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Chapter 49:

  • The Alabama passes through the Strait of Sunda, seeing nothing of the Wyoming
  • -- burns the winged Racer just inside the Strait -- the Malay boatmen and their alarm -- Alabama makes for the Gaspar Strait, and burns the contest, after an exciting chase -- passes through the Carimata passage -- discharges her prisoners into an English ship -- miniature sea-serpents -- the currents -- Pulo Condore -- arrival at Singapore

Soon after anchoring as described in the last chapter, we had a false alarm. It was reported that a bark some distance off had suddenly taken in all sail, and turned her head in our direction, as though she were a steamer coming in chase. Orders were given to get up steam, to be ready for any emergency, but countermanded in a few minutes, when upon a partial lifting of the rain-clouds, it was ascertained that the strange sail was a merchant-ship and had only taken in her top-gallant sails to a squall, and clewed down her topsails, to reef. She was indeed coming in our direction, but it was only to take shelter for the night. She was a Dutch bark from Batavia, for the west coast of Sumatra.

The next morning, we got under way, at an early hour, to pass through the Strait of Sunda into the China Sea. We hove up our anchor in the midst of a heavy rain-squall, but the weather cleared as the day advanced, and a fresh and favorable wind soon sprang up. We ran along by Keyser Island, and at half-past 10 lowered the propeller and put the ship under steam. Under both steam and sail we made rapid headway. We passed between the high and picturesque islands [691] of Beezee and Soubooko, the channel being only about a mile in width. Groves of cocoanut-trees grew near the beach on the former island, among which were some straw-thatched huts. From these huts, the natives, entirely naked, except a breech-cloth around the loins, flocked out in great numbers to see the ship pass. Ships do not often take this narrow channel, and the spectacle was, no doubt, novel to them. They made no demonstration, but gazed at us in silence as we flew rapidly past them. We ran through the Strait proper of Sunda, between one and two o'clock in the afternoon, passing to the westward of the island called Thwart-the-Way, and close to the Stroom Rock, lying with its blackened and jagged surface but a few feet above the water. This course carried us in full view of the little town and garrison of Anjer, but we saw nothing of the Wyoming. We found the Strait of Sunda as unguarded by the enemy, as we had found the other highways of commerce along which we had passed.

Just where the Strait debouches into the China Sea, we descried, in the midst of a rain-squall, to which we were both obliged to clew up our top-gallant sails, a tall clipper ship, evidently American. She loomed up through the passing shower like a frigate. We at once gave chase, and in a very few minutes hove the stranger to with a gun. It was the Winged Racer, which our English friend told us had passed out of the Strait some days before in his company. She had, lingered behind for some reason, and as a consequence had fallen into the power of her enemy, with no friendly gun from the Wyoming to protect her. The Winged Racer was a perfect beauty —one of those New York ships of superb model, with taunt, graceful masts, and square yards, known as ‘clippers.’ She was from Manilla, bound for New York, with a cargo consisting chiefly of sugar, hides, and jute. There was no claim of neutral property, and condemnation followed the capture as a matter of course. We anchored her near North Island, and came to, ourselves, for the convenience of ‘robbing’ her. She had sundry provisions on board—particularly sugar and coffee— of which we stood in need. She had, besides, a large supply of Manilla tobacco, and my sailors' pipes were beginning to want replenishing. It took us a greater part of the night—for night [692] had set in by the time the two ships were well anchored—to transport to the Alabama such things as were needed. In the meantime, the master of the captured ship, who had his family on board, requested me to permit him and his crew to depart in his own boats. The portion of the Javan sea in which we were anchored was a mere lake, the waters being shallow, and studded every few miles with islands. He proposed to make his way to Batavia, and report to his Consul for further assistance. I granted his request, made him a present of all his boats, and told him to pack into them as much plunder as he chose. About one o'clock he was ready, and his little fleet of boats departed. The prisoners from the Amanda took passage with him.

