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Recollections of Travel in New Zealand and Australia

A Voyage to England

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A Voyage to England.

About Christmas 1840 I paid Captain Wilson of the good ship "Oriental" £60, to take me from Wellington to Bombay, so as to catch the East India Company's steamer, which then ran to Suez. Captain Wilson intended to go round Cape Lieuwin, and en route for this place we ran out of Port Nicholson before a strong north-wester, and endeavoured to beat through the Straits to the westward. After persevering in this attempt for several days without success, we put the helm up, squared yards, ran round Cape Palliser, and steered to the northward, with the intention of finding another way to Bombay. We hoped, as a matter of course, that we should run into a south-east trade-wind, but instead of this, when we passed out of the latitude of New Zealand, we encountered a strong gale from between N. and N.N.W., with a heavy rain and close muggy atmosphere. This wind drove us far to the eastward, and although it gradually moderated and changed more to the west, so that eventually we were able to make a northerly course, we did not page 57lose the westerly wind until after we had crossed the line, where we found clear weather, and a north-east trade-wind. By this time we were far to the eastward of the meridian of the La-drones, almost half way across the Pacific, and very much out of the way to Bombay. Still it was delightful to pass from the close, muggy, westerly monsoon into the bright skies of the north-east trade-wind.

One morning when about 3° or 4° north latitude, I was roused by the cry of "breakers ahead." Hastily slipping on a few clothes, I rushed upon deck, and found that we had run past the eastern end of a coral reef. Had our course been half a mile further to the west, we should almost to a certainty have run on the top of it. On the crest of the reef a ship was lying with yards hoisted and sails set, although these were partly blown away. We ran along the weather side of the reef until we could from no great distance scan the ship's deck. We fired guns and made signals, but had no answer and saw no signs of life on board. A long consultation was held as to the practicability of sending a boat to the vessel. I gave my opinion without hesitation that no ship's boat could possibly stand the heavy sea breaking over the reef. With much regret we were obliged therefore to give up the idea of attempting to communicate; so we put the helm up and continued our course. A small coral islet soon came into view, forming, as it were, part of the line of reef. It was very slightly elevated above the sea, and page 58was covered with cocoa-nut trees. Here we again fired guns and made signals, remaining about for a considerable time, but no sign of life presented itself, and landing was impossible on account of the surf. Night was coming on and we proceeded on our voyage. We sailed along the length of the reef for sixty miles; it was not laid down on our charts, and was a most dangerous obstacle to passing ships. With the exception of the coral islet, the whole reef was lying just awash.

We bowled along before the north-east trade-wind passing Guam, off which we observed numerous boats, but did not communicate with them. Captain Wilson had now determined to put into Manila to see if he could get some freight there. We entered the Philippine group by the Pass of Baliquatro, in the Straits of San Bernardino, and for several days had a beautiful sail through the channels separating the islands. When we reached the entrance to the harbour of Manila, the capital of the Island Luzon, and of the Spanish possessions in these seas, the health boat came alongside, and I was called upon, as the only one on board having any knowledge of Spanish, to do duty as interpreter.

The officer hailed with, Son infermos abordo?* Having last come from New Zealand, the first word that came naturally was Kahore. The officer looked puzzled, and said, Que dice? By this time I remembered that Kahore was not Spanish, and

* "Are there sick on board?"


"What do you say?"

page 59replied, No son,* which being a satisfactory reply, the officer came on board. The bay of Manila is large, something in the style of Port Philip. There appeared to be extensive fisheries within its limits, as we judged from stakes driven in for supporting nets.
The ship having anchored opposite the city, I landed and took up my quarters at the principal hotel. The general aspect was thoroughly tropical: heat very great, palm trees of various species predominating, an aromatic odour pervading the streets, not quite so strong, perhaps, as in Ceylon, balconies, jalousies, and other means of procuring shade. When shown to my bedroom, I found, instead of the paraphernalia of an English bed, that I had no mattress or anything of that kind, only matting to sleep upon, with a pillow and one small sheet just large enough to cover me, and mosquito curtains, of course. Orange trees and palms grew in the courtyard, and the general buzz of insects, universal in the tropics, was not wanting. The people looked small to me in this quarter, and were of a curious variety of races—Tagalocs, Malays, Chinese, and Spaniards, the latter, though the governing race, not numerous. Their cavalry were mounted upon ponies, so small that one of them would have been smothered under an English Life Guardsman, and the effect produced by a regiment mounted upon these animals partook somewhat of the ludicrous. The hackney carriages were drawn by ponies, and

