With a mixture of vague alarm and curiosity we now listened to the accounts of wild elephants in these woods, though in the morning we had heard the same stories with indifference and incredulity; while the old hands of the party, who had felt rather piqued at our distrust of their marvellous narrations, pointed out with malicious satisfaction the recent foot-marks of these undisputed and formidable lords of the soil.
Sir Samuel and Lady Hood, with some of his staff, had left their palankeens and walked forward on the path, which barely admitted two people abreast, in order to enjoy the exceeding beauty of the Indian jungle, lighted up with the blaze of our torches. Suddenly the headmost musalgee or torch-bearer paused, listened, and then retreated precipitately, upon the hinder ranks. Nothing was said by them, and nothing could we hear in the woods to explain the cause of this panic, which, however, soon became general amongst the natives. The bearers set down the palankeens, and in an instant they, as well as all the coolies, took to their heels, while the torches flitted about in the forest in a style which, had there been no apprehension, might have been acknowledged as very picturesque. Sir Samuel not only stood fast himself, but ordered all of us to do so likewise—remarking, that, until we knew what to fly from, we might only be making matters worse by moving. Presently the loud crashing of the underwood of the forest, and a heavy thumping on the ground, gave abundant evidence that a wild elephant was close to us.
Some of the natives told us afterwards that they had seen the monster; but, although we peered into the forest with all our eyes, none of us could honestly take upon us to say we actually saw him—though assuredly we heard his footsteps as he broke his way through the jungle. Robinson Crusoe and his wolves in Tartary came to our recollection; and upon our asking the natives what effect fires really had on wild beasts, they all assured us that hardly any animal, however ferocious, would come up to a light, and that we were safe so long as we kept near a torch. This might be consolatory reasoning for the musalgees, each of whom carried a light, but it afforded little security to us, who, it was evident, would again be left in the dark should an elephant cross our path a second time. The Admiral, therefore, and by his desire all of us, made an attempt to carry the torches ourselves. But we were soon so plaguily smoked and scorched for our pains, that we rested contented with the risk, and the bearers having gradually crept back to the palankeens, we once more moved on. In spite of all that had passed, some of the party remained so doggedly sceptical, from being habitually distrustful of all things wonderful, that they declared the whole affair a mere matter of panic, and dared to swear there could not be found an elephant within fifty miles of us. Scarcely had this opinion, so injurious to the honours and glories of our late adventure, been uttered, when the commander-in-chief, who, as usual, was leading the way, snatched a light from one of the men's hands, and waved it over what the geologists call a "recent deposit," half the size of a wheelbarrow, and out-rivalling in its column of smoke the muggiest torch in the line.
"There!" exclaimed the Admiral, better pleased than if he had found a pile of rupees, instead of so much recent Album Graecum. "Will that evidence satisfy you? How many hundred yards off do you think can the fellow be who left this trace of his proximity?"
It was past ten o'clock when we reached our tents, which had been pitched in the morning on the borders of the celebrated lake we came to visit. All the party were well fagged, and so ravenously hungry, that we shouted for joy on seeing supper enter just as we came to the ground.
"This," said our excellent caterer the collector, "is the dish upon which we pride ourselves most at Trincomalee. It is the true Malay curry—rich, as you perceive, in flavour, and more than half of it gravy—which gravy, I beg you particularly to take notice, is full of minced vegetables, while the whole is softened with some of the youngest kind of cocoa-nut, plucked this very evening since the sun went down."
These praises really fell far short of the merits of this glorious supper; nor can I remember anything in the way of gourmandise in any part of the world comparable to this exquisite midnight feast.
At the door and windows of our supper tent were hung up by the neck sundry well-bedewed goglets of spring water, cheek by jowl with a jolly string of long-necked bottles of Lafitte and Chateau Margaux, joyously fanning themselves in the thorough draught of the cool night-breeze, breathing so gently along, that we could just hear it whispering through the leaves of the damp forest, and sweeping towards the lake past the tents, the curtains of which it scarcely stirred.
The wine perhaps was almost more chilled than a fastidious wine-fancier might have directed; nevertheless, it flowed over our parched palates with an intensity of zest which I do not believe it is in mortals to be conscious of enjoying till they have toiled a whole day in the sun within half-a-dozen degrees of the equator. Bottle after bottle—each one more rich and racy than its valued and lamented predecessor—vanished so fast, that, ere an hour had elapsed, we felt as if a hundred mad elephants would have stood no chance with us!
As we straggled off to our respective beds, made up in the palankeens, according to the custom of the country, we became sensible of a serious annoyance, of which we had taken but little notice while baling in the hot curries and cool clarets within the tent. A most potent and offensive smell was brought to us by the land-wind; and the Admiral, who was not a man to submit to any evil capable of remedy, insisted on an immediate investigation into the cause of this annoyance.
After hunting about in the wind's eye for a short time in the jungle, with torches in our hands, we came upon a huge dead buffalo, swollen almost to double his natural size. Upon seeing this, the bearers and servants shrugged their shoulders, as if the case had been hopeless. Not so the gallant Admiral, who, in his usual style of prompt resource, called out, "Let us bury this monster before we go to bed." And, sure enough, under his directions, and by his assistance, we contrived, in a quarter of an hour, to throw sand, earth, and leaves enough over the huge carcase to cover it completely. "There's a cairn for you!" exclaimed the Admiral, throwing down his spade, which he had been using with his only hand; "and now let us turn in; for by the first peep of the morning we must have a touch at the wild ducks and peacocks on the sides of the lake, and perhaps we may contrive to have a shot at a buffalo or a stray elephant."
Accordingly, next morning, actually before it was light, I felt the indefatigable Admiral tugging at my ear, and bidding me get up, to accompany him on a shooting excursion, and as he said, "Mayhap we shall get sight of some of those elephants, the existence of which you presumed to doubt last night. Come, Mr. Officer, show a leg! I know you are a bit of a philosopher, and curious in natural history; so rouse up and come along with me."
Most cordially did I then anathematise all philosophy, and wish I had never expressed any curiosity on the score of wild beasts, peacocks, or ancient tanks; but as the Admiral was not a person to be trifled with, I made a most reluctant move, and exchanged the delightful dream of hot curries and cool sherbet for the raw reality of a shooting-match, up to the knees in water, at five in the morning. At one place, such was his Excellency's anxiety to secure a good shot at some ducks, that he literally crawled for a couple of hundred yards among the muddy shore of the lake on his knees, and at the end expressing himself fully repaid by getting a single capital shot at a wild peacock! He was also gratified by bringing down a magnificent jungle-cock—a bird which resembles our barn-door fowl in form, but its plumage is vastly more brilliant, and its flight more lofty and sustained, than any of which the bird can boast in its tame state. Our scramble in the mud brought us within sight of a drove of several hundred buffaloes. We saw also several troops of wild deer; but, to our great disappointment, not a single elephant could we catch even a glimpse of. We counted, at one time, several dozens of peacocks—some perched on the trees, some high in the air; we fired at them repeatedly, but I do not believe any came within shot. Their plumage exceeded that of our tame peacocks less in the brilliancy of the colour than in the wonderful fineness of the gloss—a characteristic of animals of all kinds in their native state. We scarcely saw one small bird during our whole excursion, or heard a single note but the hideous screams of the peacock and parrot—tones which dame Nature, in her even-handed style of doing things, has probably bestowed upon these dandies of the woods, to counterbalance the magnificence of their apparel.
While discussing this point, the collector took occasion to point out to us the great importance of such artificial means of irrigating a country as the ancient lake of Candelay, by the side of which we were now encamped, must have furnished to agriculturists of former days, when its precious waters were husbanded and drawn off to fertilise the surrounding country.
This stupendous monument of the wealth and industry of some former race is placed on ground slightly elevated above the districts lying between it and the sea, which, in a direct line, may be distant about twelve or fourteen miles. We could not ascertain exactly what was the precise elevation, but, from the remains of trenches, sluices, and other contrivances for drawing off and distributing the water, it appeared that the fall in the ground must have been sufficient to enable the husbandmen to irrigate the fields at pleasure; though, to our eyes, no inclination could be perceived. The lake itself is now greatly diminished in extent, from the dilapidations in its "bund," or retaining embankment, but still it stretches over many square miles of area. On three sides it is confined by the swelling nature of the ground, and it is only on the fourth that any extensive artificial means have been resorted to for confining the water. At this place, across a flat broad valley, there has been thrown a huge embankment, constructed chiefly of oblong stones, many of them as big as a sofa, extending in a zig-zag line for several miles. At some places it rises to the height of thirty or forty feet, and the courses of stone being laid above one another with considerable regularity, this great retaining wall assumes the appearance of a gigantic flight of steps, and being crowned at top by an irregular line of tall trees, it breaks the sky-line beyond the lake in a manner extremely picturesque. Here and there lateral gaps between the hills occur in the other sides, all of which are filled up with similar embankments.
Near one end of the principal wall we could distinctly trace the ruins of a considerable tower, beneath which the great tunnel or outlet used for tapping the lake most probably passed. It is said that some early European settlers, a century or two ago, impressed with an idea that treasure was hid in this building, had torn it down to get at the gold beneath.
GRIFFINS IN INDIA—SINBAD'S VALLEY OF DIAMONDS—A MOSQUITO-HUNT.