Whilst these things were going on, a number of Malay bumboatmen had collected around us, with their stores of fruits, and vegetables, and live stock. These boatmen, like the Chinese, live on the water, and make a business of supplying ships that pass through the Strait. The stewards of the different messes had all been busy trading with them, and there was a great squalling of chickens, and squealing of pigs going on. An amusing scene was now to occur. The boatmen had no suspicion that the Alabama had captured the Winged Racer, and was about to destroy her. They were lying on their oars, or holding on to lines from the two ships, with the most perfect insouciance. Presently a flame leaped up on board the Winged Racer, and in a few minutes enveloped her. Terror at once took possession of the Malay boatmen, and such a cutting of lines, and shouting, and vigorous pulling were perhaps never before witnessed in the Strait of Sunda. These boats had informed us that the Wyoming was at Anger only two days before, when they left.

It was now about two o'clock A. M., and the Alabama getting up her anchor, steamed out into the China Sea, by the light of the burning ship. We had thus lighted a bonfire at either end of the renowned old Strait of Sunda. After having thus advertised our presence in this passage, it was useless to remain in it longer. Ships approaching it would take the alarm, and seek some other outlet into the Indian Ocean. Most of the ships coming down the China Sea, with a view of passing out at the [693] Strait of Sunda, come through the Gaspar Strait. I resolved now to steam in the direction of this latter strait, and forestall such as might happen to be on their way. By daylight we had steamed the coast of Sumatra and Java out of sight, and soon afterward we made the little island called the North Watcher, looking, indeed, as its name implied, like a lone sentinel posted on the wayside. We had lost the beautiful blue waters of the Indian Ocean, with its almost unfathomable depths, and entered upon a sea whose waters were of a whitish green, with an average depth of no more than about twenty fathoms. Finding that I should be up with Gaspar Strait, sometime during the night, if I continued under steam, and preferring to delay my arrival until daylight the next morning, I let my steam go down, and put my ship under sail, to take it more leisurely.

We were about to lift the propeller out of the water, when the cry of ‘sail ho’ came from the vigilant look-out at the mast-head. We at once discontinued the operation, not knowing but we might have occasion to use steam. As the stranger was standing in our direction, we soon raised her from the deck, and as my glass developed, first one, and then another of her features, it was evident that here was another clippership at hand. She had the well-known tall, raking masts, square yards, and white canvas. She was on a wind, with everything set, from courses to skysails, and was ploughing her way through the gently ruffled sea, with the rapidity, and at the same time, the grace of the swan. We made her a point or two on our lee bow, and not to excite her suspicion we kept away for her, so gradually, that she could scarcely perceive the alteration in our course. We hoisted at the same time the United States colors. When we were within about four miles of the chase, she responded by showing us the same colors. Feeling now quite sure of her, we fired a gun, hauled down the enemy's flag, and threw our own to the breeze. (We were now wearing that splendid white flag, with its cross and stars, which was so great an improvement upon the old one.) So far from obeying the command of our gun, the gallant ship kept off a point or two-probably her best point of sailing— gave herself top—gallant and topmast studding-sails, and away she went! [694]

I had been a little premature in my eagerness to clutch so beautiful a prize. She was not — as yet under my guns, and it was soon evident that she would give me trouble before I could overhaul her. The breeze was tolerably fresh, but not stiff. We made sail at once in chase. Our steam had been permitted to go down, as the reader has seen; and as yet we had not much more than enough to turn over the propeller. The chase was evidently gaining on us. It was some fifteen or twenty minutes before the engineer had a head of steam on. We now gave the ship all steam, and trimmed the sails to the best possible advantage. Still the fugitive ship retained her distance from us, if she did not increase it. It was the first time the Alabama had appeared dull. She was under both sail and steam, and yet here was a ship threatening to run away from her. She must surely be out of trim. I tried, therefore, the effect of getting my crew aft on the quarter-deck, and shifting aft some of the forward guns. This helped us visibly, and the ship sprang forward with increased speed. We were now at least holding our own, but it was impossible to say, as yet, whether we were gaining an inch. If the breeze had freshened, the chase would have run away from us beyond all question. I watched the signs of the weather anxiously. It was between nine and ten o'clock A. M. Fortunately, as the sun gained power, and drove away the mists of the morning, the breeze began to decline! Now came the triumph of steam. When we had come within long range, I threw the spray over the quarter-deck of the chase, with a rifle-shot from my bowchaser. Still she kept on, and it was not until all hope was evidently lost, that the proud clipper-ship, which had been beaten rather by the failure of the wind, than the speed of the Alabama, shortened sail and hove to.

