Above - pics of Pinney's Beach, Nevis Island, a chapter in Lawless & the Lotus, photos kindly taken by Martin Smith June 2007.

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The Lawless & The Lotus
republished 2007

Extract: NEVIS

THE great chain of islands swinging east and south from Puerto Rico to the coast of Venezuela forms a quadrant of vestigial colonies peopled largely by the heirs of Negro slaves. The white man’s commerce is maintained by a seasoning of professional expatriates; but a piquant spice is added, from the tropical Left Bank of St Thomas to the slums of Trinidad, by a soupçon of social deviates from North America and Europe.

Some are refugees from police, or wives, or other forms of organized oppression; others there are who escape from urban obscurity to strut in the flickering candelight of pale skin prestige. Some delude themselves in search for the golden beach: others deceive the world at large to feed on the generosity of fools. Visionaries, sensualists, fugitives and seekers - essentially individualists warring with some aspect of convention or craving the distant lotus, they are characterized by forms of odd behaviour the more easily practised among tolerant Caribbeans.

Odd indeed was the quaint quartet who discovered me on Nevis.
A lone white man stood at the head of the jetty, lean and blond, perhaps thirty, and as the throng of arriving passengers poured forth from the ferry burdened with merchandise from the markets of Basseterre I was aware of his careful scrutiny. Not an unusual thing.

I was the only European who arrived, my luggage was stowed in a striped sack and slung across my shoulder, and one hand gripped a viciouslooking speargun; but there was thoughtful speculation in his gaze which suggested he might soon find some excuse to ask me questions.

A familiar figure, I decided; the ardent exile who eats loneliness, ever ready to snatch the stranger to his bosom and suck his heart for the sweetness of admiring sympathy. Ah, but was he? No rigid formula could anticipate the pattern of such folk; and I wondered who he was.

But walking resolutely I passed by, for ahead in the lane which led to the village centre I had glimpsed a brief vision, a flash of blue and ruby-gold, a gay blue dress sheathing supple curves and crowned with a disciplined wealth of hair sunfired to citrine copper. And during that first brief moment when a traveller arrives in a new place he has the unquestioned privilege to address whom he pleases. But even as I boldly moved towards her she entered a car, glanced back once, and drove away. An unfamiliar figure I decided ruefully, and wondered who she was.....