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general Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia. On that last voyage
she was in reality also carrying $50,000 in gold. An ironic association
of gold and the “end of the rainbow” therefore springs to mind. We’re
reminded that post-Emancipation Bermuda profited hugely from the
American Civil War by siding with the Confederate blockade runners,
thus supporting the slave-owning South.
Our eye moves next to the black couple in the crumbling yellow Bermuda cottage on the left with its stuffed chimney, rickety jetty, gashed
walls and dead century plant in a pot, symbolic surely for a century
blighted for freed slaves since emancipation did not bring the promise
of political and economic equality to fruition. A starving dog stands
on the dock and a house-coated woman hides half in the door, half out.
A shark looks hungrily at the man of the house standing nonchalantly
under the bare bug bulb on the dangerous jetty. His shirt echoes exactly
the colours of the Confederate flag on the ship. Seven crows fly off the
chimney, now literally a crow’s nest. But the crows are flying not as the
crow flies. They disperse in search of carrion. The black man looks
at us directly with a friendly grin.
Our eyes take in the shark and the net holding a school
of imprisoned fish circling clockwise, the Spanish
hogfish off the eastern dock, and the wooden boat
registered number N611 moored there, its roof
and stern patterned in white and red, echoing the
flag and the shirt. Our gaze then moves up to the
cedar balustrade around the neat and opulent
little white house on the right-hand side with its
prosperous white couple dancing to music played
on a wind-up clockwork gramophone. The woman in a purple dress and
petticoat smiles, but not at us. Her partner in an Edwardian-style suit,
looking not unlike a youthful Mark Twain, is completely caught up in
the moment and oblivious to his surroundings. Behind the dancing
couple stands another century plant in a pot, this one thriving, fully
grown to roof height and laden with blooms.
Comparing the way that fortune has treated the people living on the left as opposed to those on the right of Foster’s painting reinforces the “wheel of fortune” image further. But there’s one
final item. At the extreme top right in the “most fortunate” quadrant we
have what appears to be an escapee from Bermuda Rainbow Country,
borne away on a wooden plank slung under a tethered red-and-white-
striped balloon, an echo of the colours of the Confederate flag. But this
person is not escaping from Rainbow Country. Instead he is seeking
fortune within it. As Foster explained, what is going on is part of
treasure hunting. If you are hoisted on a helium balloon some
600 feet up you can easily spot damage to the reef which
could indicate a collision and, hopefully, at the end of it, a
wreck and then, who knows? Treasure, perhaps even gold.
So the balloonist is carrying on one of the early traditions
of Bermudian life rooted in the earliest days of the colony:
the plundering of wrecks. Surely it is ironic that our wreck
spotter is in the luckiest position of the wheel of fortune so
that fate can carry him to find prosperity in the misfortune
of others. Maybe Rainbow Country is soon to welcome
another wealthy returnee.