When the captain was brought on board, I congratulated him on the skilful handling of his ship, and expressed my admiration of her fine qualities. He told me that she was one of the most famous clipper-ships out of New York. She was the Contest, from Yokohama, in Japan, bound to New York. She was light, and in fine sailing trim, having only a partial cargo on board. There being no attempt to cover the cargo, consisting mostly of light Japanese goods, lacker-ware, and [695] curiosities, I condemned both ship and cargo. I was sorry to be obliged to burn this beautiful ship, and regretted much that I had not an armament for her, that I might commission her as a cruiser. Both ships now anchored in the open sea, with no land visible, in fourteen fathoms of water, whilst the crew was being removed from the prize, and the necessary preparations made for burning her. It was after nightfall before these were all completed, and the torch applied. We hove up our anchor, and made sail by the light of the burning ship. Having now burned a ship off Gaspar Strait, I turned my ship's head to the eastward, with the intention of taking the Carimata Strait.

My coal was running so short, by this time, that I was obliged to dispense with the use of steam, except on emergencies, and work my way from point to point wholly under sail. Fortune favored me however, for I passed through the Carimata Strait in the short space of five days against the northwest monsoon, which was a head-wind. Ships have been known to be thirty days making this passage. I generally anchored at night, on account of the currents, and the exceeding difficulty of the navigation—shoals besetting the navigator on every hand in this shallow sea. We began now to fall in with some of the curiosities of the China Sea. Salt-water serpents made their appearance, playing around the ship, and cutting up their antics. These snakes are from three to five feet long, and when ships anchor at night, have been known to crawl up the cables, and make their way on deck through the hawse-holes, greatly to the annoyance of the sailors who chance to be sleeping on deck. They are not known to be poisonous. Never having been in the China seas before, I was quite amused at the gambols of these minature sea-serpents. Seeing an old sailor stopping up the hawse-holes, with swabs, one evening after we had anchored, I asked him what he was about. ‘I'm stopping out the snakes, y'r honor,’ he replied. ‘What,’ said I, ‘do they come on deck?’ ‘Oh yes, y'r honor; when I was in the ship Flying Cloud, we killed forty of them on deck in one morning watch.’

Naked Malays frequently paddled off to us, when we anchored near their villages, with fowls, and eggs, and fruits, [696] and vegetables, which they desired to exchange for rice and ship-bread. In frail piraguas, these amphibious bipeds will make long voyages from island to island. They seem to be a sort of wandering Arabs of the sea, and, as a rule, are a great set of villains, not hesitating to take a hand at piracy when opportunity offers. So intricate are some of the archipelagos which they inhabit, that it is next to impossible to track them to their hiding-places. These nomads, upon whom no civilization seems to make any impression, will probably long remain the pests of the China seas, in spite of the steamship.