* "There are none."

page 60although small were very good, but the fares were exorbitant. The drivers wore tall hats with cockades. The grand characteristic pastime of Manila is cock-fighting. Every one appears to own a cock. You see men carrying them about under their arms, and the houses have niches and perches where they roost.

Of course I visited the cigar manufactory, in which establishment there is probably the largest collection of females in the world. Seven or eight thousand ladies, mostly of a brown complexion, present a sight not to be seen every day. They are good-humoured looking, but can hardly be called pretty, judged after a European standard. I received much attention from the agents of the ship, who lent me horses, so that I was able to see a little of the surrounding country.

Luxuriance of vegetation and a picturesque mixture of mountain and plain are the prevailing features. The country is very rich and fertile. A good deal of rice is grown near the city. Our stay was for a week only; which did not give time enough for more than a cursory survey of the place; but I was certainly struck with the fertility of the Philippine Islands.

The usual Spanish customs prevail in Manila— the evening promenade in the alameda, the band at the house of the governor, the Spanish head-dress, the sellers of chocolate, "eau sucré," &c. I regret to say that at the promenade certain bonnets were conspicuous; and it is to be feared that the comb page 61and the mantilla may disappear before the gaudy attire of France and England. I understood that there was rather a meagre supply of marriageable ladies, and that in consequence the girls of an orphanage, or perhaps a foundling establishment, were in great demand as they grew up.

The Chinese population of the city was very large, and the Spaniards seemed to be mortally afraid of them. The Chinese are in general very peaceably inclined, but every now and then they are said to get suddenly excited, turbulent, and dangerous. In Manila, Singapore, Batavia, and other places they swarm in great numbers, holding exclusive possession of certain quarters of the town. Since the time of which I write, they have shown in Borneo and elsewhere that they can be troublesome. Probably the danger arises from a want of understanding between the governors and the governed. After a pleasant stay at Manila,* Captain Wilson having procured a small quantity of freight, we sailed for Singapore, taking a Spanish gentleman as passenger. The pilot before saying good-bye, though he had received other presents, begged for a piece of salt beef, which was put into his boat; so, thinking that he would get nothing more, he left us. The officials at Manila, I fancy, had an itching palm, but one has had experience of this failing even in English custom-house officers.

* As the Spaniards spell Manila with one "I," I do not see the use of perpetuating the double "I" used by the English, any more than I can see the propriety of calling "Bilbao" "Bilboa," or of adopting for "Livorno" the extraordinary name of "Leghorn."

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Leaving the Philippine Islands behind us, we sailed with light but favouring breezes down the Chinese Sea to Singapore, where we again found English law and government. A regiment of Madras Infantry, which had formerly been commanded by an uncle of mine, was quartered there; besides, the fleet arrived from China during my stay, in which I found some old friends, including the Admiral, Sir Thomas Maitland. I received much kindness from the officers of my uncle's old regiment, and this contributed to make our stay of ten days pass agreeably. The country about Singapore is a low plateau cut into ravines of gentle slope. The soil did not appear to be particularly rich, but the industrious Chinese were fast clearing the jungle and converting the land into nice farms. In and near the city the nutmeg flourished, a handsome evergreen, something of the appearance of a laurel or a camellia. Paddocks were to be seen enclosed by a thick fence of bamboo, perhaps twenty or thirty feet high. A large quarter on one side of the town was occupied by Chinese, while the centre was devoted to the English and other nationalities. The harbour swarmed with shipping of all nations, from the first-class English or American ship to the Chinese junk, which makes a voyage each way during the favouring monsoon. I was amused one day by seeing the skipper of a Cochin China junk land on a visit of ceremony to the authorities. He was attended like a Highland chief of the olden time.

