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FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 11.- We have been so fortunate as to hit the good season in these latitudes. With a favorable breeze, a clear, bright sky, and pleasant temperature, we speed along to our destination, and were at noon to-day about two hundred and ten miles distant from Princes' Island, and off the mouth of the Quorra.
Among other results of our visit to Wydah, not the least agreeable is the abundance of fresh fruit and provisions, thanks to the dashes' of Señor de Lonza, his son Antonio, and the native governor. Our table would do credit even to one of our best city hotels ; and so far as the mere animal comforts are concerned, we have every reason to be thankful and contented.
To give some idea of the nature and value of our dash,' I may be allowed to state, that the amount, as calculated, aboard, is made to be about two hundred and seventy-five dollars; a very pretty and acceptable compliment, as all will acknowledge. Beside bullocks, cows and goats, a couple of monkeys were added to our collection of beasts and birds, and variety and amusement are afforded by the unusual sounds which pervade the ship, and vex the dull ear of night, and clash with sleep. But fortunately for peace and comfort, every day diminishes the evil, and we shall soon be reduced to the antics of the three monkeys, who begin to get accustomed to their new quarters, and furnish us with quite a supply of interest and amusement.
I omitted to state, in my description of our Wydah visit, that among other strange things told of our old host De Lonza, it is said that he has procured and keeps for family use three silver coffins, one valued at two thousand dollars, and the others at eighteen hundred. They are reserved, we are told, for himself, his favorite wife, and eldest son. This may give some idea of the luxurious habits and singular character VOL. XXXV,
of our worthy entertainer. But it is quite enough to sit down at his well-loaded table, to see the abundance of precious metals in his possession, and to experience the effect of his liberality, to be convinced of the power, wealth and influence he enjoys among the people. His house is quite a spacious and conspicuous mansion, constructed like many others of the better class of foreign residents, of stone, and stuccoed, with very thick walls and lofty ceilings. Its only drawback is a straw-roof, which, while it adds to its singularity, detracts very much from its beauty and appearance. His son Antonio has built himself a more modern and comfortable dwelling, where solidity and taste have been somewhat consulted. It is near his father's, and has the advantage of being well tiled, and is consequently better protected against fire, and makes a better external appearance. One of the rooms has a kind of mosaic floor of hard cement and pieces of cocoa-wood interspersed.
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 12. — This morning we had one of those sudden but brief rain-squalls, so common as you approach the line ; but it was followed by a bright and breezy day, and we are enjoying a navigation hard to be excelled for comfort and progress. At noon we were about ninety miles from Princes' Island, which is in latitude one degree thirty-three minutes north, and longitude seven degrees twenty-seven minutes east; so that we may expect to make it to-night, and enjoy a little rest and refreshment, West Bay, whither we are bound, is represented to be very quiet, and the surrounding scenery of the most delightful character. Truly will it be delightful to recreate the eye with the sight of fresh verdure, deliciously cool looking streams and picturesque mountains and valleys, after so long a banishment from the aspect of Mother Earth.
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 13.—Behold us at West Bay. We came to anchor about noon, and found • The Boxer' awaiting us, having arrived on the ninth. A British man-of-war brig, The Dolphin,' Hon. Lieutenant-commanding Boyle, was also anchored in the harbor. We were fortunate in making the island in such good weather, having enjoyed a fine view, even far out at sea, although the peaks and flanks of the mountains were often shrouded in vapor. The appearance of this part of the island is picturesque and singular. The land rises in large and fantastic shapes, the hills clothed to the very top with the dense greenery of nature, and dipping gracefully and verdant into the sleeping ocean. The contrast between this little ocean gem and the late flat and monotonous land we have been coasting adds materially to the pleasure of the view, and makes this beautiful spot even more beautiful and charming than it is in point of fact. The ship is now more comfortable and easy than we have experienced for a long time past, the bay being well protected and sheltered, I believe, from swells and winds, particularly at this season of the year. The Needle,' a mountain which shoots up, in a long and slender shaft of a conical shape, to a height, I should suppose, of about four thousand feet above the level of the sea, some three or four miles inward, and visible, I am told, from every part of the island, presents a most extraordinary spectacle. It is nearly in the centre of the semi-circle which embraces the harbor, and looks down upon the surrounding lofty hills, with its heads and sides every now and then clothed in the clouds which are floating about in every direction, and seem to take peculiar pleasure in creeping along its precipitous flanks and reposing on its spear-like peak. A short distance from it, and nearer the water, is a kind of huge amphitheatre, flanked with two large sugar-loaf-looking hills, which serve as a vast gateway to the precincts, and fit theatre for the combat of some giant gladiators and the conflict of some mighty beasts. Around in every direction, wherever the eye alights, fantastic and towering peaks and cliffs are multiplied and piled together in glorious variety and confusion. Nature seems to have been truly prodigal to this sea-girt isle, and in mountain and valley, sky and water, has enriched it with gifts that must stir the dullest spirit and attract the heaviest fancy. Magnificent scenery, luxuriant forests, pure water, varied skies, may be visited and enjoyed; and yet though the face of Nature be so exquisitely beautiful, here we are told lurk the latent principles of the fever, and give it the character of being sickly in the extreme; so deceptive is outward show, so lurks the serpent in the grass.