On the evening of the 18th of November, 1812, we sailed, in his Majesty's ship Illustrious, from the magnificent harbour of Trincomalee. In attempting to get out we were sadly baffled by light shifting winds, which knocked us about from side to side of the entrance, in which, unfortunately, no good anchorage is to be found, owing to the great depth of water and the rocky nature of the ground. This serious evil of a rocky bottom is now almost entirely obviated by the admirable invention of iron cables, when the water is not too deep. The links of the chain merely acquire a polish by their friction against the coral reefs and other sharp ledges, by which the best hempen cables of past times would be cut through in ten minutes.
The chain-cable, however, is difficult of management in deep water, that is to say, when the soundings are more than twenty or twenty-five fathoms. Nothing is so easy as getting the anchor to the bottom in such cases; it is the "facilis descensus," with a vengeance! But when the anchor is to be pulled up again, then comes the tug. I once let go my anchor with a chain-cable bent to it in forty-five fathoms, without having calculated on the probable effects of the momentum. Though the cable was bitted, all the stoppers snapped like packthread; and the anchor, not content with shooting to the bottom with an accelerated velocity, drew after it more than a hundred fathoms of chain, in such fearful style that we thought the poor ship must have been shaken to pieces. The noise was like that of rattling thunder, and so loud that it was impossible to hear a word; indeed it was even difficult to speak, from the excessive tremour caused by the rapid and violent passage of the links, as the chain leaped, or rather flew, up the hatchway, flashing round the bits, and giving out sparks like a firework. Finally, it tore its way out at the hause-hole, till the whole cable had probably piled itself on the anchor in a pyramid of iron at the bottom of the sea. The inner end of the cable had of course been securely shackled round the heel of the mainmast; but the jerk with which it was brought up, made the ship shake from stem to stern, as if she had bumped on a rock, and every one fully expected to see the links fly in pieces about the deck, like chain-shot fired from a cannon. It cost not many seconds of time for the cable to run out, but it occupied several hours of hard labour to heave it in again. The ordinary power of the capstan, full manned, scarcely stirred it; and at the last, when to the weight of chain hanging from the bows there came to be added that of the anchor, it was necessary to apply purchase upon purchase, in order to drag the ponderous mass once more to the bows.
When we got fairly clear of the harbour of Trincomalee, and caught the monsoon, we dashed along-shore briskly enough; and having rounded the south point of Ceylon, well named Dondra Head, or thunder cape, we paid a visit to Point de Galle, celebrated for its bread-fruit and cocoa-nuts. We then passed on to Columbo, the capital of the island. Ceylon, I may take occasion to mention, is not considered by our countrymen of the East to be in India. We stared with all our eyes when this unexpected information was first given us, and fancied our merry friends were quizzing us. But we soon learned that, in the technical language of that country, Ceylon does not form a part of India; still less does Sumatra, Java, or any indeed of the islands in the great tropical Archipelago. New-comers are, of course, a good deal perplexed by these and sundry other local peculiarities in language and manners, which they at first laugh at as a good joke, then ridicule as affected, and lastly conform to as quite natural and proper. Among Anglo-Indians the straits of Malacca, Sunda, and so on, together with the China sea, and those magnificent groups of islands the Philippines and Moluccas, are all included in the sweeping term—"To the eastward."
At almost every part of this immense range I found further local distinctions, of greater or less peculiarity and extent according to circumstances. At one place I was puzzled by hearing the name of a whole country appropriated to a single spot. At Bombay, for example, I remember it was the custom, at a certain season of the year, to talk of going to the Deccan, which word properly includes an immense region consisting of many provinces; whereas those who used this expression meant, and were understood to express, only one point in it—a little watering-place. Mere local words, in like manner, come to have a much more expanded signification. The word Ghaut, I believe, means, in strictness, a pass between hills; and hence, some bold etymologists pretend, comes our word gate! The term, however, is now applied to the whole range of mountains which fringe the western coast of India, just as the more gigantic Cordilleras of the Andes guard the shores of the Pacific.
But whether Ceylon be in India or not, this island is celebrated for its precious stones; indeed, there are writers who believe that Mount Ophir of the Scripture is Adam's Peak of Ceylon. Be this also as it may, our ever-enterprising and active-minded Admiral determined to bring this reputation to the proof; and, one day at dinner at the governor's table, actually announced his intention of having a hunt for the sapphires, rubies, tourmalines, chrysoberyls, and corundums, for which the island has been long celebrated. His Excellency smiled, and the company at large scarcely knew whether to treat the proposal as a joke or as a serious affair. Sir Samuel, however, was not a man to be quizzed out of his purposes; he begged to have a party of workmen sent to him next morning, and that each of the men might be furnished with a basket, a request which naturally produced a titter; for it was made in such a tone as led us to fancy the worthy Admiral expected to collect the rubies and garnets in as great profusion as his far-famed predecessor, Sinbad the sailor, found them in the Valley of Diamonds.
His precise plan he kept to himself till he reached the river, in which the finest stones are said to be found, the alluvial strip of ground bordering which was formed chiefly of fine gravel mixed with sand, leaves, and mud. Here he desired the men to fill their baskets, and to carry the whole mass, just as they picked it up, to one of the ship's boats, which he had directed to meet him at the landing-place.
Not a word more was said on the subject at Government-house, nor on board the ship, till a couple of days after we had left Columbo, when the Admiral ordered the bag of gravel into his cabin, along with a great tub of water and half-a-dozen wash-deck buckets. The whole stuff collected on shore was now thoroughly cleaned, and when only the gravel remained, it was divided into a number of small portions, and laid on plates and dishes on the table of the fore-cabin. As soon as all was arranged, the Admiral, who superintended the operation, called out, "Send all the young gentlemen in the ship, and let every one take a plateful of gravel before him, to catch what jewels he can."
Before the party had time to assemble, the delighted Admiral had himself discovered in his own dish three or four small garnets, one ruby, and several small crystals of corundum. By-and-bye, to the astonishment of every one, a collection was made, which not only furnished the promised ring to the governor's lady, but half-a-dozen others of equal beauty. These precious stones were certainly not of the largest dimensions; but, for all that, the Admiral established his point.
CEYLONESE CANOES—PERUVIAN BALSAS—THE FLOATING WINDLASS OF THE COROMANDEL FISHERMEN.
The canoes of Ceylon, as far as I remember, are not described by any writer, nor have I met with any professional men who are aware of their peculiar construction, and of the advantages of the extremely elegant principle upon which they are contrived, though capable, I am persuaded, of being applied to various purposes of navigation.
Among the lesser circumstances which appear to form characteristic points of distinction between country and country may be mentioned the head-dress of the men, and the form and rig of their boats. An endless variety of turbans, sheep-skin caps, and conical bonnets, distinguish the Asiatics from the "Toppee Wallas" or hat-wearers of Europe; and a still greater variety exists amongst the boats of different nations. My purpose, just now, however, is to speak of boats and canoes alone; and it is really most curious to observe, that their size, form, cut of sails, description of oar and rudder, length of mast and so on, are not always entirely regulated by the peculiar climate of the locality, but made to depend on a caprice which it is difficult to account for. The boats of some countries are so extremely unstable, and altogether without bearings, that the smallest weight on one side more than on the other upsets them. This applies to the canoes of the North American Indian, which require considerable practice, even in the smoothest water, to keep them upright; and yet the Indians cross immense lakes in them, although the surface of those vast sheets of fresh water is often as rough as that of any salt sea. The waves, it is true, are not so long and high; but they are very awkward to deal with, from their abruptness, and the rapidity with which they get up when a breeze sets in.
On those parts of the coast of the United States where the seasons are alternately very fine and very rough, our ingenious friends, the Americans, have contrived a set of pilot-boats, which are the delight of every sailor. This description of vessel, as the name implies, must always be at sea, as it is impossible to tell when her services may be required by ships steering in for the harbour's mouth. Accordingly, the Baltimore clippers and the New York pilots defy the elements in a style which it requires a long apprenticeship to the difficulties and discomforts of a wintry navigation, in a stormy latitude, duly to appreciate. In the fine weather, smooth water, and light winds of summer, these pilot-boats skim over the surface with the ease and swiftness of a swallow, apparently just touching the water with their prettily formed hulls, which seem too small to bear the immense load of snow-white canvas swelling above them, and shooting them along as if by magic, when every other vessel is lost in the calm, and when even taunt-masted ships can barely catch a breath of air to fill their sky-sails and royal studding-sails. They are truly "water-witches;" for, while they look so delicate and fragile that one feels at first as if the most moderate breeze must brush them from the face of the ocean, and scatter to the winds all their gay drapery, they can and do defy, as a matter of habit and choice, the most furious gales with which the rugged "sea-board" of America is visited in February and March.
I have seen a pilot-boat off New York, in the morning, in a calm, with all her sails set, lying asleep on the water, which had subsided into such perfect stillness that we could count the seam of each cloth in the mirror beneath her, and it became difficult to tell which was the reflected image, which the true vessel. And yet, within a few hours, I have observed the same boat, with only her close-reefed foresail set—no one visible on her decks—and the sea running mountains high, threatening to swallow her up. Nevertheless, the beautiful craft rose as buoyantly on the back of the waves as any duck, and, moreover, glanced along their surface, and kept so good a wind, that, ere long, she shot ahead, and weathered our ship. Before the day was done, she could scarcely be distinguished from the mast-head to windward, though we had been labouring in the interval under every sail we could safely carry.
The balsas of Peru, the catamarans and masullah boats of the Coromandel coast, and the flying proas of the South Sea Islands, have all been described before, and their respective merits dwelt upon, by Cook, Vancouver, Ulloa, and others. Each in its way, and on its proper spot, seems to possess qualities which it is difficult to communicate to vessels similarly constructed at a distance. The boats of each country, indeed, may be said to possess a peculiar language, understood only by the natives of the countries to which they belong; and truly, the manner in which the vessels of some regions behave, under the guidance of their respective masters, seems almost to imply that the boats themselves are gifted with animal intelligence. At all events, their performance never fails to excite the highest professional admiration of those whom experience has rendered familiar with the difficulties to be overcome.