Emerging from the Carimata passage, we stood over to the west end of the island of Souriton, where we anchored at four P. M., on the 18th of November. Here we lay several days, and for the convenience of overhauling passing ships, without the necessity of getting under way, we hoisted out, and rigged our launch, a fine cutter-built boat, and provisioning and watering her for a couple of days at a time, sent her out cruising; directing her, however, to keep herself within sight of the ship. A number of sails were overhauled, but they all proved to be neutral—mostly English and Dutch. I was much struck with the progress the Dutch were making in these seas. Holland, having sunk to a fourth or fifth rate power in Europe, is building up quite an empire in the East. The island of Java is a little kingdom in itself, and the boers, with the aid of the natives, whom they seem to govern with great success are fast bringing its fertile lands into cultivation. Batavia, Sourabia, and other towns are rising rapidly into importance. The Dutch are overrunning the fine island of Sumatra, too. They have established military stations over the greater part of it, and are gradually bringing the native chiefs under subjection. They occupy the spice islands, and are extending their dominion thence to the northward. In short, Great Britain must look to her laurels in the China seas, if she would not divide them with Holland.

In the meantime, the inquiry naturally presents itself, Where is the Yankee? that he is permitting all this rich harvest of colonization and trade in the East to pass away from him. It was at one time thought that he would contest the palm of enterprise with England herself but this dream has long since [697] been dispelled. Even before the war, his trade began to dwindle. During the war it went down to zero, and since the war it has not revived. Is he too busy with his internal dissensions and politics? Is the miserable faction which has ruled the country for the last seven years determined to destroy all its prosperity, foreign as well as domestic?

While lying at Souriton, we boarded the British ship Avalanche, two days from Singapore, with newspapers from America just forty days old! Here was a proof of the British enterprise of which we have just been speaking. The Atlantic, the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, and a part of the China Sea, are traversed by British steam and sail, and the Alabama shakes out the folds of a newspaper from the land of her enemy, at an out-of-the-way island in the China Sea, just forty days old! The Avalanche kindly consenting, we sent by her our prisoners to Batavia. We now got under way, and stood over to the west coast of Borneo, where we cruised for a few days, working our way gradually to the northward; it being my intention as soon as I should take the north-east monsoon, which prevails at this season in the China Sea, to the northward of the equator, to stretch over to the coast of Cochin China, and hold myself for a short time in the track of the ships coming down from Canton and Shanghai. I was greatly tempted as I passed Sarawak, in the island of Borneo, to run in and visit my friend Rajah Brooke, whose career in the East has been so remarkable a one. Cruising in these seas, years ago, when he was a young man, in his own yacht, a jaunty little armed schooner of about 200 tons, he happened in at Sarawak. The natives, taking a fancy to him and his tiny man-of-war, insisted upon electing him their Rajah, or Governor. He assented, got a foothold in the island grew in favor, increased his dominions, and was, at the period of our visit to the coast, one of the most powerful Rajahs in Borneo. Since my return from the China seas, the Rajah has died, full of years and full of honors, bequeathing his government to a blood relation. It would be difficult for even a Yankee to beat that!

Upon reaching this coast, we struck a remarkable northerly current. It ran at the rate of two knots per hour, its general set being about north-east. The weather falling calm, we were [698] several days within its influence. When it had drifted us as far to the northward as I desired to go, I was obliged to let go a kedge in fifty fathoms water to prevent further drift. The current now swept by us at so rapid a rate, that we were compelled to lash two deep sea leads together, each weighing forty-five pounds, to keep our drift-lead on the bottom. Here was another of those elliptical currents spoken of a few pages back. If the reader will look at a map of the China Sea, he will observe that the north-east monsoon, as it comes sweeping down that sea, in the winter months, blows parallel with the coasts of China and Cochin China. This wind drives a current before it to the south-west. This current, as it strikes the peninsula of Malacca, is deflected to the eastward toward the coast of Sumatra. Impinging upon this coast, it is again deflected and driven off in the direction of the island of Borneo. This island in turn gives it a northern direction, and the consequence is, that the south-westerly current which came sweeping down the western side of the China Sea, is now going up on the eastern side of the same sea, as a north-easterly current. We lay five days at our kedge, during a calm that lasted all that time. The monsoons were changing; the west monsoon was setting in in the East Indian archipelago, and the north-eastern monsoon in the China Sea. Hence the calms, and rains, and sudden gusts of wind, now from one quarter, and now from another, which we had experienced. At the end of these five days of calm, we took the north-east monsoon, from about N. N. E., and, getting up our kedge, we made our way over to the coast of Cochin China, in accordance with the intention already expressed.