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I don't think he had a piper, but he had a man to carry his umbrella, another to carry his betel box, and sundry others to carry this, that, and the other. There was a solemn dignity and gravity about the proceeding which argued an absolute unconsciousness of the ridiculous. In the early morning at Singapore, numerous large boats are seen coming in laden and heaped up with pine-apples. This fruit must therefore be extensively used, though the Europeans are rather afraid of it. One night I thought I had cholera, but was told next morning that my illness was only the result of eating pineapple, and that I should be all right immediately, as proved to be the case.

At Singapore we got a little more freight for Bombay, and after a stay of about ten days we sailed for the latter port. Be it remembered that we left New Zealand in the end of December; it was towards the end of February when we left Singapore, and we were destined to a long acquaintance with the Straits of Malacca. During the day it was generally a dead calm, and although a few cat's-paws now and then gave us a slight lift onwards, yet this was very small. At night we had constant thunderstorms from the mountains of Sumatra, the wind coming down in furious bursts with very heavy rain for a few minutes, and then falling calm. We crept on through the Straits of Malacca, and when we got outside we hoped that at last we should get a breeze. But hope disappointed us. We were actually six weeks in sight of Acheen Head, and page 64more tired of it, perhaps, than the Dutch have been lately. At last the captain resolved to try to get across the line into the south-east trade, which he succeeded in doing by taking every advantage of light airs. Having reached the trade, we soon ran down our westing, and then steered north for Bombay. So much time had been lost, however, that the westerly monsoon had commenced, and we had bad weather and squalls in the Indian Ocean.

We reached Bombay in the beginning of June. It was a long voyage, but as far as I was concerned a most economical one. I am afraid Captain Wilson must have lost money by me, but he treated me well and liberally throughout. As we ran into Bombay harbour two ships were on fire. One was a large cotton ship; she burnt down to the water's edge, and was eventually towed to a proper place and sunk by firing into her.

During this voyage we had a curious criticism of the merits of the sea captains of various nations. "Don Sinibaldo," our Spanish passenger, had sailed in ships belonging to many nationalities, and Captain Wilson asked him which he liked best. After due consideration he said he preferred the Greek, because if it came on to blow hard, he made for a port and got into snug quarters, whereas an English skipper would say, "Never fear, let us have a glass of grog!"

Landing at Bombay, I found that we should have to wait a fortnight for the steamer. The town was hot and close, and the constant showers of rain kept page 65up a very damp state of the atmosphere. After a few days' stay, I started for change to Poonah, the chief military station, about a hundred miles inland. Sir Thomas M'Mahon was Commander-in-Chief, whom I had known when he was in command at Portsmouth.

Leaving Bombay in the evening, I went by coach to the ferry, then crossed to the mainland. We proceeded by coach again to the foot of the Ghauts, and then by palkee to the top, where we found a coach ready to take us on. As through this coast country both in going and returning I travelled by night, I can say very little about it. It was a fine sight, no doubt, ascending and descending, our way being lighted by torches; the mail packages were carried on the heads of bearers, but I should have liked to have had a daylight view of the mountain scarp.

Arrived on the plateau, we reached a bungalow, where coffee was prepared, and then we started again by coach. We drove over a level country with hills dotted about. The effect was good; the hills looked as if intended to be crowned by castles of feudal lords, and some of them were. I was the only passenger by the coach. When about three miles from Poonah, the hind axle-tree broke, and this brought the rear of the carriage down with a disagreeable bump. The driver pulled up, unharnessed his horses, and pointed to one of them for me to mount; which I did, and reached Poonah in the undignified position of riding a bare-backed horse.

Poonah is situated on a plateau some 2000 feet, I page 66think, above the level of the sea; and in consequence the nights were cool, and reasonable sleep was attainable, whereas in Bombay there was no cessation of the damp warmth. The showers of rain, also, seemed to break upon the Ghauts and the coast country, and did not reach Poonah.

