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A dinner audience Adventure with a priest Sanatarium for Ningpo missionaries and others Abies Kζmpferi Journey to Quanting Bamboo woods and their value Magnificent scenery Natives of Poo-in-chee Golden bell at Quan-ting Chinese traditions Cold of the mountains Journey with Mr. Wang A disappointment Adventure with pirates Strange but satisfactory signal Results.
THE bedroom which I expressed a wish to occupy, as it seemed somewhat cleaner than the others, was used during the day by an itinerant tailor, a native of Fung-hwa-heen, who was in the habit of going from place to place to mend or make the garments of his customers. This man willingly removed to other quarters, and gave the room up tome. He was a good specimen of his race, shrewd, intelligent, and formed a striking contrast to the priest for whom he was working. Never in all my travels in China had I met with such poor specimens of the human race as these same priests. They had that vacant stare about them which indicated want of intellect, or at least, a mind of a very low order indeed. They did nothing all day long but loll on chairs or stools, and gaze upon the ground, or into space, or at the people who were working, and then they did not appear to see what was going on, but kept looking on and on notwithstanding. The time not spent in this way was when they were either eating or sleeping. They were too lazy to carry on the services of the temple, which they deputed to a little boy. And thus they spent their days, and in this manner they would float down the stream of time until they reached the ocean of eternity and were no more seen.
There were four or five of these men connected with the old monastery, and two or three boys, who were being reared to succeed them. . All the men were apparently imbecile, but the superior seemed to be in a state approaching to insanity. I seemed to have an extraordinary attraction for this man; he never took his eyes off me; wherever I went he followed at a certain distance behind, stopping when I stopped, and going on again when I went on. When I entered the house he came and peeped in at the window, and when I made the slightest motion towards him, he darted off in an instant, but only to return again. I began to think his actions extraordinary, and to feel a little uneasy about his ultimate intentions. The place and the people were all strange to me, and it might so happen that the man was really unsafe. By day there was no fear, as I could easily protect myself; but what if he fell upon me unawares at night, when I was asleep! I therefore sent for Tung-a, one of my servants, and desired him to go out and make some enquiries concerning the propensities of the mad priest.
Tung-a returned laughing, and told me there was no danger; the man was not mad, but that it was partly fear, and partly curiosity which made him act in the manner he was doing, and further, that I was the first specimen of my race he had seen.
During the time I was at dinner, and for some time after, in addition to some of the more respectable who were admitted into the room, the doors and windows were completely besieged with people. Every little hole or crevice had a number of eager eyes peeping through it, each anxious to see the foreigner feed. Having finished my dinner and smoked a cigar, much to the delight of an admiring audience, I politely intimated that it was getting late, that I was tired with the exertions of the day, and that I was going to bed. My inside guests rose and retired; but it seemed to me they only went outside to join the crowd, and they were determined to see the finale; they had seen how I eat, drank, and smoked my cigar, and they now wanted to see how and in what manner I went to bed. My temper was unusually sweet at this time, and therefore I had no objection to gratify them even in this, providing they remained quiet and allowed me to get to sleep. A traveller generally does not spend much of his time over the toilet, either in dressing or undressing, so that in less time than I would take to describe it I was undressed, the candle was put out, and I was in bed. As there was nothing more to be seen the crowd left my window, and as they retired I could hear them laughing and talking about what they had seen.
The chamber in which the head-priest, whom I have described, was wont to repose after the fatigues of the day, was behind the one occupied by me, and it appeared it was necessary to come through mine in order to get into it. I had examined the chamber and learned to whom it belonged in the course of the evening. Not caring to be disturbed by having my door opened and a person walking through my room after I was in bed and asleep, I had suggested to the priest the propriety of going to bed about the same time as I did. When the crowd therefore had left my windows, I heard one or two persons whispering outside and still lingering there. I called out to them and desired them to go away to their beds. "Loya, Loya!"1 a voice cried, "the Ta-Hosan (high-priest) wants to go to bed." "Well," said I, "come along, the door is not locked." "But he has not had his supper yet," another voice replied. "Tell him to go and get it then, as quickly as possible, for I do not wish to be disturbed after I go to sleep."