There is no navigation, perhaps, in the world, so trying to the vigilance and nerves of the mariner as that of the China seas. It is a coral sea, and filled with dangers in almost every direction, especially in its eastern portion, from the Philippine Islands down to the Strait of Sunda. The industrious little stone-mason, which we have before so often referred to, has laid the foundation of a new empire, at the bottom of the China Sea, and is fast making his way to the surface. He has already dotted the sea with ten thousand islands, in its eastern portion, and is silently and mysteriously piling up his tiny blocks of [699] stone, one upon another, in the central and western portions. He is working very irregularly, having large gangs of hands employed here, and very few there, and is running up his structures in very fantastic shapes, some in solid blocks, with even surfaces, some as pyramids, and some as cones. The tops of the pyramids and cones are sometimes as sharp as needles, and pierce a ship's bottom as readily as a needle would a lady's finger. It is impossible to survey such a sea with accuracy. A surveying vessel might drop a lead on almost every square foot of bottom, and yet miss some of these mere needle-points. A ship, with the best of modern charts, may be threading this labyrinth, as she thinks, quite securely, and suddenly find herself impaled upon one of these dangers.

To add to the perplexity of the navigator, days sometimes elapse, especially when the monsoons are changing, during which it is impossible to get an observation for fixing the position of his ship; and during these days of incessant darkness, and drenching rains, he is hurried about by currents, he knows not whither. And then, perhaps, the typhoon comes along—that terrible cyclone of the China seas—at the very moment, it may be, when he is, by reason of the causes mentioned, uncertain of his position, and compels him to scud his ship at hazard, among shoals and breakers! I lost many nights of rest when in these seas, and felt much relieved when the time came for me to turn my back upon them. The wind freshened as we drew out from the coast of Borneo, and by the time we had reached the track of the westward-bound ships, we found the monsoon blowing a whole topsail-breeze. We struck, at the same time, the south-westerly current described, and what with the wind and the current, we found it as much as we could do to hold our own, and prevent ourselves from being drifted to leeward. It soon became apparent that it would be useless to attempt operations here, unless assisted by steam. Every chase would probably carry us miles to leeward, whence it would be impossible, under sail alone, to regain our position. Still, we held ourselves a day or two in the track, in accordance with my previous determination, overhauling several ships, none of which, however, proved to be enemy. [700]

At the end of this short cruise, we made sail for the island of Condore, or, as it is called on the charts of the China Sea, Pulo Condore, the word ‘pulo’ being the Chinese term for island. My intention was to run into this small island, which has a snug harbor, sheltered from the monsoon, do some necessary repairs with my own mechanics, refit and repaint, and then run down to Singapore, and fill up with coal. My future course would be guided by contingencies. We made Pulo Condore early in the afternoon of the second of December, and passing to the northward of the ‘White Rock,’ bore up, and ran along the western side of the island until nightfall, when we anchored under the lee of a small, rocky island, near the mouth of the harbor. The scenery was bold, picturesque, and impressive. All was novelty; the shallow sea, the whistling monsoon, and the little islands rising so abruptly from the sea, that a goat could scarcely clamber up their sides. The richest vegetation covered these islands from the sea-level to their summits. Occasionally a break or gap in the mountain—for Pulo Condore rises to the height of a mountain—disclosed charming ravines, opening out into luxuriant plains, where were grazing the wild cattle of the country—the bison, or small-humped buffalo of the East.

