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How A Dutchman Helped The Spaniards


Source: Myths & Legends Of Our New Possessions & Protectorate

Had any Dutchman been charged with intending a kindness to the dons
when his country was smarting under the Spanish scourge he would
have offered the life of some distant relative to disprove the
accusation. Without a guess that he could be injuring his own land
and enriching that of his enemy, an innocent magistrate of Amsterdam
did that for which he would afterward have submitted to the abuse of
his friends, and if sackcloth and ashes had been in vogue he would
have worn them. It all came about through his wish to be pleasant
to a Frenchman, the same being Louis XIV. He sent to this monarch a
curiosity in the form of a young coffee-tree, thinking, no doubt, that
a warm corner could be found for it in the Jardin des Plantes among
the orchids and cacti, and little recking that Louis had a Spanish
father-in-law. At that time Holland enjoyed, in her colonies, almost
a monopoly of the coffee trade of the world, but that one little tree
broke her monopoly, just as one little leak in her dikes led to the
eating away of miles of earthen wall and an in-rush and devastation
of the sea.

For Louis was more clever than some other kings, almost clever enough
to have been in trade, or else he had smart advisers. He had slips
cut from the coffee tree, and ere many moons had passed a promising
dozen of young plants were ready for shipment to Martinique, the
new French colony in the Antilles. A botanist was sent in charge of
them, it being the purpose of Louis to turn the island into a coffee
plantation and be free of obligation to Holland. The voyage was long,
because of head winds and storms, and the precious plants were in
peril. Long before the American shores were reached the water supply
had run low, and there was much suffering; yet the loyal botanist gave
up half of his daily allowance in order that his coffee-trees should
live. Salt water would have killed them, and in those days ships had
no distilling apparatus. Martinique was reached in safety, however,
the little trees struck their roots into congenial soil, and thus the
seeds, such as first yielded their aroma to a surprised and gratified
Abyssinian chief more than a thousand years before, now spring from
the strong earth of the Western world. Whether Spaniards stole some
of these trees, or bought them, or whether they got away by accident,
certes, they reached Porto Rico, and so became a source of pleasure
and profit to people whom the Dutchman did not have in mind when he
made his little gift to King Louis. It is believed that all the coffee
raised in Batavia for the Dutch also grew from a handful of seeds
that had been sent from Arabia to Java. And, oh, that ever the time
should have come when France had to buy coffee from her own plant in
Porto Rico, and send to that same island for logwood to make claret
with,--the kind she sells to New York for bohemian tables d'hote!

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