Long acquaintance with the local tides, winds, currents, and other circumstances of the pilotage, and the constant pressure of necessity, enable the inhabitants of each particular spot to acquire such masterly command over their machinery, that no new-comer, however well provided, or however skilful generally, can expect to cope with them. Hence it arises, that boats of a man-of-war are found almost invariably inferior, in some respects, to those of the port at which she touches. The effect of seeking to adapt our boats to any one particular place would be to render them less serviceable upon the whole. After remaining some time at a place, we might succeed in occasionally outsailing or outrowing the natives; but what sort of a figure would our boats cut at the next point to which the ship might be ordered—say a thousand miles farther from, or nearer to, the equator, where all the circumstances would be totally different. We should have to change again and again, losing time at each place, and probably not gaining, after all, any of the real advantages which the natives long resident on the spot alone know the art of applying to practice.
The hull or body of the Ceylonese canoe is formed, like that of Robinson Crusoe's, out of the trunk of a single tree, wrought in its middle part into a perfectly smooth cylinder, but slightly flattened and turned up at both ends, which are made exactly alike. It is hollowed out in the usual way, but not cut so much open at top as we see in other canoes, for considerably more than half of the outside part of the cylinder or barrel is left entire, with only a narrow slit, eight or ten inches wide, above. If such a vessel were placed in the water, it would possess very little stability, even when not loaded with any weight on its upper edges. But there is built upon it a set of wooden upper works, in the shape of a long trough, extending from end to end; and the top-heaviness of this addition to the hull would instantly overturn the vessel, unless some device were applied to preserve its upright position. This purpose is accomplished by means of an out-rigger on one side, consisting of two curved poles, or slender but tough spars, laid across the canoe at right-angles to its length, and extending to the distance of twelve, fifteen, or even twenty feet, where they join a small log of buoyant wood, about half as long as the canoe, and lying parallel to it, with both its ends turned up like the toe of a slipper, to prevent its dipping into the waves. The inner ends of these transverse poles are securely bound by thongs to the raised gunwales of the canoe. The out-rigger, which is always kept to windward, acting by its weight at the end of so long a lever, prevents the vessel from turning over by the pressure of the sail; or, should the wind shift suddenly, so as to bring the sail aback, the buoyancy of the floating log would prevent the canoe from upsetting on that side by retaining the out-rigger horizontal. The mast, which is very taunt, or lofty, supports a lug-sail of immense size, and is stepped exactly in midships, that is, at the same distance from both ends of the canoe. The yard, also, is slung precisely in the middle; and while the tack of the sail is made fast at one extremity of the hull, the opposite corner, or clew, to which the sheet is attached, hauls aft to the other end. Shrouds extend from the mast-head to the gunwale of the canoe; besides which, slender backstays are carried to the extremity of the out-rigger; and these ropes, by reason of their great spread, give such powerful support to the mast, though loaded with a prodigious sail, that a very slender spar is sufficient.
The method of working the sails of these canoes is as follows. They proceed in one direction as far as may be deemed convenient, and then, without going about, or turning completely round as we do, they merely change the stern of the canoe into the head, by shifting the tack of the sail over to leeward, and so converting it into the sheet—while the other clew, being shifted up to windward, becomes the tack. As soon as these changes have been made, away spins the little fairy bark on her new course, but always keeping the same side, or that on which the out-rigger is placed to windward. It will be easily understood that the pressure of the sail has a tendency to lift the weight at the extremity of the out-rigger above the surface of the water. In sailing along, therefore, the log just skims the tops of the waves, but scarcely ever buries itself in them, so that little or no interruption to the velocity of the canoe is caused by the out-rigger. When the breeze freshens so much as to lift the weight higher than the natives like, one, and sometimes two of them, walk out on the horizontal spars, so as to add their weight to that of the out-rigger. In order to enable them to accomplish this purpose in safety, a "man rope," about breast high, extends over each of the spars from the mast to the backstays.
But of all the ingenious native contrivances for turning small means to good account, one of the most curious, and, under certain circumstances, perhaps the most useful, is the balsa, or raft of South America, or, as it is called on some part of the coast, the catamaran. The simplest form of the raft, or balsa, is that of five, seven, or nine large beams of very light wood, from fifty to sixty feet long, arranged side by side, with the longest spar placed in the centre. These logs are firmly held together by cross-bars, lashings, and stout planking near the ends. They vary from fifteen to twenty, and even thirty feet in width. I have seen some at Guayaquil of an immense size, formed of logs as large as a frigate's foremast. These are intended for conveying goods to Paita, and other places along-shore. The balsa generally carries only one large sail, which is hoisted to what we call a pair of shears, formed by two poles crossing at the top, where they are lashed together. It is obvious that it would be difficult to step a mast securely to a raft in the manner it is done in a ship. It is truly astonishing to see how fast these singular vessels go through the water; but it is still more curious to observe how accurately they can be steered, and how effectively they may be handled in all respects like any ordinary vessel.
The method by which the balsas are directed in their course is extremely ingenious, and is that to which I should wish to call the attention of sailors, not merely as a matter of curiosity, but from its practical utility in seamanship. No officer can tell how soon he may be called upon to place his crew on a raft, should his ship be wrecked; and yet, unless he has been previously made aware of some method of steering it, no purpose may be answered but that of protracting the misery of the people under his charge. Nothing can be more simple, or more easy of application, than the South American contrivance. Near both ends of the centre spar there is cut a perpendicular slit, about a couple of inches wide by one or two feet in length. Into each of these holes a broad plank, called guaras by the natives, is inserted in such a way that it may be thrust down to the depth of ten or twelve feet, or it may be drawn up entirely. The slits are so cut, that, when the raft is in motion, the edges of these planks shall meet the water. It is clear, that if both the guaras be thrust quite down, and held fast in a perpendicular direction, they will offer a broad surface towards the side, and thus, by acting like the leeboards of a river-barge, or the keel of a ship, prevent the balsa from drifting sidewise or dead to leeward. But while these guaras serve the purpose of a keel, they also perform the important duty of a rudder, the rationale of which every sailor will understand, upon considering the effect which must follow upon pulling either up the guara in the bow or that in the stern. Suppose, when the wind is on the beam, the foremost one drawn up; that end of the raft will instantly have a tendency to drift to leeward, from the absence of the lateral support it previously received from its guara or keel at the bow; or, in sea language, the balsa will immediately "fall off," and in time she will come right before the wind. On the other hand, if the foremost guara be kept down while the sternmost one is drawn up, the balsa's head, or bow, will gradually come up towards the wind, in consequence of that end retaining its hold of the water by reason of its guara, while the stern end, being relieved from its lateral support, drifts to leeward. Thus, by judiciously raising or lowering one or both the guaras, the raft may not only be steered with the greatest nicety, but may be tacked or wore, or otherwise directed, with precision.
I never shall forget the sensation produced in a ship I commanded one evening on the coast of Peru, as we steered towards the roadstead of Payta. An immense balsa was dashing out before the land-wind, and sending a snowy wreath of foam before her like that which curls up before the bow of a frigate in chase. As long as she was kept before the wind, we could understand this in some degree; but when she hauled up in order to round the point, and having made a stretch along-shore, proceeded to tack, we could scarcely believe our eyes. Had the celebrated Flying Dutchman sailed past us, our wonder could hardly have been more excited.
It will generally be found well worth an officer's attention to remark in what manner the natives of any coast, however rude they may be, contrive to perform difficult tasks. Such things may be very simple and easy for us to execute, when we have all the appliances and means of our full equipment at command; but, as circumstances may often occur to deprive us of many of those means, and thus, virtually, to reduce us to the condition of the natives, it becomes of consequence to ascertain how necessity, the venerable mother of invention, has taught people so situated to do the required work. For example, it is generally easy for a ship of war to pick up her anchor with her own boats; but it will sometimes happen that the launch and other large boats may be stove, and then it may prove of consequence to know how a heavy anchor can be weighed without a boat at all.
We happened, in his Majesty's ship Minden, to run upon the Coleroon shoal, off the mouth of the great river of that name, about a hundred miles south of Madras. After laying out a bower anchor, and hauling the ship off, we set about preparing the boats to weigh it in the usual way. But the master-attendant of Porto Novo, who had come off to our assistance with a fleet of canoes and rafts, suggested to Sir Samuel Hood that it might he a good opportunity to try the skill of the natives, who were celebrated for their expertness in raising great weights from the bottom. The proposal was one which delighted the Admiral, who enjoyed everything that was new. He posted himself accordingly in his barge near the spot, but he allowed the task to be turned over entirely to the black fellows, whom he ordered to be supplied with ropes, spars, and anything else they required from the ship. The officers and sailors, in imitation of their chief, clustered themselves in wondering groups in the rigging, in the chains, and in the boats, to witness the strange spectacle of a huge bower anchor, weighing nearly four tons, raised off the ground by a set of native fishermen, possessed of no canoe larger than the smallest gig on board.
