How A Dutchman Helped The Spaniards

: 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 s
ckcloth 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!