The fatigue of climbing the mountain-pass, and the healthy fresh air of the mountains, soon sent me to sleep, and I dare say the priest might have walked through the room without my knowing anything about it. How long I slept I know not, for the room was quite dark; but I was awakened by the same voices which had addressed me before, and again informed that the Ta-Hosan wanted to come to bed.
"Well, well, come to bed and let me have no more of your noise," said I, being at the time half-asleep and half-awake; and going off sound again immediately I heard no more. Next morning, when I awoke, the day was just beginning to dawn, and daylight was streaming through the paper window and rendering the tables and chairs in the apartment partially visible. The proceedings of the evening seemed to have got mixed up somehow with my dreams, but as they became gradually distinct to the mind, and separated, I began to wonder whether my friend the priest had occupied his bedroom during the night. The door was closed and seemed in the same state in which I left it when I went to bed, and I could hear no sound of anything breathing or moving through the thin partition-wall which divided our rooms. In order to satisfy myself I gently opened the door and looked in. But no priest was there. The bed had been prepared, and the padded coverlet carefully folded for his reception, but all remained in the same condition, and showed plainly that no one had occupied the room during the night.
Tung-a now made his appearance with my morning cup of tea. It turned out on inquiry that the poor old priest could not get over his superstitious dread of me; he was anxious to get to his own bed, and had striven hard to accomplish his object; but it was quite beyond his power. It was now easy enough to account for his conduct at my window the night previous. When it was found he could not conquer his fears a brother priest gave him a share of his bed, and I had been left to the undisturbed repose which I greatly required.
The valley of Tsan-tsin, as I have already stated, is high up amongst the mountains, some 1500 or 2000 feet above the level of the sea. It is completely surrounded by mountains, many of them apparently from 3000 to 4000 feet high. Even in the hot summer months, although warm during the day in the sun, the evenings, nights, and mornings, are comparatively cool. At this time of the year the southwest monsoon is blowing, but ere it reaches the valley it passes over a large tract of high mountains, and consequently gets cooled on its course. This appears to be the reason why the country, even at the foot of the mountains here, is cooler than further down in the Ningpo valley.
I have frequently thought this would make an admirable sanitary station for the numerous missionaries and other foreigners who live at Ningpo. Could the Chinese authorities be induced to allow them to build a small bungalow or two in the valley, they might thus have a cool and healthy retreat to fly to in case of sickness. It is easy of access even to invalids, and could be reached in a day and a half, or at most two days from Ningpo.
I have already noticed a new cedar or larch-tree named Abies Kζmpferi discovered amongst these mountains. I had been acquainted with this interesting tree for several years in China, but only in gardens, and as a pot plant in a dwarfed state. The Chinese, by their favourite system of dwarfing, contrive to make it, when only a foot and a half or two feet high, have all the characters of an aged cedar of Lebanon. It is called by them the Kin-le-sung, or Golden Pine, probably from the rich yellow appearance which the ripened leaves and cones assume in the autumn. Although I had often made enquiries after it, and endeavoured to get the natives to bring me some cones, or to take me to a place where such cones could be procured, I met with no success until the previous autumn, when I had passed by the temple from another part of the country. Their stems, which I measured, were fully five feet in circumference two feet from the ground, and carried this size, with a slight diminution, to a height of 50 feet, that being the height of the lower branches. The total height I estimated about 120 or 130 feet. The stems were perfectly straight throughout, the branches symmetrical, slightly inclined to the horizontal form, and having the appearance of something between the cedar and larch. The long branchless stems were, no doubt, the result of their growing close together and thickly surrounded with other trees, for I have since seen a single specimen growing by itself on a mountain side at a much higher elevation, whose lower branches almost touched the ground. This specimen I shall notice by-and-by.
