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it, betrays forethought and preparation against the naval power of Eng-
the confines of Persia.
AN ADVENTURE AT ST. HELENA, IN MAY, 1816.
Ir blew a gale and rained heavily : the Company's fleet, having threaded its passage safely through the numerous islands of the China Sea, the Straits of Banca and of Sunda, was lying-to, under shelter of the small desert isle of Crockatoo, waiting for a more favourable or less boisterous breeze.
“ A sail, Sir!" said the very young chief officer of one of the finest of the Indiamen, to his captain, who had just come on deck after breakfast. “ A sail! hey! What do you make of her ?”
English, Sir; a queer one, I suspect-I am pretty sure ; a freetrader."
“ A free-trader! zounds !” cried the captain, with more of an oath than I choose to transcribe; for his ire was up at the thought of the “ free-trade,” which threatened to make such a terrible breach into the power, privileges and profit of the East India Company, his very good masters; and this was the first intruder that had ventured to show her nose on these hitherto forbidden seas.
“Let me have the cutter, Sir, if you please,” resumed the officer, “ and I shall be able to get near her; we shall know the truth, and we shall hear the news.”
“ The cutter! what, in such a sea as this !”
But the captain was prevailed upon, the cutter manned, and off went the chief.
As soon as the master of the free-trader observed that one of the fleet had dispatched a boat, he put on a clean shirt, and, with the sole addition of a pair of trowsers, stood on his deck to receive the Company's smart young officer.
“ Good morning to you, Sir. Free-trader, I presume ?”'
To Batavia, Sir. Tell me, if you please, where I am now ?" “ That island is Crockatoo, uninhabited, but overrun with wild vegetation and wild animals. Some of us were on it yesterday, in the agreeable company
of boa-constrictors and uncivilized hogs; one of the hogs, however, we made tame enough, for I have just breakfasted on part of him. Have you any newspapers on board ?” “ Yes, I can give you some.”
Any particular news, Sir?” “No, Sir; nothing particular since the great battle.” “ The great battle! what great battle ?" The master stared and grinned. “Why surely, Sir, you must know of the great battle of Waterloo, where the Duke of Wellington and Bonyparte met hand to hand, and fought in armour ? Wellington beat, took Bony prisoner, and there he is locked up safe and sound at St. Helena.”
The newspapers were put into the hands of the astonished chief; down he slipped into his boat, set a sail in spite of wind and weather, and was soon among the fleet again; here it was comparatively calm, and he took good care to pass close by the commodore.
“ How now, Mr. Madcap! where the
the newspapers in one hand, and waved his hat with the other.
On dashed the cutter, and save and except the words, “ VictoryWellington-armour-Buonaparte-St. Helena” -(the last words shouted very powerfully)--nought met the ears of the attentive listeners. The fleet were watching his proceedings, and so expressive was his dumb show that no one mistook his meaning ; and before he was on the deck of his own ship, she had fired a gun for joy, and hoisted a signal for - her consorts to come like good gossips, and hear the news.
Although now sheltering in a nook of the distant China Sea, St. Helena was the very first land they were to visit : accordingly, in about - fifty days after the little scene just sketched, on a beautiful morning in May, the China fleet was seen advancing towards the always interesting and now far-famed island of St. Helena.
The simple inhabitants had not yet recovered from their astonishment at the great and unwelcome event that had befallen them. Their imperial prisoner, their King's military governor and his troops, the watchful, grim-looking vessels of war, the harassing interior regulations, the system of espionage, and the scarcity of provisions, were all great and crying evils that had fallen
them unawares, without power to avert, or hope to escape. The arrival of the China fleet had hitherto been an event of the first importance, the signal for trade and business, for joy and festivity. Among the fair sex, too, an unusual degree of interest was excited, for marriages were sometimes made as well as bargains. But although its approach was welcomed now with as much warmth as ever, it could not dispel the effects, or ease the weight, of the huge night-mare that had settled on the island.
The shrouds and decks of the Company's ships were alive with human beings, regarding with intense interest the isolated rock they were approaching; the variety of age, sex, colour, and condition, produced but little difference in the individual feeling of the moment. The listless and delicate female (scarcely to be recognized, from her long residence in voluptuous India, as belonging to the race of active and intelligent Englishwomen) raises herself from her couch, and, with unusual excitement of mind and body, ascends the poop-ladder without assistance, and, regardless of being jostled by the crowd, exclaims, “Is this really St. Helena, and is Buonaparte really here!” The spoiled, over-dressed, yet lovely children cling round their dark and turbaned attendants, and half-fearful, half-curious, learn from them that a burrah-saib of Europe, very powerful and very wicked, has been caught and chained down upon that rock.
An English sailor, perched on the yard-arm, calls to one of his messmates, (who he knew had been a fisherman at St. Helena for some time,) with
“ I say, Bill, this fishing-nook of yours makes a snug berth for old Nap, don't it? Aye, I warrant,"
says none of his French frogs will be for leaping up there after him; although, for the matter of that, if they knew as much about the place as I do, they might leap to some tune.”