The town is essentially a military station, and the houses are bungalows of one story, with large verandahs. I received much attention from the general commanding, Sir Thomas M'Mahon, and passed a few days pleasantly enough. Various officers went and came at the "Travellers' Bunga-low." I soon found out that the staple of Indian conversation was so many rupees per month, varied by accounts of hunting or of Indian politics. Another peculiarity was the institution of prayer meetings. An officer in the Bungalow, who passed every morning in swearing at and sometimes beating his Portuguese butler, invariably attended a prayer meeting in the evening.

The suddenness of death was most appalling in India. One might meet a man in robust health in the morning, and perhaps before night he was dead and buried. Cholera was then raging in Bombay, and at one time three hundred deaths occurred daily; but the Europeans did not seem to suffer much from it. I met a most agreeable young officer who had just travelled overland from Calcutta: he went out in the forenoon, and a few hours later I heard that he had had a sunstroke, and that his life was despaired of. Thus sudden and rapid goes the page 67passage from life to death in India. On the other hand, Lady M'Mahon stuck up heartily for the healthiness of the climate. Admitting that death might often be sudden, she said that here you went to church and other public places and heard no coughing, or hawking and spitting; the lungs were all right, and there were no lingering deaths from consumption or other complaints. Thus, there was shown a thorough contrast between the sudden deaths of the hot and the lingering ones of the cold climates. Lady M'Mahon spoke in high terms of the virtues of the Indian peasantry, their attachment to their families, and good moral character.

I returned to Bombay by coach, having a Parsee as fellow-passenger. We exchanged civilities, I offering him a cigar, which he declined, the use of fire being contrary to his religion; he offering me brandy, which I declined, being already a great deal too hot.

The Parsees form a most influential body in Bombay. They are a very intelligent people, and many are wealthy. At this time Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeebhoy had just presented, in one donation, three lacs of rupees (thirty thousand pounds), to a fund for translating English books into Parsee; and it is well known that his subsequent gifts to useful and charitable works have been of the most munificent description. It is a curious sight to see the Parsees collected every evening on the esplanade at Bombay, watching the rays of the setting sun.

I regretted having lost the chance of visiting the page 68caves of Elephanta. We had a boat engaged and ready to go one morning, but the rain came down so heavily that we gave up the enterprise, and another opportunity did not present itself. During my stay, Sir George Arthur arrived from England as governor. After spending a fortnight between Bombay and Poonah, I embarked on board the East India Company's steamer, "Cleopatra," for Aden and Suez. We had not many passengers, but among them was "Mr." (now Sir James) Matheson, then retiring on a fortune made in China, and with all his wealth one of the most unassuming of men. At this time it was considered impossible to steam against the south-west monsoon; the attempt had been made and had resulted in failure. On leaving Bombay, therefore, we kept on a wind, close hauled on the starboard tack. On this course we steamed until we got into the calms near the line, when we altered our course to west, and steamed over towards the coast of Africa. Having made sufficient westing, we then steamed to the north into the monsoon; when we put the fires out, and sailed up to Cape Guardafui, thus passing over three sides of a parallelogram. At Cape Guardafui we lighted the fires and steamed to Aden; but our fuel ran so short that we had to break up spars and bulk-heads; and had we been delayed a few hours longer, we should have been obliged to sail back to Bombay. At Aden we took on board a Mr. Bell, who had just returned from a two years' residence in Abyssinia. He was out page 69of European clothing, had no shirts, stockings, boots, trousers, coats, &c.; but he wore a large white cotton sheet, with a red border, which enveloped him from head to foot, and a pair of sandals, with a loop to fit over the big toe and a strap to go round the instep. He related to me a singular adventure he had one night soon after landing. An attack was made upon his tent; and as he rushed out he received a spear wound, which passed through the top of his nose and thence by his palate through the back of his neck. But he drew out the spear, knocked the man down with the butt end of his pistol, and then fainted. Of the truth of the story there could be no doubt, because the marks were there, in evidence, on the nose, the palate, and the neck.