I need scarcely say how pleased I was with the discovery I had made, or with what delight, with the permission and assistance of the good priests, I procured a large supply of those curious cones sent to England in the winter of 1853.
I now lost no time in visiting the spot of my last year's discovery. The trees were there as beautiful and symmetrical as ever, but after straining my eyes for half-an-hour I could not detect a single cone. I returned to the temple and mentioned my disappointment to the priests, and asked them whether it was possible to procure cones from any other part of the country. They told me of various places where there were trees, but whether these had seed upon them or not they could not say. They further, consoled me with a piece of information, which, although I was most unwilling to believe it, I knew to be most likely too true, namely, that this tree rarely bore cones two years successively, that last year was its bearing year, and that this one it was barren. A respectable looking man, who was on a visit to the temple, now came up to me and said that he knew a place where a large number of trees were growing, and that if I would visit the temple to which he belonged he would take me to this spot, and that there I would probably find what I wanted. I immediately took down the name of his residence, which he told me was Quan-ting, a place about twenty le distant from the temple in which I was domiciled, and at a much higher elevation on the mountains. After making an appointment for next day he took his leave of me with great politeness, and returned to his home.
Having procured a guide for Quan-ting, I set out early next day to visit my new acquaintance.
Leaving the temple of Tsan-tsing, our way led up a steep pass, paved with granite stones. On each side of the road were forests of fine bamboos the variety called by the Chinese Maou, the finest I ever saw. The forests are very valuable, not only on account of the demand for the full-grown bamboos, but also for the young shoots, which are dug up and sold in the markets in the early part of the season, Here, too, were dense woods of Cryptotraria, Cunninghamia lanceolata, oaks, chesnuts, and such like representatives of a cold or temperate climate.
On the road up the mountain pass I met long trains of coolies, heavily laden with bamboos, and on their way to the plains. The weight of the loads which these men carry is perfectly astonishing; even little boys were met carrying loads which I found some difficulty in lifting. All these people are accustomed to this work from their earliest years, and this is no doubt one of the reasons why they are able to carry such heavy loads.
This fine bamboo may be regarded as a staple production amongst these mountains, and one of great value to the natives. In the spring and early summer months its young shoots furnish a large supply of food of a kind much esteemed by the Chinese. At that time of the year the same long trains of coolies which I had just met carrying the trees, may then be seen loaded with the young shoots. The trees in the autumn and the young shoots in spring, are carried down to the nearest navigable stream, where they are put on rafts, or in small flat-bottomed boats, and conveyed a few miles down until the water becomes deep enough to be navigated by the common boats of the country. They are then transferred into the larger boats, and in them conveyed to the populous towns and cities in the plain, where they always find a ready sale. Thus this valuable tree, which is cultivated at scarcely any expense, gives employment and food to the natives of these mountains for nearly one-half the year. All the way up the mountain passes the axe of the woodman was heard cutting down the trees. In many parts the mountains were steep enough for the trees to slide down to the road without any more labour than that required to set them in motion.
When I reached the top of this pass I got into a long narrow valley the valley of Poo-in-chee where the road was nearly on a level. This valley must be nearly 1000 feet higher than Tsan-tsing, or between two and three thousand feet above the level of the plain. At the top of the mountain-pass, and just before entering this valley, some most glorious views were obtained. Behind, before, and on my left hand, there was nothing but steep and rugged mountains covered with grass and brushwood, but untouched by the hand of man, while far down below in a deep dell, a little stream was dashing over its rocky bed and hurrying onwards to swell the river in the plain with its clear, cool waters. A little further on, when I looked to my right hand, a view of another kind, even grander still, met my eye. An opening in the mountain exposed to view the valley of Ningpo lying far below me, and stretching away to the eastward for some thirty miles, where it meets the ocean, and appeared bounded by the islands in the Chusan Archipelago. Its cities, villages, and pagodas were dimly seen in the distance, while its noble river was observed winding through the plain and bearing on its surface hundreds of boats, hurrying to and fro, and carrying on the commerce of the country. The picture was grand and sublime, and the impression produced by it then must ever remain engraved on my mind.