The island is thinly inhabited, and belongs to the Portuguese. There is another harbor on the north-east, called St. Antonio, but it is represented to be inferior to this bay in anchorage and health. In face of us, as we swing, is a small, insignificant-looking fort, with the flag of Portugal above it; and a sergeant brought a paper aboard to-day for the insertion of our name, nation, voyage, etc. A native village of slaves is situated in this vicinity, and their mistress, a lady named Madame Fareira, has property here, and accommodation at her house for officers visiting the shore. Her slaves bring off vegetables, fruit, etc., and I trust we may find something acceptable in that line. I intend to take an early opportunity of visiting terra firma, and hope to gratify eye and fancy with the beauties of this imposing scenery.
After a late dinner in the cabin, I joined our · First,' who was going ashore to see about watering the ship. We landed just abreast the ship, in comparatively quiet water, and found some of Madame's blacks lounging about the pretty, pure, crystal-like stream, which finds its purling way to the ocean. Passing over this refreshing-looking brookset, which, hot, bath-forbidden as we have been for so long a period, presented almost an irresistible invitation to us to plunge gayly in, we climbed up the steep path that leads through flourishing groves and trees, with tropical names and produce, to the residence of the Grande Dame' of the neighborhood. Our Kroomen, who rowed us to the beach, decked off in their Sunday muster, white, clean-looking rig, with their honest faces and manly figures, contrasted finely with the ragged, halfclad, ill-conditioned island-escort that did us the honor to receive us upon landing, and follow us up the mountain-path. After a little climbing and scrambling up the precipitous and slippery path, we arrived at a collection of negro huts, constructed of wood and thatched, boasting of but one small door or opening to let light and air in, and dirty and dark-looking to us, but palaces no doubt to people whose climate frees them from the trouble of donning much clothing, or caring for houses when they live mostly out of doors. A few more scramblings up the hill-side and the stone steps, rudely inserted for the accommodation of
pedestrians, brought us to the mansion of the · Madame,' to which we were introduced by Lieut. D. and the master who had preceded us, and made themselves acquainted with the inmates. We were introduced to the · Lady of the Manor,' 'a stout, buxom, and rather goodlooking woman, a mulattress as to complexion, and to her small husband, decidedly her lesser half, to a Portuguese surgeon and lieutenant of artillery, just recovering from the fever. The latter speaks English very well, having been educated at the English college in Lisbon, and appears to be a modest, intelligent young man. Madame Fareira is surrounded by quite a colony of slaves, owns property elsewhere in the island, and occupies a long low stone building, with a large portico , in front, and nestling in the close embraces of the impending mountain, having a retired, picturesque appearance, and commanding a fine view of the bay and ocean. She must be quite a rich proprietor, for it is told of her that she, some time ago, made a trip to Europe, where in six months she spent four hundred thousand dollars, besides losing sixty thousand through the negligence of her agents and the effects of her absence. We were politely received by our hostess and her friends, and were obliged, owing to the lateness of the hour, to decline a cup of coffee, and make our way back to the ship again.
MONDAY, FEBRUARY 14. This morning the British cruisers, the Brigs Bittern, commanded by Captain Hope, and Kingfisher, Commander Horton, came in from Lagos. The arrival of these vessels, and the presence of the Boxer and ourselves, have communicated quite a lively appearance to this otherwise quiet and lonely harbor; and all the sights and sounds usual when men of war come together prevail at present.