The master-attendant stood interpreter, and passed backwards and forwards between the ship and the scene of operations—not to direct, but merely to signify what things the natives required for their purpose. They first begged us to have a couple of spare topmasts and topsail-yards, with a number of smaller spars, such as top-gallant masts and studding-sail booms. Out of these they formed, with wonderful speed, an exceedingly neat cylindrical raft, between two and three feet in diameter. They next bound the whole closely together by lashings, and filled up all its inequalities with capstan-bars, handspikes, and other small spars, so as to make it a compact, smooth, and uniform cylinder from end to end. Nothing could be more dexterous or seaman-like than the style in which these fellows swam about and passed the lashings; in fact, they appeared to be as much at home in the water as our sailors were in the boats or in the rigging.
A stout seven-inch hawser was now sent down by the buoy-rope, and the running clinch or noose formed on its end, placed over the fluke of the anchor in the usual way. A couple of round turns were then taken with the hawser at the middle part of the cylindrical raft, after it had been drawn up as tight as possible from the anchor. A number of slew-ropes, I think about sixty or seventy in all, were next passed round the cylinder several times, in the opposite direction to the round turns taken with the hawser.
Upwards of a hundred of the natives now mounted the raft, and, after dividing themselves into pairs, and taking hold of the slew-ropes in their hands, pulled them up as tight as they could. By this effort they caused the cylinder to turn round till its further revolutions were stopped by the increasing tightness of the hawser, which was wound on the cylinder as fast as the slew-ropes were wound off it. When all the ropes had been drawn equally tight, and the whole party of men had been ranged along the top in an erect posture, with their faces all turned one way, a signal was given by one of the principal natives. At this moment the men, one and all, still grasping their respective slew-ropes firmly in their hands, and without bending a joint in their whole bodies, fell simultaneously on their backs, flat on the water! The effect of this sudden movement was to turn the cylinder a full quadrant, or one quarter of a revolution. This, of course, brought a considerable strain on the hawser fixed to the anchor. On a second signal being given, every alternate pair of men gradually crept up the spars by means of their slew-ropes, till one-half of the number stood once more along the top of the cylinder, while the other half of the party still lay flat on the water, and by their weight prevented the cylinder rolling back again.
When the next signal was given, those natives who had regained their original position on the top of the cylinder threw themselves down once more, while those who already lay prostrate gathered in the slack of their slew-ropes with the utmost eagerness as the cylinder revolved another quarter of a turn. It soon became evident that the anchor had fairly begun to rise off the ground, for the buoy-rope, which at first had been bowsed taught over the stern of our launch, became quite slack.
I forget how many successive efforts were made by the natives before the anchor was lifted; but, in the end, it certainly was raised completely off the ground by their exertions alone. The natives, however, complained of the difficulty being much greater than they had expected in consequence of the great size of our anchor. In fact, when at length they had wound the hawser on the cylinder so far that it carried the full weight, the whole number of the natives lay stretched on the water in a horizontal position, apparently afraid to move, lest the weight, if not uniformly distributed amongst them, might prove too great, and the anchor drop again to the bottom, by the returning revolutions of the cylinder. When this was explained to Sir Samuel Hood, he ordered the people in the launch to bowse away at the buoy-rope. This proved a most seasonable relief to the poor natives, who, however, declared, that, if it were required, they would go on, and bring up the anchor fairly to the water's edge. As the good-natured Admiral would not permit this, the huge anchor, cylinder, natives, launch, and all, were drawn into deep water were the ship lay. The master-attendant now explained to the natives that they had nothing more to do than to continue lying flat and still on the water, till the people on board the ship, by heaving in the cable, should bring the anchor to the bows, and thus relieve them of their burden. The officer of the launch was also instructed not to slack the buoy-rope till the cable had got the full weight of the anchor, and the natives required no farther help.
Nothing could be more distinctly given than those orders, so that I cannot account for the panic which seized some of the natives when close to the ship. Whatever was the cause, its effect was such that many of them let go their slew-ropes, and thus cast a disproportionate share of burden on the others, whose strength, or rather weight, proving unequal to counterpoise the load, the cylinder began to turn back again. This soon brought the whole strain, or nearly the whole, on the stern of the launch, and had not the tackle been smartly let go, she must have been drawn under water and swamped. The terrified natives now lost all self-possession, as the mighty anchor shot rapidly to the bottom. The cylinder of course whirled round with prodigious velocity as the hawser unwound itself; and so suddenly had the catastrophe occurred, that many of the natives, not having presence of mind to let go their slew-ropes, held fast and were whisked round and round several times alternately under water beneath the cylinder and on the top of it, not unlike the spokes of a coach-wheel wanting the rim.
The Admiral was in the greatest alarm, lest some of these poor fellows should get entangled with the ropes and be drowned, or be dashed against one another, and beaten to pieces against the cylinder. It was a great relief, therefore, to find that no one was in the least degree hurt, though some of the natives had been soused most soundly, or, as the Jacks said, who grinned at the whole affair, "keel-hauled in proper style."
In a certain sense, then, this experiment may be said to have failed; but enough was done to show that it might be rendered exceedingly effective on many occasions. The Admiral, one of the best practical sailors of his day, thus explained it:—
"In the first place," said Sir Samuel, "you must observe, youngsters, that this device of the natives is neither more nor less than a floating windlass, where the buoyant power of the timber serves the purpose of a support to the axis. The men fixed by the slew-ropes to the cylinder, represent the handspikes or bars by which the windlass is turned round, and the hawser takes the place of the cable. But," continued he, "there appears to be no reason why the cylinder should be made equally large along its whole length; and were I to repeat this experiment, I would make the middle part, round which the hawser was to be passed, of a single topmast, while I would swell out the ends of my cylinder or raft to three or four feet in diameter. In this way a great increase of power would evidently be gained by those who worked the slew-ropes. In the next place," said the Admiral, "it is clear that either the buoy-rope, or another hawser also fastened to the anchor, as a 'preventer,' ought to be carried round the middle part of the cylinder, but in the opposite direction to that of the weighing hawser. This second hawser should be hauled tight round at the end of each successive quarter-turn gained by the men. If this were done, all tendency in the cylinder to turn one way more than the other would be prevented; for each of the hawsers would bear an equal share of the weight of the anchor, and being wound upon the raft in opposite directions, would of course counteract each other's tendency to slew it round. The whole party of men, instead of only one-half of them, might then mount the spars; and thus their united strength could be exerted at each effort, and in perfect security, against the formidable danger of the cylinder whirling back by the anchor gaining the mastery over them, and dropping again to the bottom. But without using their clumsy, though certainly very ingenious, machinery of turning men into handspikes, I think," said he, "we might construct our floating windlass in such a way that a set of small spars—studding-sail booms, for instance—might be inserted at right angles to its length, like the bars of a capstan, and these, if swifted together, could be worked from the boats, without the necessity of any one going into the water."
While speaking of the dexterity of the natives of India, I may mention a feat which interested us very much. A strong party of hands from the ship were sent one day to remove an anchor, weighing seventy-five hundred-weight, from one part of Bombay dockyard to another, but, from the want of some place to attach their tackle to, they could not readily transport it along the wharf. Various devices were tried in vain by the sailors, whose strength, if it could have been brought to bear, would have proved much more than enough for the task. In process of time, no doubt, they would have fallen upon some method of accomplishing their purpose; but while they were discussing various projects, one of the superintendents said he thought his party of native coolies or labourers could lift the anchor and carry it to any part of the yard. This proposal was received by our Johnnies with a loud laugh; for the numbers of the natives did not much exceed their own, and the least powerful of the seamen could readily, at least in his own estimation, have demolished half-a-dozen of the strongest of these slender Hindoos.
To work they went, however, while Jack looked on with great attention. Their first operation was to lay a jib-boom horizontally, and nearly along the shank of the anchor. This being securely lashed to the shank, and also to the stock, the whole length of the spar was crossed at right angles by capstan bars, to the ends of which as many handspikes as there was room for were lashed also at right angles. In this way, every cooly of the party could obtain a good hold, and exert his strength to the greatest purpose. I forget how many natives were applied to this service; but in the course of a very few minutes, their preparations being completed, the ponderous anchor was lifted a few inches from the ground, to the wonder and admiration of the British seamen, who cheered the black fellows, and patted them on the back as they trotted along the wharf with their load, which appeared to oppress them no more than if it had been the jolly boat's grapnel!
THE SURF AT MADRAS.
From Ceylon we proceeded after a time to Madras roads, where we soon became well acquainted with all the outs and ins of the celebrated surf of that place. This surf, after all, is not really higher than many which one meets with in other countries; but certainly it is the highest and most troublesome which exists as a permanent obstruction in front of a great commercial city. The ingenuity and perseverance of man, however, have gone far to surmount this difficulty; and now the passage to and from the beach at Madras offers hardly any serious interruption to the intercourse. Still, it is by no means an agreeable operation to pass through the surf under any circumstances; and occasionally, during the north-east monsoon, it is attended with some danger. For the first two or three times, I remember thinking it very good sport to cross the surf, and sympathised but little with the anxious expressions of some older hands who accompanied me. The boat, the boatmen, their curious oars, the strange noises they made, and the attendant catamarans to pick up the passengers if the boat upsets, being all new to my eyes, and particularly odd in themselves, so strongly engaged my attention, that I had no leisure to think of the danger till the boat was cast violently on the beach. The very first time I landed, the whole party were pitched out heels over head on the shore. I thought it a mighty odd way of landing; but supposing it to be all regular and proper, I scrambled up the wet sand, and merely muttered,—"What the devil will the fellows do next?"