The village of Poo-in-chee is a straggling little place and contains but few inhabitants. Many of these mountaineers indeed, the greater part of them had never seen a foreigner in their lives. As I approached the village the excitement amongst them was very great. Every living thing men, women, and children, dogs, and cats seemed to turn out to look at me. Many of them, judging from the expression on their countenances, were not entirely free from fear. "I might be harmless, but it was just as possible I might be a cannibal, or somewhat like a tiger." In circumstances of this kind it is always best to take matters coolly and quietly. Observing a respectable-looking old man sitting in front of one of the best houses in the village, I went up to him and politely asked him if he "had eaten his rice." He called out immediately to a boy to bring me a chair, and begged me to rest a little before I proceeded on my journey. As usual, tea was brought and set before me. As I chatted away with the old man, the natives gathered confidence and crowded round us in great numbers. Their fears soon left them when they found I was much like one of themselves, although without a tail. Everything about me was examined and criticised with the greatest minuteness. My hat, my clothes, my shoes, and particularly my watch, were all objects which attracted their attention. I took all this in good part, answered all their questions, and I trust when I left them their opinion of the character of foreigners had somewhat changed.
Another mountain-pass had now to be got over, nearly as high as the last one. When the top of this was gained, I found I was now on the summit of the highest range in this part of the country. Our road now winded along the tops of the mountains at this elevation for several miles, and at last descended into the Quan-ting valley, for which I was bound. This was somewhat like the Poo-in-chee valley just described, and apparently about the same elevation.
Having reached the temple, I had no difficulty in finding my acquaintance of the previous day, Mr. Wang-a-nok, as he called himself. It now appeared he was a celebrated cook the Soyer of the district and had been engaged on this day to prepare a large dinner for a number of visitors who had come to worship at the temple. He told me he would be ready to accompany me as soon as the dinner was over, and invited me to be seated in the priest's room until that time. As there was nothing in the temple of much interest, I preferred taking a stroll amongst the hills. Before I set out I made inquiry of Wang and the priest whether there were any objects of interest in the vicinity more particularly worth my attention. I was told there was one place of more than common interest, which I ought to see, and at the same time several persons offered to accompany me as guides. We then started off to inspect the new wonder, whatever it might turn out to be.
A short distance in the rear of the temple my guides halted at the edge of a little pool, which was surrounded with a few willows and other stunted bushes. They now pointed to the little pool, and informed me this was what they had brought me to see. "Is this all?" said I, with features which, no doubt, expressed astonishment; "I see nothing here but a small pond, with a few water-lilies and other weeds on its surface." "Oh, but there is a golden bell in that pool," they replied. I laughed, and asked them if they had seen it, and why they did not attempt to get it out. They replied that none of them had seen it, and that it was impossible to get it out; but that it was there, nevertheless, they firmly believed. I confess I was a good deal surprised, and was half inclined to think my friends were having a good-humoured joke at my expense, but again, when I looked in their faces, I could detect nothing of this kind expressed in any of their countenances. Much puzzled with this curiosity, and not being able to gain any information calculated to unravel the mystery, I determined to keep the subject in mind, and endeavour to get an explanation from some one who was better informed than these countrymen appeared to be.
