — whose roots by the thousand forever keep saying 'thumbs up.'

Behind a sandy strip of beach I found an old boat sinking into the elements of all boats, and, climbing in, I waited. In five seconds a great cuckoo fell into my lap, thrashed out again, leaving two tail feathers, and flopped up into the branches overhead. Over all the world cuckoos are remarkable for two things the astounding quality and diversity of their food, and the difficulty they have in making their wings and tail behave. This was the great lizard-eating cuckoo of Haiti, and in his pursuit of saurians was as regardless of direction and feathers and ultimate balance as his ebony cousins, the black witch cuckoos, who at this very moment 'whaleeped' in an adjoining thicket. While he preened his

remaining feathers, I stuck my mementos in my helmet and waited for my next Haitian adventure.

Solitude is impossible in this humanridden land, and I could hear the soft French patois of blacks working in the sugar cane behind, while on the reef before me two men bailed their leaky boats almost all the time, and in brief intervals of safety examined their wicker fish traps and stabbed sea-urchin bait with nails on long poles.

The right of present possession and force of concentrated interest having made this my very own beach, I leaned back with a feeling of contented ownership and watched for all comers. The first was a slender beauty, a shadowthin Louisiana heron which paced slowly past in the shallows, eyeing my boat with suspicion, but paying me the compliment of not distinguishing me from the surrounding rotting boards and lichened roots. Once he stooped and snatched a tiny, flickering fish, and again pecked vainly at a dark spot which I knew was a live conch. Then he spread his wings and left my beach without sound or track. My next visitor was a trespasser, a Haitian, half clad in a garb of filthy rags, unwashed and unpleasant. Shining through these was most beautiful copper-mahogany skin, perfectly tempered to this tropic sun and air, infinitely more modest and sane than his hopeless attempts at conventional dress. Clad as I was only in abbreviated swimming trunks, my fair skin would have been an offense

beside his were it not that in two months of constant exposure I had attained the hue of a dark mulatto.

My Haitian also stopped at the conch shell, picked it up, and, disentangling a rusty knife from his shreds of civilization, cut out a section of the mollusk and ate it. It was so natural a use of the beach and so skillfully done that I felt like withdrawing the stigma of trespasser and classing him with the native heron.

A mocking bird began to sing directly behind me, and for many minutes drowned out the sound of human voices in the distance. My cuckoo croaked overhead and spat down berry pits into my landlocked boat. Then magic began in the boat itself. The bottom boards had long since rotted away, and I sat on a mat of dry mangrove leaves. As if at a signal these leaves began to shift and lift and rub noisily against one another like recently crumpled papers in a wastebasket. The morning breeze had not yet sprung up, and I sat waiting for the elves which haunt old boats. In half a minute a dozen fiddler crabs bustled forth and, with one impulse, immediately vanished. I was comfortably frozen and had not frightened them, but the actual cause was as satisfying as the sight of the crabs themselves. A small green cockroach flew into the farther end, and after it, pell-mell, two fellow country folk, a parula warbler and a Maryland yellowthroat. They sensed me and, in spite of our common nationality, fled headlong, with only a single chirp between them.

The tide was going down my sloping sand, and on the uppermost ten feet I could read in the deep ripple marks the record of the strong wind which had whistled around our schooner tents at midnight. When I reached the five o'clock zone of calm, the sand's surface was smooth as paper. Nothing in the

world seemed more certain than that in a few hours the returning tide would wipe out every ripple mark, and yet I recalled many fossilized beaches, some over a mile above the present sea, where the tide had never returned, when by some velvet convulsion of Mother Earth the delicate furrows of shifting grains had become solid stone.

Everywhere on the smooth sand were records, as clear as tracks on snow, of watery beings who were compromising or pioneering in this ribbon kingdom of dual elements forever fought for by water and by air. The fiddlers were high upshore, pretending that they were land folk, yet never daring wholly to desert the dampness.

On mid-beach a few fiddlers were working like fury, digging tunnels and throwing up breastworks, piling pellets of sand with as perfect confidence as the foolish man in the Bible. Below them were scores of parallel lines drawn by terrified little black snails, all of whose bravado about the land had evaporated with the water, and they were following their ancestral element with all the speed of their tiny, muscled foot. One giant, a half inch in length, ploughed the distance of his stature in half a minute, and had therefore covered the eight feet of his back trail in an hour and a half, hardly the speed of the retreating tide. These jet-black handsome beaded turrets speeding over the sand were only a few of their kind those which had been caught in the blazing sun far from shelter. Wherever a depression promised dampness during low tide, or where the cool, mossy mangrove rootlets raised their spikes, thousands of the ebony spires gathered, spun a moisture-proof varnish across their front vestibule, and slept or dreamed or thought, or perhaps, being merely mollusks, only existed until the returning water awoke them to the joys and sorrows of snail life.


If I had ventured to make a probable list of the sea creatures most likely to be found among the mangrove roots at low tide, I should have completely failed. I should have favored sturdy, strong-housed snails and hermit crabs. But here instead were the flabbiest bits of life- unpleasant, wormy sea cucumbers which, as seen half dried in the sun, not even an enthusiastic holothurologist could call attractive. Their claim upon our interest, as I have shown elsewhere, is quite another matter.