The surf at Madras consists of two distinct lines of breakers on the beach, running parallel to each other and to the shore. These foaming ridges are caused by a succession of waves curling over and breaking upon bars or banks, formed probably by the reflux action of the sea carrying the sand outwards. The surf itself, unquestionably, owes its origin to the long sand of the ocean-swell coming across the Bay of Bengal, a sweep of nearly five hundred miles, from the coasts of Arracan, the Malay peninsula, and the island of Sumatra. This huge swell is scarcely perceptible in the fathomless Indian sea; but when the mighty oscillation reaches the shelving shores of Coromandel, its vibrations are checked by the bottom. The mass of waters, which up to this point had merely sunk and risen, that is, vibrated without any real progressive motion, is then driven forwards to the land, where, from the increasing shallowness, it finds less and less room for its "wild waves' play," and finally rises above the general level of the sea in threatening ridges. I know few things more alarming to nautical nerves than the sudden and mysterious "lift of the swell," which hurries a ship upwards when she has chanced to get too near the shore, and when, in consequence of the deadness of the calm, she can make no way to seaward, but is gradually hove nearer and nearer to the roaring surge.
At last, when the great ocean-wave approaches the beach, and the depth of water is much diminished, the velocity of so vast a mass sweeping along the bottom, though greatly accelerated, becomes inadequate to fulfil the conditions of the oscillation, and it has no resource but to curl into a high and toppling wave. So that this moving ridge of waters, after careering forwards with a front high in proportion to the impulse behind, and for a length of time regulated by the degree of abruptness in the rise of the shore, at last dashes its monstrous head with a noise extremely like thunder along the endless coast.
Often, indeed, when on shore at Madras, have I lain in bed awake, with open windows, for hours together, listening, at the distance of many a league, to the sound of these waves, and almost fancying I could still feel the tremour of the ground, always distinctly perceptible near the beach. When the distance is great, and the actual moment at which the sea breaks ceases to be distinguishable, and when a long range of coast is within hearing, the unceasing roar of the surf in a serene night, heard over the level plains of the Carnatic shore, is wonderfully interesting.
Any attempt to pass the surf in an ordinary boat is seldom thought of. I remember hearing of a naval officer who crossed once in his jolly-boat in safety, but on a second trial he was swamped, and both he and his crew well-nigh drowned. The masullah boats of the country resemble nothing to be seen elsewhere. They have flat bottoms, perpendicular sides, and abruptly pointed ends, being twelve or fourteen feet long by five or six broad, and four or five feet high. Not a single nail enters into their construction, all the planks being held together by cords or lacings. Along the planks, at a short distance from the edge, are bored a set of holes, through which the lacing or cord is to pass. A layer of cotton is then interposed between the planks, and along the seam is laid a flat narrow strip of a fibry and tough kind of wood. The cord is next rove through the holes and passed over the strip, so that when it is pulled tight the planks are not only drawn into as close contact as the interposed cotton will allow of, but the long strip is pressed against the seam so effectually as to exclude the water. The wood of which these boats are constructed is so elastic and tough, that when they take the ground, either by accident or in regular course of service, the part which touches yields to the pressure without breaking, and bulges inwards almost as readily as if it were made of shoe-leather. Under similar circumstances, an ordinary boat, fitted with a keel, timbers, and planks nailed together, not being pliable, would be shivered to pieces.
At the after or sternmost end a sort of high poop-deck passes from side to side, on which the steersman takes his post. He holds in his hand an oar or paddle, which consists of a pole ten or twelve feet long, carrying at its extremity a circular disc of wood about a foot or a foot and a-half in diameter. The oars used by the six hands who pull the masullah boat are similar to that held by the steersman, who is always a person of long experience and known skill, as well as courage and coolness—qualities indispensable to the safety of the passage when the surf is high. The rowers sit upon high thwarts and their oars are held by grummets, or rings made of rope, to pins inserted in the gunwale, so that they can be let go and resumed at pleasure, without risk of being lost. The passengers, wretched victims! seat themselves on a cross bench about a foot lower than the seats of the rowers, and close in front of the raised poop or steersman's deck, which is nearly on a level with the gunwale.
The whole process of landing, from the moment of leaving the ship till you feel yourself safe on the crown of the beach is as disagreeable as can be; and I can only say for myself that every time I crossed the surf it rose in my respect. At the eighth or tenth transit I began really to feel uncomfortable; at the twentieth I felt considerable apprehension of being well ducked; and at about the thirtieth time of crossing, I almost fancied there was but little chance of escaping a watery grave, with sharks for sextons, and the wild surf for a dirge! The truth is that at each successive time of passing this formidable barrier of surf we become better and better acquainted with the dangers and possibilities of accidents.
However, as all persons intending to go ashore at Madras must pass through the surf, they step with what courage they can muster into their boat alongside the ship, anchored in the roads a couple of miles off, in consequence of the water being too shallow for large vessels. The boat then shoves off, and rows to the "back of the surf," where it is usual to let go a grapnel, or to lie on the oars till the masullah boat comes out. The back of the surf is that part of the roadstead lying immediately beyond the place where the first indication is given of the tendency in the swell to rise into a wave; and no boat not expressly fitted for the purpose ever goes nearer to the shore, but lies off till the "bar-boat" makes her way through the surf, and lays herself alongside the ship's boat. A scrambling kind of boarding operation now takes place, to the last degree inconvenient to ladies and other shore-going persons not accustomed to climbing. As the gunwale of the masullah boat rises three or four feet above the water, the step is a long and troublesome one to make, even by those who are not encumbered with petticoats—those sad impediments to locomotion—devised by the men, as I heard a Chinaman remark, expressly to check the rambling propensities of the softer sex, always too prone, he alleged, to yield to wandering impulses without such encumbrances! I know to my cost, from many a broken shin, that even gentlemen bred afloat may contrive to slip in removing from one boat to the other, especially if the breeze be fresh, and there be what mariners call a "bubble of a sea." In a little while, however, all the party are tumbled, or hoisted into the masullah boat, where they seat themselves on the cross-bench, marvellously like so many culprits on a hurdle on their way to execution! Ahead of them roars and boils a furious ridge of terrific breakers, while close at their ears behind, stamps and bawls, or rather yells, the steersman, who takes this method of communicating his wishes to his fellow-boatmen. The steersman stands on his poop, or quarter-deck, just behind the miserable passengers, whose heads reach not quite so high as his knees. His oar rests in a crutch on the top of the stern-post, and not only serves as a rudder, but gives him the power to slew or twist the boat round with considerable rapidity, when aided by the efforts of the rowers. It is necessary for the steersman to wait for a favourable moment to enter the surf, otherwise the chances are that the boat will be upset, in the manner I shall describe presently. People are frequently kept waiting in this way for ten or twenty minutes, at the back of the surf, before a proper opportunity presents itself.
During all this while, the experienced eye of the veteran skipper abaft glances backwards and forwards from the swell rolling in from the open sea, to the surf which is breaking close to him. From time to time he utters a half word to his crew, with that kind of faint interrogative tone in which a commanding-officer indulges when he is sure of acquiescence on the part of those under him, and is careless whether they answer or not. In general, however, he remains quite silent during this first stage of the passage, as do also the rowers, who either rest the paddles horizontally, or allow their circular blades to float on the surface of the water. Meanwhile the boat rolls from side to side, or is heaved smartly upwards as the swell, just on the eve of breaking, lifts her into the air, and then drops her again into the hollow with the most sea-sickening velocity. I should state, that, during this wofully unpleasant interval, the masullah boat is placed sideways to the line of surf, parallel to the shore, and, of course, exactly in the trough of the sea.
I have often watched with the closest attention to discover what were the indications by which these experienced boatmen inferred that the true moment was arrived when it was safe to enter the surf, but I never could make out enough to be of much professional utility. It was clear, indeed, that the proper instant for making the grand push occurred when one of the highest waves was about to break—for the greater the dash, the greater the lull after it. But how these fellows managed to discover, beforehand, that the wave, upon the back of which they chose to ride in, was of that exact description, I could never discover. On the approach of a swell which he knows will answer his purpose, the steersman, suddenly changing his quiet and almost contemplative air for a look of intense anxiety, grasps his oar with double firmness, and exerting his utmost strength of muscle, forces the boat's stern round, so that her head may point to the shore. At the same time he urges his crew to exert themselves, partly by violent stampings with his feet, partly by loud and vehement exhortations, and partly by a succession of horrid yells, in which the sounds Yarry! Yarry!! Yarry!!! predominate—indicating to the ears of a stranger the very reverse of self-confidence, and filling the soul of a nervous passenger with infinite alarm.
Those fearful noises are loudly re-echoed by all the other men, who strain themselves so vigorously at the oars, that the boat, flying forwards, almost keeps way with the wave, on the back of which it is the object of the steersman to keep her. As she is swept impetuously towards the bar, a person seated in the boat can distinctly feel the sea under him gradually rising under a sheer wave, and lifting the boat up—and up—and up, in a manner exceedingly startling. At length the ridge, near the summit of which the boat is placed, begins to curl, and its edge just breaks into a line of white fringe along the upper edge of the perpendicular face presented to the shore, towards which it is advancing with vast rapidity. The grand object of the boatmen now appears to consist in maintaining their position, not on the very crown of the wave, but a little further to seaward, down the slope, so as to ride upon its shoulders, as it were. The importance of this precaution becomes apparent, when the curling surge, no longer able to maintain its elevation, is dashed furiously forwards, and dispersed into an immense sheet of foam, broken by innumerable eddies and whirlpools, into a confused sea of irregular waves rushing tumultuously together, and casting the spray high into the air by impinging one against the other. This furious turmoil often whirls the masullah boat round and round, in spite of the despairing outcries of the steersman, and the redoubled exertions of his screaming crew, half of whom back their oars, while the other half tug away in vain endeavours to keep her head in the right direction.