A short time after this I happened to meet a Chinese gentleman who had travelled a great deal in many parts of his own country, and whose intelligence was of a higher order than that of his countrymen generally. To this man I applied for a solution of the Kin-chung, or golden bell. When I had described what I bad seen at Quanting, he laughed heartily, and informed me that it was simply a superstition or tradition which had been handed down from one generation to another, and that the ignorant believed in the existence of such things although they did not endeavour to account for them. He further informed me such traditions were very common throughout China, particularly about Buddhists' temples and other remarkable places visited by the natives for devotional purposes. Thus, at the falls in the Snowy Valley, which I have already noticed, there was said to be a Heang-loo, or incense burner, of fabulous size, which no one had ever seen or were likely to see; and a large white horse was said to reside somewhere in the mountain called T'hae-bah-san, which rises to the height of 2000 feet behind the old monastery of Teintung. All these were simply traditionary stories, which are believed by the vulgar and ignorant, but, as my informant said, are laughed at by men of education and sound sense.
Not being able to find the golden bell, and as the sight of the spot where it was supposed to be had not produced the impression which my companions and guides had supposed it would, they dropped off, one by one, and returned to the temple, while I was left alone to ramble amongst the wild scenes of these mountains. There was, however, little time to spare, and I was most anxious to secure the services of Mr. Wang the moment he had finished his culinary operations. I, therefore, returned to the temple, and arrived there soon after the group who had taken me to see the golden bell. I found them explaining to the priests and other visitors how disappointed I had been, and how incredulous I was as to the existence of the said bell itself.
The temple of Quan-ting has no pretensions as regards size, and appeared to be in a most dilapidated condition. In one of the principal halls I observed a table spread and covered with many good things, which were intended as an offering to Buddha. The expected visitors, who appeared to be the farmers and other respectable inhabitants of the neighbourhood, were arriving in considerable numbers, and each one as he came in prostrated himself in front of the table.
As the valley in which the temple is placed is fully 3000 feet above the sea, I felt the air most piercingly cold, although it was only the middle of October, and hot enough in the plains in the daytime. So cold was it that at last I was obliged to take refuge in the kitchen, where Mr. Wang was busy with his preparations for the dinner, and where several fires were burning. This place had no chimney, so the smoke had to find its way out through the doors, windows, or broken roof, or, in fact, any way it could. My position here was, therefore, far from being an enviable one, although I got a little warmth from the fires. I was, therefore, glad when dinner was announced, as there was then some prospect of being able to get the services of Mr. Wang. The priests and some of the visitors now came and invited me to dine with them, and, although I was unwilling, they almost dragged me to the table. In the dining-room, which was the same, by-the-bye, in which they were worshipping on my arrival, I found four tables placed, at one of which I was to sit down, and I was evidently considered the lion of the party. They pressed me to eat and to drink, and although I could not comply with their wishes to the fullest extent, I did the best I could to merit such kindness and politeness. But I shall not attempt a description of a Chinese dinner which, like the dinner itself, would be necessarily a long one, and will only say that, like all good things, it came to an end at last, and Mr. Wang having finished his in the kitchen and taken a supply in his pockets, declared himself ready for my service.
Our road led us up to the head of the valley in which the temple stands, and then it seemed as if all further passage was stopped by high mountain barriers. As we got nearer, however, I observed a path winding up round the mountain, and by this road we reached the top of a range of mountains fully a thousand feet higher than any we had passed, or 4000 feet above the sea. When we reached the top the view that met our eyes on all sides rewarded us richly for all the toil of the morning. I had seen nothing so grand as this since my journey across the Bohea mountains. On all sides, in whichever direction I looked, nothing was seen but mountains of various heights and forms, reminding one of the waves of a stormy sea. Far below us, in various directions, appeared richly cultivated and well wooded valleys; but they seemed so far off, and in some places the hills were so precipitous, that it made me giddy to look down. On the top where we were there was nothing but stunted brushwood, but, here and there, where the slopes were gentle, I observed a thatched hut and some spots of cultivation. At this height I met with some lycopods, gentians, and other plants not observed at a lower elevation. I also found a hydrangea in a leafless state, which may turn out a new species, and which I have introduced to Europe. If it proves to be an ornamental species it will probably prove quite hardy in England.