“ Ha! ha!--we all know thou art a clever fellow in thine own con
ceit, Bill; and I dare say thou thinkest thou could'st scud off with Nap stuck upon thy shoulder, waving his little cocked hat as a ' good bye to ye' to the governor, and all the ships and regiments that are here to guard him. Which way would'st thou go ?-fly up into the air, or dive into the sea ? on the back of an albatross, or in the belly of a whale ?”
• In the belly of a good whale-boat would I do it. Give me a dark night, and little Nap on a certain nook that I could namé; give me a whale-boat of my own choosing, and a trusty fellow or so like thee, Ned; fine weather, some water, grub, and tobacco, not forgetting a drop of the stuff, and if I did not land him in nine days on the coast of Brazil
“ Wheu ! Bill, thy tongue travels fast-I'll pose thee at thy first starting: how is Nap ever to get to the certain nook thou talkest about ? What becomes of all the soldiers and sentries, and all the ears and eyes on the island-hey, my friend ?”
“Well, well,” retorted Bill, “ I dare to say that part of the business would not be found so hard to master as it looks. If it were a king of ours, or such like, instead of this little devil incarnate, what has set us all on a blaze, you would see what I would do." And so saying, Bill turned on his heel.
But among the captain and his officers, together with the military gentlemen and the civilians on board, scarcely a word was breathed": there they stood with their spy-glasses glued to their eyes ; an occasional order, or the trying to make out the directions stuck up at different points of the island, in large white letters on black boards, alone broke their silence.
At last, under certain signals, directions, and cautions, the Indiamen anchored; and then, again, after certain permissions and limitations, they were visited by boats from the shore, and by those of the ships of A list of regulations for their conduct was given, and a gentle
hint that the shorter their stay, the more agreeable it would be considered by the presiding powers. The answers to the questions with which every one who came on board was overpowered, the strange stories, the mysterious warnings, excited rather than allayed the intense curiosity felt by all.
“ Pray, Sir," said the chief officer already mentioned, to a gentleman in office, " is it possible to pay a visit to Buonaparte-to see and to converse with him ?”
“ It is possible, if you can procure the necessary permission, passport, and guides. Mine is the passport-office, and I dare say I shall be able to manage it for you.”
The young man thanked him most warmly, and continued
“ To-morrow I shall not be able to leave the ship; but if I call on you early the following morning"
“ One shall be ready for you,” interrupted his new friend.
In the meantime a movement of the same nature was taking place among the captains of the China fleet: they received a promise from the admiral that passports should be ready for them on the next morning ; and they agreed to go in a body and pay their respects to Napoleon.
Accordingly, the next morning the captains, in full dress, assembled on shore; passports, horses, and escorts were ready; everything was conducted in the strictest form, according to the regulations. They arrived at Longwood, and were ushered into the drawing-room, the cur
taivs of which were very much closed, and it was some time before they could see anything, after the dazzling light they had just emerged from. In a few minutes a door at the farther end was thrown open, and Napoleon entered. He advanced, they bowed
“ Quel est votre plaisir ?” (that is, “ What do you want?”).
“We are the captains of the China fleet which arrived yesterday, and are come, Sir, to pay you our respects.”
“ Your ships are very large, are they not ?”
you carry ?” “ Thirty." “And you ?” (to a second.) “ And what ship do you command ?" (to a third.)
And after one or two more abrupt, and not very pointed questions, he made a bow, and exit by the same way he entered.
The captains moved off, mounted their horses, and had a very hot ride back.
During that day, too, many of the officers and passengers procured passports; some were received and some were not, but all appeared dissatisfied. Nothing, however, could damp. the ardour of our friend, the chief. He had received that day, during the absence of his captain, amongst other visitors, the military officer in immediate attendance on the person of Napoleon, and had an opportunity of showing him some civilities. A young naval officer had settled to accompany him, and horses were to be ready for both at an appointed hour the following morning.
The morning rose most splendidly; and full of hope and animation, and ripe enough for frolic, our young friend landed, and meeting his expected companion, they went to the office for the promised passports. Alas! who can describe their consternation and disappointment on being informed that an order had just been received from head-quarters to grant no more passports, except especially authorized; as the privilege had been abused the preceding day, and had become a source of annoyance to the general. What was to be done ? the case was hopeless; but as the horses were in readiness, it was decided they should ride up
to the camp.
“ At all events," said the lieutenant, "you will have an interesting ride, and a good tiffin; and who knows but that you may, after all, get a distant view of the great little man ?”
With this the chief was forced to be satisfied, and off they went. It was not without interest that the stranger, having reached by the zigzag road the top of the first hill, observed, by the indication of his companion, the residences of Bertrand and Montholon; from thence the road led strait to the encampment, a distance of about five miles from the town, at which they arrived between one and two o'clock. Here the naval officer, who was well known, and the stranger, met with a kind reception, and came in for a capital tiffin.
Our friend, however, soon slipped away, and amused himself with strolling in and about the encampment, looking with a longing eye to the summit of the opposite hill, where stood Longwood. The side of that hill, he remarked, was potato-ground. On descending towards it from the eminence on which he stood, he entered a garden, where several Chinese were busily employed; they looked surprised at the entrance of