I have endeavoured to describe the correct and safe method of riding over the surf on the outer bar upon the back of the wave, a feat in all conscience sufficiently ticklish; but woe betide the poor masullah boat which shall be a little too far in advance of her proper place, so that, when the wave curls over and breaks, she may be pitched head foremost over the brink of the watery precipice, and strikes her nose on the sandbank. Even then, if there happen, by good luck, to be depth of water over the bar sufficient to float her, she may still escape; but, should the sand be left bare, or nearly so, as happens sometimes, the boat is almost sure to strike, if, instead of keeping on the back or shoulder of the wave, she incautiously precedes it. In that unhappy case she is instantly tumbled forwards, heels over head, while the crew and passengers are sent sprawling amongst the foam.
Between the sharks and the catamaran men a race then takes place—the one to save, the other to destroy—the very Brahmas and Shivas of the surf! These accidents, however, are so very rare, that during all the time I was in India I never witnessed one.
There is still a second surf to pass, which breaks on the inner bar, about forty or fifty yards nearer to the shore. The boatmen try to cross this, and to approach so near the beach, that, when the next wave breaks, they shall be so far ahead of it that it may not dash into the boat and swamp her, and yet not so far out as to prevent their profiting by its impulse to drive them up the steep face of sand forming the long-wished-for shore. The rapidity with which the masullah boat is at last cast on the beach is sometimes quite fearful, and the moment she thumps on the ground, as the wave recedes, most startling. I have seen persons pitched completely off their seats, and more than once I have myself been fairly turned over with all the party, like a parcel of fish cast out of a basket! In general, no such untoward events take place, and the boat at length rests on the sand, with her stern to the sea. But as yet she is by no means far enough up the beach to enable the passengers to get out with comfort or safety. Before the next wave breaks, the bow and sides of the boat have been seized by numbers of the natives on the shore, who greatly assist the impulse when the wave comes, both by keeping her in a straight course, and likewise by preventing her upsetting. These last stages of the process are very disagreeable, for every time the surf reaches the boat, it raises her up and lets her fall again, with a violent jerk. When at last she is high enough to remain beyond the wash of the surf, you either jump out, or more frequently descend by means of a ladder, as you would get off the top of a stage-coach; and, turning about, you look with astonishment at what you have gone through, and thank Heaven you are safe!
The return passage from the shore to a ship, in a masullah boat, is more tedious, but less dangerous, than the process of landing. This difference will easily be understood, when it is recollected that in one case the boat is carried impetuously forward by the waves, and that all power of retarding her progress on the part of the boatmen ceases after a particular moment. In going from the shore, however, the boat is kept continually under management, and the talents and experience of the steersman regulate the affair throughout. He watches, just inside the surf, till a smooth moment occurs, generally after a high sea has broken, and then he endeavours, by great exertions, to avail himself of the moment of comparative tranquillity which follows, to force his way across the bar before another sea comes. If he detects, as he is supposed to have it always in his power to do, that another sea is on the rise, which will, in all probability, curl up and break over him before he can row over its crest and slide down its back, his duty is, to order his men to back their oars with their utmost speed and strength. This retrograde movement withdraws her from the blow, or, at all events, allows the wave to strike her with diminished violence at the safest point, and in water of sufficient depth to prevent the boat taking the ground injuriously, to the risk of her being turned topsy-turvy. I have, in fact, often been in these masullah boats when they have struck violently on the bar, and have seen their flat and elastic bottoms bulge inwards in the most alarming manner, but I never saw any of the planks break or the seams open so as to admit the water.
It is very interesting to watch the progress of those honest catamaran fellows, who live almost entirely in the surf, and who, independently of their chief purpose of attending the masullah boats, are much employed as messengers to the ships in the roads, even in the worst weather. I remember one day being sent with a note for the commanding officer of the flag-ship, which Sir Samuel Hood was very desirous should be sent on board; but as the weather was too tempestuous to allow even a masullah boat to pass the surf, I was obliged to give it to a catamaran man. The poor fellow drew off his head a small skull-cap, made apparently of some kind of skin, or oil-cloth, or bladder, and having deposited his despatches therein, proceeded to execute his task.
We really thought, at first, that our messenger must have been drowned even in crossing the inner bar, for we well-nigh lost sight of him in the hissing yeast of waves in which he and his catamaran appeared only at intervals, tossing about like a cork. But by far the most difficult part of his task remained after he had reached the comparatively smooth space between the two lines of surf, where we could observe him paddling to and fro as if in search of an opening in the moving wall of water raging between him and the roadstead. He was watching for a favourable moment, when, after the dash of some high wave, he might hope to make good his transit in safety.
After allowing a great many seas to break before he attempted to cross the outer bar, he at length seized the proper moment, and turning his little bark to seaward, paddled out as fast as he could. Just as the gallant fellow, however, reached the shallowest part of the bar, and we fancied him safely across, a huge wave, which had risen with unusual quickness, elevated its foaming crest right before him, curling upwards many feet higher than his shoulders. In a moment he cast away his paddle, and leaping on his feet, he stood erect on his catamaran, watching with a bold front the advancing bank of water. He kept his position, quite undaunted, till the steep face of the breaker came within a couple of yards of him, and then leaping head foremost, he pierced the wave in a horizontal direction with the agility and confidence of a dolphin. We had scarcely lost sight of his feet, as he shot through the heart of the wave, when such a dash took place as must have crushed him to pieces had he stuck by his catamaran, which was whisked instantly afterwards, by a kind of somerset, completely out of the water by its rebounding off the sandbank. On casting our eyes beyond the surf, we felt much relieved by seeing our shipwrecked friend merrily dancing on the waves at the back of the surf, leaping more than breast-high above the surface, and looking in all directions, first for his paddle, and then for his catamaran. Having recovered his oar, he next swam, as he best could, through the broken surf to his raft, mounted it like a hero, and once more addressed himself to his task.
By this time, as the current always runs fast along the shore, he had drifted several hundred yards to the northward farther from his point. At the second attempt to penetrate the surf, he seemed to have made a small miscalculation, for the sea broke so very nearly over him, before he had time to quit his catamaran and dive into still water, that we thought he must certainly have been drowned. Not a whit, however, did he appear to have suffered, for we soon saw him again swimming to his rude vessel. Many times in succession was he thus washed off and sent whirling towards the beach, and as often obliged to dive head foremost through the waves. But at last, after very nearly an hour of incessant struggling, and the loss of more than a mile of distance, he succeeded, for the first time, in reaching the back of the surf, without having parted company either with his paddle or with his catamaran. After this it became all plain sailing; he soon paddled off to the Roads, and placed the Admiral's letter in the first lieutenant's hands as dry as if it had been borne in a despatch-box across the court-yard of the Admiralty.
I remember one day, when on board the Minden, receiving a note from the shore by a catamaran lad, whom I told to wait for an answer. Upon this he asked for a rope, with which, as soon as it was given him, he made his little vessel fast, and lay down to sleep in the full blaze of a July sun. One of his arms and one of his feet hung in the water, though a dozen sharks had been seen cruising round the ship. A tacit contract, indeed, appears to exist between the sharks and these people, for I never saw, nor can I remember ever having heard of any injury done by one to the other. By the time my answer was written, the sun had dried up the spray on the poor fellow's body, leaving such a coating of salt, that he looked as if he had been dusted with flour. A few fanams—a small copper coin—were all his charge, and three or four broken biscuits in addition sent him away the happiest of mortals.
It is matter of considerable surprise to every one who has seen how well the chain-pier at Brighton stands the worst weather, that no similar work has been devised at Madras. The water is shallow, the surf does not extend very far from the beach, and there seems really no reason why a chain-pier should not be erected, which might answer not only for the accommodation of passengers, but for the transit of goods to and from the shore.
VISIT TO THE SULTAN OF PONTIANA, IN BORNEO—SIR SAMUEL HOOD.
In the summer of 1814, Sir Samuel Hood made a voyage, in his Majesty's ship Minden, to the eastern parts of his station. We called first at Acheen, on the north end of the island of Sumatra, where we held some very amusing intercourse with the king of that district, whose capital the Admiral visited. From thence we steered over to Pulo Penang, or Prince of Wales' Island, and thence down the Straits of Malacca, entering the China Sea by the beautiful Straits of Sincapore. The Admiral's chief object was to visit Java; but as there lay three routes before him to choose between, viz. the Straits of Gaspar, the Straits of Banca, and the Caramata passage, he preferred taking the last and widest, which also led him near the western shore of the immense island of Borneo. On reaching the equator, he steered in for the mouth of the great river Lava, which passes the town of Pontiana. The weather being very favourable, the ship was anchored, and the barge got ready for an expedition.
At four in the morning, on receiving the joyful intimation that I was to be officer of the boat, I lost no time in getting together everything likely to be useful—a sextant, artificial horizon, spy-glass, chart, compass, and Nautical Almanac, besides a Malay Dictionary.
We had some little difficulty in finding our way in the barge, for the mouth of the river of Pontiana lay so completely hid amongst low cane-brakes, mangroves, and other aquatic trees and shrubs, which grow thickly along the western shores of Borneo, that, until we came quite close, no inlet was perceptible. The first hit we made proved wrong, and lost us three or four miles; and it was not till nearly noon that we reached the rush of fresh and troubled water, which indicated the true entrance. The Admiral desired greatly to observe the sun's meridian altitude. His Excellency, however, though he could command many things, could not command this; for although our fellows gave way lustily, so as to stem the current running out, and we had a full half-hour to spare, we could not effect a landing in good time. On reaching what had seemed the shore, no footing could be found anywhere. Even the little boat which we carried with us in tow of the barge, though she threaded the mangrove stems and roots, and went in much further than the barge, could not reach anything like dry land. As the main bank refused to afford us a resting-place, we put off, and rowed as briskly as we could to a small island about half-a-mile from this treacherous shore; but this, too, proved a cheat, for what we took to be solid ground consisted merely of a mass of green shrubs, growing on the ridge of a soft slippery mass of mud just peeping above the water.