We had left the highest point of the mountain ridge, and were gradually descending, when on rounding a point I observed at a distance a sloping hill covered with the beautiful object of our search the Abies Kζmpferi. Many of the trees were young, and all had apparently been planted by man; at least, so far as I could observe, they had nothing of a natural forest character about them. One tree in particular seemed the queen of the forest, from its great size and beauty, and to that we bent our steps. It was standing all alone, measured 8 feet in circumference, was fully 130 feet high, and its lower branches were nearly touching the ground. The lower branches had assumed a flat and horizontal form, and came out almost at right angles with the stem, but the upper part of the tree was of a conical shape, resembling more a larch than a cedar of Lebanon. But there were no cones even on this or on any of the others, although the natives informed us they had been loaded with them on the previous year. I had, therefore, to content myself with digging up a few self-sown young plants which grew near it; these were afterwards planted in Ward's cases and sent to England, where they arrived in good condition.
I now parted from my friend Mr. Wang, who returned to his mountain home at Quan-ting, while I and my guide pursued our journey towards the temple at which I was staying by a different route from that by which we had come. The road led us through the same kind of scenery which I have endeavoured to describe mountains; nothing but mountains, deep valleys, and granite and clay-slate rocks now bleak and barren, and now richly covered with forests chiefly consisting of oaks and pines. We arrived at the monastery just as it was getting dark. My friends, the priests, were waiting at the entrance, and anxiously inquired what success had attended us during the day. I told them the trees at Quanting were just like their own destitute of cones. "Ah!" said they, for my consolation, "next year there will be plenty."
I cannot agree with Dr Lindley in calling this an Abies, unless cedars and larches are also referred to the same genus. It is apparently a plant exactly intermediate between the cedar and larch; that is, it has deciduous scales like the cedar and deciduous leaves like the larch, and a habit somewhat of the one and somewhat of the other. However, it is a noble tree; it produces excellent timber, will be very ornamental in park scenery, and I have no doubt will prove perfectly hardy in England.
I had been more successful in procuring supplies of tea and other seeds and plants for the Himalayas than I had been in my search for the seeds of the new tree just noticed. Large supplies had been got together at Ningpo at various times during the summer and autumn, and these were now ready to be packed and shipped for India. For this purpose it was necessary to proceed to Shanghae; but to get there in safety was no easy matter at this time, owing to the numerous bands of pirates which were then infesting the coasts. The Chinese navy either would not, or perhaps it would be more correct to say they durst not, make the attempt to put them down. Hence, while these lawless gentry were ravaging the coast, the brave Chinese admirals and captains were lying quietly at anchor in the rivers and other safe places where the pirates did not care to show themselves.
In going up and down this dangerous coast I was greatly indebted to Mr. Percival, the managing partner of Messrs. Jardine Matheson and Co.'s house at Shanghae, and to Mr. Patridge, who had the charge of the business of that house at Ningpo. By their kindness I was always at liberty to take a passage in the "Erin," a boat kept constantly running up and down in order to keep up the communication between the two ports. This boat was well manned and armed, and, moreover, she was the fastest which sailed out of Ningpo. The Chinese pirates knew her well: they also knew that her crew would fight, and that they had the means to do so, and although she often carried a cargo of great value, I never knew of her being really attacked, although she was frequently threatened.
On this occasion, as usual, I availed myself of Mr. Patridge's kindness, and had all my collections put on board of the "Erin." My fellow-passengers were the Rev. John Hobson, the Shanghae chaplain, and family, and the Rev. Mr. Burdon, of the Church Missionary Society, who had also secured passages in the "Erin" in order to escape falling into the hands of the pirates.
Leaving Ningpo at daybreak, with the ebb-tide and a fair wind, we sailed rapidly down the river, and in three hours we were off the fort of Chinhae, where the river falls into the sea. As we passed Chinhae anchorage a number of boats got up their anchors and stood out to sea along with us, probably with the view of protecting each other, and getting that protection from the "Erin" which her presence afforded. When we had got well out of the river, and opened up the northern passage, a sight was presented to view which was well calculated to excite alarm for our safety. Several piratical lorchas and junks were blockading the passage between the mainland and Silver Island, and seizing every vessel that attempted to pass in or out of the river. These vessels were armed to the teeth, and manned with as great a set of rascals as could be found on the coast of China.