The clouds that are almost constantly drifting about, along and above the peaks of the hills, gave us a specimen of tropical weather this morning. The rain came down in torrents, but, luckily, was brief as it was violent. And yet out of evil cometh good, for the atmosphere is decidedly cooler, and we truly enjoy the improvement.
I am never tired of gazing on the singularity and beauty of the scenery. The fancy is continually tracing some resemblance to natural and artificial objects, and wondering how Nature can be so eccentric and multiform. Now it is a bold head-land, which projects into the ocean, and looks like an immense shoe, fit for the pedestal of a Titan; again a peak starts up, like a huge ostrich egg, and opposite is a mass of forestclothed granite, which may be imagined to resemble the hump of a buffalo or camel; anon another assumes the outline of a battlementedrampart, and frowns down in massive strength upon the deep ravines that open at the base. And then whenever the floating drifts of clouds will afford a glimpse behind the curtain, a sky-piercing cone shoots aloft, seeming to stand isolated and aspiring among its less ambitious neighbors. The Commodore, the Fleet-Surgeon and myself, made a hasty survey of the bay this evening, and with glimpses of mountain and valley, and the treat of multitudinous notes from the feathery in. habitants of the luxuriant groves, enjoyed the refreshing aspect of land and water, and the sweet sounds of Nature in all her simplicity and wildness. A little incident occurred during our cruise, which might have terminated in an ugly manner, and sent us to that voyage whence no traveller returns ; for while coasting the lovely and vocal groves and beach, all of a sudden, when nearly abreast the Portuguese fort, and several yards from dry land, the barge struck upon a coral reef, which runs some distance out into the bay, and after thumping several times, keeling over twice or thrice, nearly gunwale under at times, by dint of oar and proper management, we soon got off, and thanked our stars that we had so easily escaped from rather an awkward situation, with dry clothes, and without swallowing too large a dose of the briny element. Had we thumped a few times more, a hole might have been drilled in the bottom, which would have made it a questionable matter whether we could have got safe and sound out of our quandary.
WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 16.— I have been kept aboard, with the exception of a visit to my friends of the • Boxer,' for the last two days, a good deal annoyed for the want of exercise, and not a little slaying with pen and ink. But fortunately the shore has no great charms to make the confinement a very great privation. There being but one white family in this neighborhood, and the slaves disagreeable and unprepossessing, the stranger, after he has refreshed himself in the cool waters of the mountain brook, which escapes gently to the ocean at this dry season, and scraped a passing acquaintance with the people who dream away life in their enervating climate, feels no great desire to pay shore visits often, or linger long in such dull company. Better far, when once a close acquaintance has been made with shore and people, either to enjoy the grand panorama of this lovely bay from shipboard, or pulling, as we did on Monday, glide along the verdure-loaded beach, over coral reefs and transparent water, gaze upward on the towering cliffs, and into the close-locked groves, whence gush the hum of busy insects and the music of a thousand birds. The harbor makes a graceful sweep inward, and set in the glorious frame-work of these grotesque-looking hills, presents to the stranger approaching from seaward a perfect and beautiful semicircle. Three-masters can ride a quarter of a mile from shore'; and the water, close in at most places, is deep and well protected from wind and swell, so that you can land without scrambling on a native's back, or wetting foot or jacket. We are, however, enjoying something besides scenery and sentiment. We drink pure sweet water from the mountain brook; alligator tears, granadillas, guavas, and other tropical fruits, refresh us at our well-provided table; and I have tasted coffee, which grows wild upon this island, of the richest flavor. Cocoa-nut trees, pawpawas, oranges, bananas, etc., may be added to the list; so that the reader may well grow envious at the mere enumeration of these tempting things, known to us by reputation, and placed upon our tables, but robbed of all their freshness, or forced into a sickly existence by artificial means. Truly is this a spot of most wonderful fertility; and were it protected against the scourge which with hot and fatal breath spreads infection over earth and air, and in the hands of some energetic people, Art might be so employed, Industry so called upon to aid, as to convert its lonely and untilled valleys into gardens, and people its thinly-settled territory with the hum of life, and bless it with the presence of Labor and Commerce.