Aden is considered very ugly, but it interested me much. It is not every day that one finds a town built in the crater of a volcano. The view, also, over Arabia is fine—high mountains appearing in the distance. In July, Aden and the Red Sea were intensely hot, but the weather got more bearable as we approached Suez.

Arrived at the anchorage, we were visited, among others, by a highly caparisoned Turk, who proved to be a cockney by the way in which he misplaced his "H's" when he came to speak English. Landing after dark, we were treated to tea by a fat, red-faced Englishwoman, very homely and pleasant, but looking singularly out of place in that locality.

By the time tea was over the vans were ready, page 70and we had to resume our journey. We travelled all night bumping and jumping over the stones and through the sand, and reached the central station early in the forenoon of the day following. Here we had déjeuner, or luncheon, which you please, and then lay down to rest during the height of the day.

At 4 P.M. it was proposed to start again, but most of the passengers were much fatigued and objected. A Swiss (M. Melly) and myself held out, and by dint of persuasion managed to get all to make a start. I did not relish the prospect of staying in the middle of the desert longer than we could help. About 10 P.M. we found ourselves entering the walls of Cairo, and soon afterwards, by the help of torches, reached Waghorn's Hotel. Next morning all the passengers, except M. Melly and myself, pushed on to Alexandria to catch the English steamer, while we remained to take a slight survey of Lower Egypt. Of course we went to the Pyramids, the mosques, &c, none of which I have the least intention of describing.

When the time arrived to start, we were kindly invited to take a passage in a small steamer that was going down the Nile. From this steamer we were transferred in the evening to a large boat on the Mahmoudieh Canal. Here we wrapped ourselves in our cloaks and lay down on deck to sleep. When we awoke in the morning we found ourselves at Alexandria. From Alexandria we sailed in a French Government steamer to the Island of Syra, page 71where we landed at the quarantine station for fourteen days. I passed the time in reading a set of D'Israeli's novels which I found on board. The only luxury we enjoyed here was a nice bathing-place. The food consisted chiefly of fowls, and these were not much larger than quails. There was a tolerably miscellaneous society of all nations, however, and some persons well worth knowing. After the term of our imprisonment was finished, our clothes fumigated, and ourselves bathed under inspection, I got into a boat to proceed to the town, when I fell in with one Georgio, whose face was familiar to me. "Hallo!" I said, "what are you doing here?

"Dragoman, saar." "Don't you remember me?" "Yes, saar, me your dragoman long time ago in Albania." I of course took advantage of his services here also during my short stay. The Greeks are very proud of Syra and its progress. It was a bustling place for that part of the world, being a central station for various lines of steamers to Egypt, Constantinople, Smyrna, &c. On the following morning a large party went at daybreak to the top of the island, from whence a great number of the Cyclades are visible. The view was of that kind called "bird's eye," which is interesting, but not particularly beautiful. From Syra I embarked in an Austrian steamer bound for Trieste. We sailed at night, and the next morning found us in the Piræus. I landed and took the omnibus to Athens. I had been there before, and my recollections of that ancient city were anything but agreeable, for there page 72I was laid up with fever and ague, under the care of a French doctor, who gave me nothing to eat for more than a week, and sent the barber (who stunk horribly of garlic) pretty often to apply leeches, though I was then reduced to a most deplorable state of weakness. The treatment, as my readers are aware, proved successful. The omnibus drove us somewhere near the line of the old walls; we had the Acropolis in front, Mount Hymettus on our right, the olive groves and the hills separating Attica from Bceotia on our left. We drove into Athens, and I found a gim-crack modern city had arisen since my last visit, and a large royal palace like a gigantic barrack. I had not time to revisit the Acropolis, or indeed any other of the antiquities of this world-historical city. But procuring a vehicle I drove to the residence of Mr. Skene. Here, amid an arid plain, I found the property enclosed by a wall, all inside being green and fertile. It was a silk-farm. The mulberry trees were in full leaf, and I saw the processes of preparing silk at all stages. I passed a pleasant day with the family, with which I am distantly connected. I may mention, as a curious fact to English readers, that we had an excellent midday dinner of several courses composed entirely of vegetables, a leg of mutton excepted, which was roasted for my private benefit.