These lawless hordes went to work in the following manner. They concealed themselves behind the islands or headlands until the unfortunate junk or boat they determined to pounce upon had got almost abreast of them, and too far to put about and get out of their way. They then stood boldly out and fired into her in order to bring her to; at the same time hooting and yelling like demons as they are. The unfortunate vessel sees her position when too late; in the most of instances resistance is not attempted, and she becomes an easy prize. If resistance has not been made, and no lives lost to the pirate, the captain and crew of the captured vessel are treated kindly, although they are generally plundered of everything in their possession to which the pirates take a fancy.
The jan-dows, as the pirates are called, have their dens in out-of-the-way anchorages amongst the islands, and to these places they take their unfortunate prizes, either to be plundered or to be ransomed for large sums by their owners at Ningpo, according to circumstances. Negotiations are immediately commenced; messengers pass to and fro between the outlaws at the piratical stations, only a few miles from the mouth of the river, and the rich ship-owners at Ningpo; and these negotiations are sometimes carried on for weeks ere a satisfactory arrangement can be made between the parties concerned. And it will scarcely be credited but it is true nevertheless that within a few miles from where these pirates with their prizes are at anchor there are numerous Chinese "men-of-war"(!) manned and armed for the service of their country.
Many of the boats which had weighed anchor as we passed Chinghae put about and went back to their anchorage. The little "Erin," however, with several others, stood boldly onwards in the direction of the piratical fleet, and were soon in the midst of it. At this time some of them were engaged in capturing a Shantung junk which had fallen into the trap they had laid for her. We were so near some of the others that I could distinctly see the features of the men, and what they were doing on the decks of their vessels. They seemed to be watching us very narrowly, and in one vessel the crew were getting their guns to bear upon our boat. They were perfectly quiet, however; no hooting or yelling was heard, and as these are the usual preludes to an attack it was just possible they were prepared to act on the defensive only.
The whole scene was in the highest degree exciting; their guns were manned, the torch was ready to be applied to the touchhole, and any moment we might be saluted with a cannon-ball or a shower of grape. Our gallant little boat, however, kept on her way, nor deviated in the slightest degree from her proper course. The steersman stood fast to the helm, the master Andrew, a brave Swede walked on the top of the house which was built over three-parts of the deck, and the passengers crowded the deck in front of the house. Every eye was fixed upon the motions of the pirates.
When our excitement was at the highest pitch the pirates hoisted a signal, which was a welcome sight to our crew, and although I have, perhaps, as much bravery as the generality of people, I confess it was a welcome sight to myself. The signal which produced such results was neither more nor less than a Chinaman's jacket hoisted in the rigging. I believe any other article of clothing would do equally well. It will not be found in Marryat's code, but its meaning is, "Let us alone and we will let you." This amicable arrangement was readily agreed to; a jacket was hoisted in our rigging as a friendly reply to the pirates, and we passed through their lines unharmed.
During the time they were in sight we observed several vessels from the north fall into their hands. They were in such numbers, and their plans were so well laid, that nothing that passed in daylight could possibly escape. Long after we had lost sight of their vessels we saw and pitied the unsuspecting northern junks running down with a fair wind and all sail into the trap which had been prepared for them.
We experienced head-winds nearly the whole way, and,
consequently, made a long passage, and had frequently to anchor. I rather think
Andrew attributed this luck to the two clergymen we had on board; but if he did
he may be excused, for wiser heads than his have had their prejudices on this
point. Whatever luck we had as regards the weather we were certainly most
fortunate in getting so well out of the hands of the pirates, and in fairness
this ought to be taken into consideration.
1 Mode of addressing mandarins and high government officers a term of respect.