Here in the sandy mangrove zone I was surprised to find sea anemones. I came across a symmetrical impression as if there had rested upon the sand a glass tumbler with base cut into an intricately scalloped pattern. As I stepped closer, the whole circular area sank a little, and a touch identified it.

All around was the evidence of considerable wave action, sand ripples an inch in depth, and it was hard to understand how this bit of flaccid animal jelly could maintain its hold upon the shifting grains. With my penknife I began excavating on one side, going down and down until at last I discovered its foot on a horizontal mangrove root, eight inches below the surface. When I dislodged it, a thick sheet of the red bark came along with it. I was reminded of the mixed character of this zone of life by a cohort of stinging ants, which raced over the sand and occasionally nipped me as I dug. The type of mind which is thrilled by having picked oysters from trees could make an excellent Haitian yarn from the juxtaposition of anemones and ants. As I labored, a green-and-brown lizard dashed past in pursuit of the tiniest of fiddler infants. This astonishing race resulted in success for the aquatic kingdom, when the crablet dived safely into its hole.

By the time I had freed my anemone it had contracted to two inches and looked like a sandy mushroom. At first glance there was little to choose in point of beauty between it and the near-by stranded sea cucumber, but washing worked wonders, and the cucumber changed to the semblance of a rolling field all aglow with a dense crop of tansy in full bloom, and the moment I planted the anemone in an aquarium of sand, things beautiful began to happen.

Balanced on its contracted base, it gradually commenced to flatten and to grip the bottom with long, bulbous furrows. The summit opened slowly, like the slow-motion picture of an expanding flower. Structure after structure came into view, none showing the brilliancy of those blossoming on the coral reef a hundred yards from shore, but very beautiful with the exquisitely subdued patterning of hen pheasants. First there uncurled a broad Elizabethan ruff of clove brown, revolving outward in an expanse of surface like lace spread over a ploughed field. Then, like rabbits and bouquets from a conjurer's hat, from no space at all rose up rank after rank of long finger tentacles, until forty-eight were numbered. These were thick at the base, and pale misty olive with whitish scars scattered down the inner side. Within the three circles of the ever-moving tentacles was a flat field of olive, marbled with reddish brown, guarding in its centre the half-opened mouth with still-concealed inner organs showing as four pearly spheres.

The first two anemones which I excavated had columns of pale pink, the exact shade of the bark of the submerged mangrove roots, but even the most violent protective-colorite could derive no support from this pigmental by-product, for in the next two anemones the long stalks were green.

Although they move and eat and are animals like ourselves, anemones, as personalities, pall after a time, and my interest was about to shift to other organisms when, in the lee of a small mangrove growing far down the sand, I saw a large individual with a brood of young alongside. There were eleven, and all clustered in a squarish space of about three inches. Their discs were tiny, but the slender tentacles were bravely expanded to their widest extent.

Sea anemones are delightfully diversified in the matter of reproduction. The eggs may be fertilized in the water or may be retained until they become good-sized embryos. Some actinian mothers have special brood pouches like aquatic kangaroos. Or adventitious infants may suddenly develop like buds on the stalk of the parent; or the anemone herself may have a sudden longing for a double life, and slowly and gently split in twain.

It would almost seem as if the small family I had discovered had dropped off as buds, and instantly sunk their tiny, living shafts to bed rock, or in this case bed shell, for all reached down a full inch to a long-buried wreck of a conch. To this they clung with a persistency resisting the movements of both sand and water which to them were, on the one hand, avalanches of great boulders and, on the other, terrific pounding of huge breakers. Thus did one family of Haitian sand anem- or, if you will, Asteractis ex

ones pansa

[ocr errors]

start their lives on my beach.


About six o'clock one tropical winter evening, a disgruntled mother fiddler crab kicked several hundred of her offspring into the sea. Most of them soon died, some being eaten, others tangled up in drifting seaweed or thrown ashore and thoroughly dried.

One at least lived, and to-day on my beach, a year later, I watched him come out of his burrow near the bow of my desiccated boat. I state all this with assurance, because it is the manner of birth of all fiddler crabs. For many days the mother crab carries dozens of bunches of eggs around with her. They are so heavy that she fears to leave her burrow except at dusk. She has little or no warmth of affection for them, and only through instinct is moved nightly to wade into the treacherous shallows and flick her growing offspring aboutthus aerating them.

One evening, invariably about dusk, the young burst their shells, and at every flick of their mother's body they are scattered by the thousand through the water. They bear exactly the same amount of resemblance to their parent that a horned toad does to a pussycat. The head and thorax part is enormous, and is made up chiefly of two long spines and a pair of monstrous eyes. A slender string of five beads forms an abdomen of sorts, and two small oars project at the sides, whose blades are tufts of feathery hairs. Twenty-five of these uncomfortable, unreasonable little beings could line up upon a pin's length.

Our infant crab lives the simple life -in fact, it is the simple life even to its name, Zoea, which in Greek means 'life.' The whole object of Zoea for many weeks is to row itself furiously along, onward and upward as near the surface and light as possible, and to clutch at creatures still smaller and devour them. It kicks itself along through a whole world of infantile life all at the mercy of waves and tides and currents. There are sea worms, sea urchins, snails, jellyfish and starfish, moss animals, sea eggs, larval fish, and lobsters - all youthful, freeswimming, boiling with futile energy, kicking, snapping, wriggling, flapping

« PreviousContinue »