Returning in the afternoon to the Pirseus, we embarked and sailed for Patras, of course rounding the Morea. On the morning of the second day I page 73landed at Patras, and called upon my old acquaintance, Consul Crowe. The Corinth or currant grape was just ripe, and at the Crowes' I was treated to some splendid bunches of that delicious fruit. On the following morning we reached Corfu, where again I had the opportunity of visiting some old friends. During the whole of this voyage there was no wind; the sea was smooth as glass. We dined on deck; and owing to the variety of nationalities on board, we had all kinds of music. Not being en pratique with Italy, we were unable to land at Ancona, our next port of call. We steamed on to Trieste, of course meeting a "bora," or fierce north wind, before entering the harbour. There we were detained two days in quarantine.

I like Trieste. It is a pleasant, bright, busy-looking place, but with business and pleasure combined; not like an English town, where it is all work and no play. I did not then visit the grotto of Adelsburg, because I had done so years before; but taking the first steamer I proceeded to Venice. I rose early next morning to watch our approach to the city. A cold bracing wind was blowing from the snow-clad Alps to the north. Gradually the towers and steeples of Venice appeared, then the houses, palaces, and churches came into view, and we entered the Grand Canal and anchored off the Piazzetta.

I will now rapidly hurry on through scenes often described. From Venice I travelled by Milan and page 74across the Splügen to Coire, thence through the Via Mala to Bâle. We here learned that a grand ceremony was to take place in a few days at Cologne, on the occasion of the laying of the foundation stone of the work connected with the completion of the Cathedral. The stone was to be laid by the King of Prussia. He arrived at Cologne on the very, night previous to the performance of the ceremony. The town was full, and I was told at the hotel that, neither there nor elsewhere was there any room to be had. As I represented, however, that I did not choose to sleep in the street, and that I must lie down somewhere under cover, I was accommodated with a table. Next morning I found that I had no ticket of admission to the performance, and it was too late to apply for one. I went to the Cathedral nevertheless, and got mixed up in a crowd near one of the doors, in front of which a helmeted sentry marched up and down with fixed bayonet. Suddenly a pressure from behind caused the crowd to surge forward; the pressure upset the sentry, who was trampled under foot; those in front were shoved into the church, and I was myself projected along with them, somewhat in the same manner as I was once jerked into the royal presence when I attended a levée at St. James's. Having rallied from the squeeze, I found that I could take up a first-rate position to see everything. There was an inner chapel, in which the grand ceremonies were performed; at page 75the altar were the high dignitaries of the Roman Catholic Church; in the choir were Persiani and others of the first operatic singers; among the spectators were the King and Queen of Prussia, the king's brother, now the Emperor of Germany, the Crown Prince, and others. The music was superb. After the conclusion of the religious service the younger members of the Royal family embraced the king and queen, that is to say, kissed them. The procession then fell in. I attempted to join, so as to see the rest of the performance; but having no pass, I was obliged to comply with a request to fall out. From Cologne I passed through Belgium to Ostend. At this place one of the touters inveigled me to put up at what he called the best hotel in the place. I found that it resembled a pot-house called the "Keppell's Head" on the "Hard" at Portsmouth, where a pipe and a glass of beer could be procured for a trifle. However, as the steamer was to sail in a few hours, I contented myself with the quarters; they answered the purpose of a store-room for my portmanteau; and in the interim I strolled about among the promenaders on the shore. On the following morning we were steaming up the Thames, the bright sky becoming gradually more murky as we approached the great city. I reached the Union Hotel in Cockspur Street in time for dinner. A French party sat at the table next to me. They called to the waiter: "Waitare, bring me some ros-bif." "Very sorry, sir, no roast-beef to-day, sir." page 76By and by the Frenchman was heard to call again, "Waitare, bring me some plum-pudding." "Very sorry, sir, no plum-pudding to-day, sir;" upon which this comment was overheard, "Mon Dieu, point de ros-bif, ni de plum-pudding, et nous sommes en Ang-leterre!"