As the sailors, by this time, were pretty well exhausted with rowing so long in the hot sun, they hailed with great joy the sea-breeze which just then set in. They soon stepped the masts, hoisted the sails, and laid the oars in.
"Now go to dinner, men," said the considerate chief, "this rattling breeze will not carry us up far, and you will pull all the better for a good bellyful."
Just as this judicious order was given, and while we were still laughing at the recent adventure, which reminded us of Sinbad's mistaking a whale for a solid rock, our eyes were attracted by the sight of another island, much smaller than the first. It seemed, indeed, like a little grove or tuft of palm-like foliage, rising out of the water somewhat in the fashion of our Prince of Wales' feather. None of the party had ever seen such a tree before, and every one tried to guess what it might be; but all were puzzled. At length, a diminutive moving black speck showed itself at the root, or centre, from which these fairy-like branches radiated.
"It is a rock with a tree on it," cried one.
"Nonsense!" said Sir Samuel, "there are no rocks hereabouts; the soil for many a league is alluvial."
"It skims along like a witch," exclaimed a third; "it is surely alive!"
"Let us sail to it whatever it be," said the Admiral, waving his hand to the coxswain to sheer the barge further from the side of the river.
As we drew near, we discovered our phenomenon to consist of a fishing-canoe, gliding along merrily before the sea-breeze, with no other sails than half-a-dozen branches of the cocoa-nut tree placed in the bow, and spread out like the feathers of a peacock's tail. These were held together by a slender bar of bamboo, and supported by small strips of bark to the stern, in which sat a naked Malay.
The Admiral proved a true prophet, for the deceitful sea-breeze presently lulled, and it cost us a very hard row to accomplish our purpose against the stream. The town of Pontiana stands on a low point of land formed by the confluence of two mighty rivers. This particular spot is always held sacred in India, and is known under the Hindoo name of Sungum. I suspect, however, that the Malays and other Mahometans, who inhabit the coasts of most of the Indian Islands, acknowledge no superstitious predilections for one spot more than another, and consider such things as mere prejudices unworthy of the followers of Mahomet, their great military prophet. Probably the Sungum point has some local advantages belonging to it, as I observe it is generally appropriated by the strongest party in every country. At all events, it has the advantage of communicating directly with both the rivers, by whose junction the Sungum, or solid angle, is formed. In the instance of Pontiana, the Mussulmans had taken possession of it, though it was formerly a Dutch settlement, while the Chinese were left to occupy the corners opposite to the Sungum, on the right and left banks, respectively, of the river formed by the junction of the two streams. Thus three considerable cities had been built facing one another, and each displaying on the river a multitude of boats and barges, canoes and proas, in crowds which would not have disgraced the show at London Bridge, and, of course, indicating considerable wealth and activity.
We came upon this grand view quite abruptly, and having no expectation of encountering anything so magnificent, were taken rather by surprise. Two enormous Chinese junks occupied the centre of the stream, each of them rising out of the water nearly as high as the poop of a line-of-battle ship. Along the shore, on both sides, lay a fleet of eight or ten sail of junks, some of them very large, and all bearing enormous white flags, in the centre of which sprawled huge dragons and other monsters familiar to the eyes of all fanciers of old China jars.
In the mean time, as there existed no dispute about the navigation of the River Lava, we rowed up very peaceably towards the great city of Pontiana. On our meeting a canoe with a Malay in it, the Admiral, who had been studying Marsden's dictionary all the way, stood up in the barge, made the men lie on their oars, and to their great astonishment, and probably to that of the native, called out in the Malay tongue,—
"Which is the way to the sultan's house?"
To Sir Samuel's unspeakable delight, the man whom he addressed understood him, and after offering to show us the landing-place, paddled off ahead of us. Our fellows gave way as hard as they could, but the Malay kept the lead; and as we shot past the Chinese towns, one on each bank, the natives crowded to the beach, as much astonished, no doubt, with our strange cocked hats, swords, and oddly-shaped boat, as we could be with their long tails and wild-looking junks, or with the creases which every Malay carries by his side. This fierce-looking weapon is not, in form, unlike the waving sword one sees in the pictures of the angel Michael, though it is not above a foot and a-half in length.
The sultan's cousin received the Admiral and his party at the gate of the palace, and led him by the hand along a causeway of flag-stones to the residence of the monarch. Directly in the middle of the gateway, which was only ten feet wide and about as many in height, there stood a twenty-four-pounder gun. On the top of the arch there was built a small square room, from holes in which peeped out the muzzles of five or six field-pieces, the whole affair resembling very much that part of a child's box of toys which represents the stronghold or castle. Within the high wall surrounding the palace we counted innumerable large guns scattered about, apparently with no other object than to be seen, as if the mere look of a cannon were expected to do the work of a fight! The same number of mock barrels of gunpowder, similarly disposed, would have answered the purpose equally well, or perhaps better; for there appeared no way in which the guns could be fired, without doing much more injury to the besieged than to the besiegers.
On we went, till we were met by the sultan himself, at the inner side of the quadrangle. He courteously conducted the Admiral to a large room or hall of audience, and, having begged his guest to sit down at a small table, took a chair by his side, and began a conversation as if they had been long acquainted. Of course, in spite of the Admiral's proficiency, this could not be accomplished without an interpreter; and the services of a very clever Malay boy, whom we had brought with us from the ship, were brought into requisition. The hall, in which we were first received, might have been about fifty feet square, bleak, unfurnished, and comfortless, with an uncovered mud floor. It was so feebly lighted by a few windows almost hid by Venetian blinds, that we could only discover that the roof had been left bare and unfinished. After sitting for about ten minutes, the sultan rose and led the way to another apartment apparently of still larger dimensions, but literally so dark, that, had it not been for the light entering by the door we had left, and the one ahead of us, we could not have moved along without breaking our shins over the stones, sticks, and other rubbish lying in the way. We had next to make rather a difficult transit along a precarious kind of bridge, formed of a single plank laid across an ominous-looking pool or puddle of mud, which divided these two branches of the palace from each other.
All at once we were ushered into a splendid room, seventy or eighty feet square, brilliantly lighted, and not ill furnished, but strongly contrasted with the darkness and dirtiness of the suite we had passed through. This total want of keeping, it may be mentioned, is quite in Oriental taste. They know tolerably well how to be magnificent on occasions; but they never learn how to be uniformly decent. The Asiatics, and even some other nations which might be named nearer home, can seldom afford to be taken by surprise. Indeed, I am not sure if more than one country can be alluded to, in which the people are at all hours ready to receive strangers, and have no occasion to make a fuss, or to change anything when a rap comes to the door.
In the centre of this gorgeous room, on a dais, or a part of the floor raised to about a foot and a-half above the level of the rest, and laid with a rich Turkey carpet, stood a long table, at the top of which the sultan placed the Admiral, and then made the signal for tea. First entered an attendant, bearing a large tray, on which were ranged several dozens of exceedingly small cups. This he placed on the carpet, and then squatted himself down, cross-legged, beside it. Another attendant soon followed, bearing the tea-pot, and he likewise popped himself down. After a conjuration of some minutes, the cups were brought round, containing weak black tea, exquisite in flavour, but marvellously small in quantity. There appeared no milk, but plenty of sugar-candy. Some sweet sherbet was next handed round, very slightly acid, but so deliciously cool, that we appealed frequently to the vase or huge jar from which it was poured, to the great delight of the sultan, who assured us that this was the genuine sherbet described by the Persian poets. It was mixed, he told us, by a true believer, who had made more than one pilgrimage to Mecca.
At the upper end of the apartment, in a deep recess, partly hid from our view by a rich festoon of shawl drapery, we could just discover the sultan's bed, flanked by large mirrors, beyond which, in an adjacent chamber, was probably stowed away the sultan's most favoured wife. But all this department of the establishment was thrown into such deep shade, that we could see none of the ladies, nor any of his highness's progeny, except one little boy, whom he introduced to us at supper. He appeared to be about five or six years old, very like his papa in miniature, rigged with turban and robes of cloth of gold. At first, the little fellow looked somewhat startled; but he soon recovered his dignity, and sat on our knees, without much apprehension of being swallowed up.
Both the upper corners of the room were screened off by white curtains, eight or ten feet high, so as to form smaller chambers. One of these served the purpose of a pantry, or subsidiary kitchen, at least we observed the dishes issuing from it, and thought we could distinguish the well-known sound of the cook's angry reproaches—a note which, like that of muttering thunder, is nearly the same in every climate. The other corner we soon made out to be a sort of temporary nook, from which the ladies of the palace and the young sultans and sultanas might spy the strangers. This we ascertained from seeing sundry very pretty faces thrust out occasionally between the folds of the curtain, and by the sound of many an ill-suppressed giggle amongst the peeping damsels.
The sultan appeared to enter into his guest's character at once, and neither overloaded him with attentions, nor failed to treat him as a person to whom much respect was due. I heard Sir Samuel say afterwards, that he was particularly struck with the sultan's good breeding, in not offering to assist him in cutting his meat. The sultan merely remarked that few people were so expert as his guest even with both hands; adding, neatly enough, that on this account the distinction which his wound had gained for him was more cheaply purchased than people supposed. While the Admiral was hunting for some reply to this novel compliment, his host remarked, that in Borneo it was considered fashionable to eat with the left hand.