At daylight the next morning, upon looking into the harbor with our glasses, we were surprised to see a small vessel at anchor, wearing the French flag; and pretty soon afterward we were boarded by a French boat; Pulo Condore—lying off the coast of Cochin China—having recently become a French colony. The island had been taken possession of by France two years before. The vessel was a ship of war, keeping watch and ward over the lonely waters. This was a surprise. I had expected to find the island in the hands of the Malay nomads who infest these seas, and to have converted it into Confederate territory, as I had done Angra Pequeña, on the west coast of Africa—at least during my stay. And so when I had invited the French officer, who was himself the commander of the little craft, into my cabin, I remarked to him, ‘You have spoiled a pet project of mine.’ ‘How so?’ said he. I then explained to him how, in imitation of my friend Brooke, I had intended to play Rajah for a few weeks, in Pulo [701] Condore. He laughed heartily, and said, ‘Sera tout le meme chose, Monsieur. Vous portez plus de cannons que moi, et vous serez Rajah, pendant votre sejour.’ I did carry a few more guns than my French friend, for his little man-of-war was only a craft of the country, of less than a hundred tons burden, armed with one small carronade. His crew consisted of about twenty men.

I found him as good as his word, with reference to my playing Rajah, for he did not so much as mention to me, once, any rule limiting the stay of belligerents in French waters. We now got under way, and stood in to the anchorage, the French officer kindly consenting to show me the way in; though there was but little need, as the harbor was quite free from obstructions, except such as were plainly visible. The water in this cosy little harbor was as smooth as a mill-pond, notwithstanding occasional gusts of the monsoon swept down the mountain sides. There were mountains on two sides of us, both to the north and south. The harbor was, in fact, formed by two mountainous islands, both passing under the name of Condore; there being only a boat-passage separating them on the east.

This was our first real resting-place, since leaving the Cape of Good Hope, and both officers and men enjoyed the relaxation. The island was full of game, the bay full of fish, and the bathing very fine. We felt quite secure, too, against the approach of an enemy. The only enemy's steamer in these seas was the Wyoming, for which we regarded ourselves as quite a match. We had, besides, taken the precaution, upon anchoring, to lay out a spring, by which we could, in the course of a few minutes, present our broadside to the narrow entrance of the harbor, and thus rake anything that might attempt the passage. The Governor of the island now came on board to visit us. He had his headquarters at a small Malay village on the east coast, where, by the aid of a sergeant's guard, he ruled his subjects with despotic sway. He brought me on board a present of a pig, and generously offered to share with me a potato-patch near the ship. What more could a monarch do? This was an exceedingly clever young Frenchman—Monsieur Bizot—he was an ensign in the French [702] Navy, about twenty-two years of age, and a graduate of the French naval school. The commander of his flag-ship—the small country craft already described—was a midshipman. These two young men had entire control of the government of the island, civil and military.

Kell having set his mechanics at work in the various departments, to effect the necessary repairs on the ship, I relaxed the reins of discipline, as much as possible, that, by boat-sailing, fishing, and hunting excursions, my people might recruit from the ill effects of their long confinement on ship-board, and the storms and bad weather they had experienced. The northeast monsoon having now fairly set in, the weather had become fine. The heat was very great, it is true, but it was much tempered by the winds. During the two weeks that we remained in the island, almost every part of it was explored by my adventurous hunters—even the very mountain tops—and marvellous were the reports of their adventures which they brought on board. Some small specimens of deer were found; the bison—the bull of which is very savage, not hesitating to assault the hunter, under favorable circumstances—abounded on the small savannas; monkeys travelled about in troops; parrots, and other birds of beautiful plumage, wheeled over our heads in flocks—in short, the whole island seemed teeming with life. The natives told us that there were many large, and some poisonous serpents in the jungles, but fortunately none of my people were injured by them.

We found here the famous vampyre of the East. Several specimens were shot, and brought on board. Some of these monster bats measure from five to six feet from tip to tip of wing. The head resembles that of a wolf. It has long and sharp incisor-teeth and tusks, and would be a dangerous animal to attack an unarmed man. The reptile tribe flourishes in perfection. A lizard, measuring five feet ten inches in length, was brought on board by one of the hunters. Nature runs riot in every direction, and the vegetable world is as curious as the animal. The engineer coming on board, one day, from one of his excursions, pulled out his cigar case, and offered me a very tempting Havana cigar. Imagine my surprise when I found it a piece of wood! It had been plucked fresh from [703] the tree. The size, shape, and color—a rich brown—were all perfect. It was not a capsule or a seed-pod, but a solid piece of wood, with the ordinary woody fibre, and full of sap. I put it away carefully among my curiosities, but after a few days it shrivelled, and lost its beauty.

The apes did not appear to be afraid of the gun—probably because they were not accustomed to be shot at. They would cluster around a hunting-party, and grin and chatter like so many old negroes, one sometimes sees on the coast of Africa. One of the midshipmen having shot one, described the death of the old gentleman to me, and said that he felt almost as if he had killed his old ‘uncle’ on his father's plantation. The wounded creature—whatever it may be, man or animal— threw its arms over the wound, and moaned as plaintively and intelligibly as if it had been gifted with the power of speech, and were upbraiding its slayer. During our stay I made the acquaintance—through my opera-glass—of several of these lampoons upon human nature. A gang of apes, old and young, came down to the beach regularly every morning, to look at the ship. The old men and women would seat themselves in rows, and gaze at us, sometimes for an hour, without changing their places or attitudes—seeming to be absorbed in wonder. I became quite familiar with some of their countenances. The young people did not appear to be so strongly impressed. They would walk about the beach in twos and threes—making love, most likely, and settling future family arrangements. The children, meanwhile, would be romping around the old people, screaming and barking in very delight. If a boat approached them, the old people would give a peculiar whistle, when the younger members of the tribe would betake themselves at once to the cover of the adjoining jungle.

A hunting party, landing here one morning, shot one of these old apes. The rest scampered off, and were seen no more that day. The next morning, upon turning my operaglass upon the beach, I saw the monkeys as usual, but they were broken into squads, and moving about in some disorder, instead of being seated as usual. I could plainly see some of them at work. Some appeared to be digging in the sand, and others to be bringing twigs and leaves of trees, and such of the [704] debris of the forest as they could gather conveniently. It was my usual hour for landing, to get sights for my chronometers. As the boat approached, the whole party disappeared. I had the curiosity to walk to the spot, to see what these semi-human beings had been doing. They had been burying their dead comrade, and had not quite finished covering up the body, when they had been disturbed! The deceased seemed to have been popular, for a large concourse had come to attend his funeral. The natives told us, that this burial of the monkeys was a common practice. They believe in monkey doctors, too, for they told us that when they have come upon sick monkeys in the woods, they have frequently found some demure old fellows looking very wise, with their fingers on their noses sitting at their bed-sides. The ladies may be curious to know, from the same good authority, how the monkeys of Pulo Condore treat their women. As among the Salt Lake saints, polygamy prevails, and there are sometimes as many as a dozen females ‘sealed’ to one old patriarch—especially if he be broad across the shoulders, and have sharp teeth. The young lady monkeys are required to form matrimonial connections during the third or fourth season of their belledom; that is to say, the parent monkeys will permit their daughters to sally out and return home as often as they please, after they have ‘come out,’ until three or four moons have elapsed. After that time they are expected to betake themselves to their own separate trees for lodging.

I was frequently startled, whilst we lay at Pulo Condore, at hearing what appeared to be the whistle of a locomotiverather shrill, it may be, but very much resembling it. It proceeded from an enormous locust.

Pulo Condore lies in the route of the French mail-steamer, between Singapore and Saigon, the latter the capital of the French possessions in Cochin China, and the Governor receiving a large mail while we were here, was kind enough to send us some late papers from Paris and Havre. Every two or three days, too, he sent us fresh beef, fowls, and fruits. On the Sunday evening after our arrival, he, and his paymaster repeated their visit to us, and brought in the same boat with themselves, a bullock—a fine fat bison! In a country comparatively wild, [705] and where supplies were so difficult to be obtained, these presents were greatly enhanced in value. Poor Monsieur Bizot! we all regretted to learn, upon our return to Europe, that this promising young officer, so full of talent, life, energy, hope, had fallen a victim to a malarial fever.