The supper, which soon followed the tea, consisted of about a dozen dishes of curry, all different from one another, and a whole poultry yard of grilled and boiled chickens, many different sorts of salt fish, with great basins of rice at intervals, jars of pickles, piles of sliced pine-apple, sweetmeats, and cakes. Four male attendants stood by with goblets of cool sherbet, from which, ever and anon, they replenished our glasses; besides whom, a number of young Malay girls waited at a distance from the table, and ran about nimbly with the plates and dishes.
After a great deal of ceremonious rigmarole, in which the Admiral was asked for his autograph, and it was wonderful how well the shrewd little Malay interpreter expressed to the Admiral, who cheerfully agreed to the proposal, and desired me to send for his writing-case. As I rose, the Admiral whispered to me, "I wish you would contrive, at the same time, to see what the boat's crew are about. Try, also, if you can get them something to eat; the fellows must be hungry enough by this time—but mind they don't get too much toddy."
I found the crew seated on the mud floor of a large room close to the beach, and open on all sides, like a tent without walls. The Johnnies were in such high glee, that I feared they had already trespassed too deeply on the toddy pot; but I was glad to find that their satisfaction arose from a safer source, namely, a glorious hot supper, which Jack was tucking in to the great delight and astonishment of the natives, who had been ordered by the sultan to supply them with as much curry and rice as they chose to eat.
Very early in the morning, long before there was the least peep of dawn, the Admiral roused us all out of bed, ordered the boat to be manned, and declared his intention of dropping down the river while it was yet cool, so as to reach the ship before the fierce heat of the sun had set in. I suspect, also, that he wished to escape the salutes for which he had seen some preparations over night. But scarcely had we gained the distance of two or three hundred yards from the shore when the heavy guns of the batteries began to fire a royal salute. The night was uncommonly dark and still, and the successive flashes and reports of the cannons were followed by a long series of echoes from the edges of the damp forests lining the banks of the three different branches or forks of the river. The Admiral, who had the finest perception possible for all that was picturesque or beautiful, was exceedingly struck with the grandeur of this nocturnal salute, and having made the men lay their oars across the boat, while she drifted quickly down the river, he stood up in the stern-sheets in order to enjoy the scene more completely.
A trifling incident occurred shortly afterwards, which recalled to our thoughts another important service of Sir Samuel Hood's, which, although it be familiarly known in the navy, may not be so fresh in the recollection of persons on shore. A question arose in the boat as to whether or not the land-wind was blowing. Some said there was a breeze up the river, while others maintained that the wind blew down, towards the sea. The Admiral let us go on speculating and arguing for some time, and then said, "You are both wrong; there is not a breath of air either up or down the river. At all events we shall soon see, if you will strike me a light." This was done accordingly; and the Admiral, standing on the after-thwart, held the naked candle high over his head, while the men ceased rowing.
"There, you see," exclaimed he, "the flame stands quite upright, which proves, that if there be any breeze at all, it blows no faster than the stream runs down."
As he yet spoke, the flame bent from the land, and in the next instant was puffed out by a slight gust from the forest.
"Ay! that's something like!" exclaimed the commander-in-chief; adding, in an under tone, as he resumed his seat, "I have known the time when a flaw of wind, not greater than has just blown out this candle, has rendered good service to his Majesty." This was the incident to which he alluded:—
Early in the year 1794, when Captain Hood commanded his Majesty's ship Juno, the port of Toulon, though in possession of the English at the time of his departure on a short trip to Malta, had been evacuated while the Juno was absent; and as the land was made in the night, no suspicion of that important change of affairs arose in the mind of any one. With his wonted decision, therefore, into the port he dashed; for, although the Juno carried no pilot, Captain Hood's knowledge of every port he had once visited rendered him comparatively indifferent on that score. A couple of the sharpest-sighted midshipmen were stationed with glasses to look out for the fleet; but no ships were seen—for the best of all reasons—none were there!
One vessel only, a small brig, could be detected, and the captain, supposing the fleet had run into the inner harbour during the recent easterly gale, resolved to push up likewise. The batteries all kept quiet, and though the brig hailed the frigate as she passed in a language so indistinct that no one could make it out, not the least suspicion was excited. Supposing they wanted to know what ship it was, I told them it was the Juno. The brig, however, was not quite so courteous in return; for they merely replied by the word "Viva," but made no answer to the captain's repeated inquiry as to the brig's name, and the position of the British fleet. As the Juno passed under the stern of this treacherous little craft, a voice called out, "Luff! luff!" which naturally induced Captain Hood to put his helm down, from an idea that shoal water lay close to leeward of him. Nothing could have been more adroitly managed, for before the frigate came head to wind, she stuck fast upon the shoal, to which the words "Luff, luff!" had no doubt been intended to direct her.
A boat was now observed to proceed from the brig to the town. As there was but little wind, and the water perfectly smooth, the Juno's sails were clewed up and handed; but before the men were all off the yards, a gust of wind came sweeping down the harbour, and drove her off the shoal so suddenly as to give her brisk stern-way. The anchor was speedily let go, but when she tended, the after-part of her keel took the ground, and the rudder could not be moved. The launch and cutter being instantly hoisted out, the usual preparations were made to lay out a kedge, to heave the ship off.
At this critical moment a boat came alongside. The people appeared anxious to get out of her, and two of them, apparently officers, came up the side. They said it was the regulation of the port, as well as the commanding officer's orders, that ships should go further into the harbour, there to perform ten days' quarantine. In the despatch relating this transaction, Captain Hood says, "I kept asking them where Lord Hood's ship lay;" the two Frenchmen knew not what to do or say next. In the mean time, one of the mids, who happened to be thrusting his head forward after the investigating manner of this enterprising class of officers, said apart to the captain,—
"Why, sir, they wear national cockades!"
"I looked at one of their hats more steadfastly," says Captain Hood in his narrative, "and by the moonlight clearly distinguished the three colours."
"Perceiving they were suspected," continues Sir Samuel in his narrative, "and on my questioning them again about Lord Hood, one of them replied, 'Soyez tranquille, les Anglais sont de braves gens, nous les traitons bien; l'amiral anglais est sorti il y a quelque temps.'"
In an instant, the situation of the poor Juno became known throughout the ship. The officers crowded round their captain, while the Frenchman, bowing to the right and left, grinned and apologised for the disagreeable necessity of making them all prisoners! It was said of Hood's ship, that, fore and aft, there was but one heart and one mind, and this was an occasion to test its truth. At this moment a flaw of wind coming down the harbour, Lieutenant Webley said to me, "I believe, sir, we shall be able to fetch out if we can get her under sail." I immediately perceived we should have a chance of saving the ship; at least, if we did not, we ought not to lose her without a struggle. Every person was ordered to their stations; but the Frenchmen, perceiving some bustle, began to draw their sabres, but I directed the marines to force them below, which was soon done. In an instant every officer and man was at his duty; and within three minutes every sail in the ship was set, and the yards braced ready for casting. The steady and active assistance of Lieutenant Turner and the other officers prevented any confusion. As soon as the cable was taut, I ordered it to be cut, and had the good fortune to see the ship start from the shore. The head sails were filled; a favourable flaw of wind coming at the same time gave her good way. Not to be retarded by the boats, I ordered them to be cut adrift as well as the French boat. The moment the brig saw us begin to loose sails, we saw she was getting her guns ready, and we also saw lights in all the batteries. When we had shot far enough for the brig's guns to bear on us, which was not more than three ships' lengths, she began to fire; as did a fort a little on the starboard bow, and soon after all of them, on both sides, as they could bring their guns to bear. As soon as the sails were well trimmed, I beat to quarters. When abreast of the centre of Cape Sepet, and were ready to go about, she came up two points, and just weathered the Cape. As we passed very close along that shore, the batteries kept up a brisk fire. When I could keep the ship a little off the wind, I ordered some guns to be fired at a battery that had just opened abreast of us, which quieted them a little. We now stopped firing till we could keep her away, with the wind abaft the beam, when, for a few minutes, we kept up a very lively fire on the last battery we had to pass, which I believe must otherwise have done us great damage. At half-past twelve, being out of reach of their shot, the firing ceased.
The whole of this admirable piece of service was performed so quickly, and at the same time with so much coolness, that there occurred little or no opportunity for any remarkable individual exertion. Everything, as I have heard it described by Sir Samuel Hood himself and by the officers, went on as if the ship had been working out of Plymouth Sound at noon-day. One little incident, however, which caused much amusement in the ship, will help to show the degree of regard in which Sir Samuel was held by those immediately about him; and to disprove the proverb of no man being a hero to his valet-de-chambre.
Dennis M'Carty, an old and faithful servant of Captain Hood's, who was quartered at one of the main-deck guns in the cabin, stood firm enough till the batteries opened on the Juno. No sooner had the firing commenced, and the shot began to come whizzing over and through all parts of the ship, than Dennis, to the great amaze and scandal of his companions, dropped the side tackle-fall, and fairly ran off from his gun. Nothing in the world, however, could be further from poor Pat's mind than fear—except fear for his master, behind whom he soon stationed himself on the quarter-deck; and wherever Captain Hood moved, there Dennis followed, like his shadow; totally unconscious of any personal danger to himself, though the captain was necessarily in the hottest of the fire. At length, Sir Samuel, turning suddenly round, encountered the Irishman full butt.