Kell performed quite a feat at Pulo Condore in the way of ship-carpentry. Our copper having fallen off, some distance below the water-line, he constructed a coffer or caisson, that fitted the side of the ship so nicely, when sunk to the required depth, that he had only to pump it out, with our fire-engine and suction-hose, to enable his mechanics to descend into a dry box and effect the necessary repairs. We found our ship so much out of order, that it required two weeks to get her ready for sea. At the end of this time, we took an affectionate leave of our French friends, and getting under way, under sail, we again threw ourselves into the monsoon, and south-west current, and turned our head in the direction of Singapore. We crossed the Gulf of Siam under easy sail, that we might have the benefit of any chance capture, that might present itself. There was a number of vessels hurrying on before the brisk monsoon, but no Yankee among them. The Yankee flag had already become a stranger in the China Sea. On the evening of the 19th of December, we ran in, and anchored under Pulo A or, in twenty fathoms water, within half a mile of the village, on the south-west end of the island. The island is high, and broken —its forests being composed almost entirely of the cocoanut— and is inhabited by the same class of Malay nomads already described. Their houses were picturesquely scattered among the trees, and several large boats were hauled up near them, on the beach, ready for any enterprise that might offer, in their line. The head man came off to visit me, and some piraguas with fowls and fruits came alongside, to trade with the sailors.

These islanders appeared to be a merry set of fellows, for during nearly the whole night, we could hear the sound of tomtoms, and other musical instruments, as though they were engaged in the mysteries of the dance. Some very pretty specimens of young women, naked to the middle, came off in their light piraguas, handling the paddle equally with the men, and [706] appearing quite as much at home on the water. The next day being Sunday, and the weather not being very propitious for our run to Singapore, it being thick and murky, we remained over at our anchors, at this island, mustering the crew, and inspecting the ship as usual. After muster, some of the officers visited the shore, and were hospitably received by the natives. They saw no evidences of the cultivation of the soil, or of any other kind of labor. Nature supplied the inhabitants, spontaneously, with a regular succession of fruits all the year round, and as for clothing, they needed none, so near the equator. The sea gave them fish; and the domestic fowl, which seemed to take care of itself, and the goat which browsed without care also on the mountain-side, secured them against the caprice of the elements. Their physique was well developed, and life seemed to be with them a continual holiday. Who shall say that the civilized man is a greater philosopher, than the savage of the China seas?

On the next morning, at a very early hour—just as the cocks on shore were crowing for early daylight—we hove up our anchor, and giving the ship both steam and sail, shaped our course for Singapore. Soon after getting under way, we fell in company with an English steamer running also in our direction. The navigation, as one approaches the Strait of Malacca, on which Singapore is situated, is very difficult, there being some ugly shoals by the wayside; and the weather coming on thick, and heavy rains setting in, we were obliged to anchor in the mouth of the Strait for several hours. The weather now lifting, and the clouds breaking away, we got under way, again, and taking a Malay pilot soon afterward, we ran into Singapore, and anchored, at about five P. M. The harbor was filled with shipping, but there was no United States ship of war among the number. The reader has seen that the Wyo ming was at Anger in the Strait of Sunda, only two days before we burned the Winged Racer. She must have heard of that event soon after its occurrence, and also of our burning the Contest near Gaspar Strait. The English ship Avalanche had, besides, carried news to Batavia, that we were off Sorouton, still higher up the China Sea. The Wyoming, if she had any intention of seeking a fight with us, was thus entirely deceived [707] by our movements. These indicated that we were bound to Canton and Shanghai, and thither, probably, she had gone. She must have passed within sight of Pulo Condore, while we were scraping down our masts, tarring our rigging, and watching the funeral of the dead monkey described; and about the time she was ready to run into Hongkong, in the upper part of the China Sea, we had run into Singapore, and anchored in the lower part.

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