Arrive at Buenos Ayres
Sunday 4th Nov.r – cloudy w.r Very fresh and favourable breeze all night. Moderate during the day. At 4 P.M. came to anchor close to the Guard Vessel off Buenos Ayres. Hours before this we were all ready to go on shore & it never entered our wise acre heads that the slightest delay would be interposed to the landing of his Britannic Majesty’s Mails. A few minutes served to undeceive us. A boat came off from the Guard Boat, in which was a German Surgeon, who having made the usual enquiries at the Captain, requested to see me. I was glad that I could most conscientiously report on the present & past good health of the crew, not doubting but that from all this minuteness & circumstantiality in this interrogative system, being satisfied by a medical person of the sanity of all on board, they would waive all further ceremony, mount over our sides, shake hands, preparatory to the usual felicitations on being out of quarantine & the customary glass or bottle of wine, as the case may be. Conceive then my chagrin & disappointment as well as that of the whole bunch of us when it was carefully enunciated to us in language and distinctness too plain to be misunderstood that ’according to the orders of mine government you are to consider yourselves under quarantine until further orders & to hold no communication with any boat or boats, person or persons, till you are released therefrom, and finally to hoist at your fore, the usual signal of a yellow flag.’ Lest either thro’ inadventure or intentional omission we might not have provided ourselves with the ominous signal of ‘Noli me lengere’ and thereby have an excuse for any unavoidable infringement of the sanitary code the Buenos Ayres Government, having foreseen in their wisdom such a circumstance, had providentially laid in a sufficient stock of yellow flags, with one of which (having only one large hole in it, the rest of it being nearly new) we were accordingly furnished. We did not refuse the offer because altho’ we had one on board, it was but right that if we were detained in limbo by the Buenos Ayreans that they should soften the hardship of the case by not putting us to tear & wear of our own flags, thereby enabling us to make ours last a little longer.
We were all to be sure a little nettled at the nonchalance with which these restriction on our locomotive powers were announced by rogues, who could go wherever they pleased without let or molestation. But you may be equally certain that we did not let the rascals see our chagrin, which would have heightened their malicious triumph. On the contrary our Captain said in reply to the order of mine Government with an air of the most perfect indifference & even hauteur ‘Very well – you may say that I must await the pleasure of your Government.’ An answer, the mildness of which, as I learnt afterwards, was mightily pleasing to the Officers, who had been accustomed in answer to their directions to go into Quarantine, nothing but Got-damn & other equally abusive & insulting expressions.
It is curious to observe how, after having looked forward to gain a particular object, & having connected that attainment of that object with the occupation of a certain period of time & a certain portion of pleasure, the mind, when you are unexpectedly disappointed, looses all its elasticity which the purpose in view had called forth & Sinks at once into inanity & listlessness. So we, being thus disappointed walked about the deck the remainder of the day, looking as if we were searching for something we had lost but could not find – sulky – sullen – & dispirited.
Monday 5th Nov.r – today we had beautiful weather, and all of us were anxious to take advantage of it by going on shore. But vain were our hopes. During the day no boat was seen hastening with eager zeal to release us from durance vile. The long extent of the river between us & the shore was unmarked by a single approaching boat. I know nothing more annoying that to wait, wait for hours all nicely shaved & dressed. First we are in high spirits not doubting our speedy deliverance, then as time wears on, we begin to get anxious, uneasy & fidgety, & at last all our good humour gives way & the most wayward state of impatience succeeds.
About 2 oClock we beheld a small boat pushing off from the guard ship and steering towards us. The Capt.n not doubting but this was sent to us to intimate our freedom, ordered our gig to be lowered down & the mail to be brought upon deck – but alas our hopes thus excited were lowered almost as soon as the gig, for the boat only came to provoke us by announcing that we were not yet to go on shore on any account, the Commander of the Guarda apparently being afraid that our impatience would exceed our prudence & thinking it right therefore thus gently to hint that our movements would be well watched. Beasts, asses, dolts, were the mildest terms we bestowed on him for his pains – but after all we were obliged to settle down our minds to resignation – that resignation which being enforced by unavoidable necessity gives no merit to him who exhibits it.
At last however just as we began to despair, about 4 oClock, the health boat visited us again, not as we confidently expected to tell us that we were to be in quarantine for forty days, but to our great joy that we were now admitted to pratique. Glad tiding to us. All was soon bustle & confusion preparatory to making instant use of our newborn liberty. The Mail was passed along by willing hands. Smiles again beamed on our phizies – our ladies were ready in a crack were hoisted into the boat,& off we set with a fair wind for the shore – myself being perhaps the most interested person of the whole, having never been on shore here. In an hour & a half (so great was the distance) we gained the land.
The approach to it was highly pleasing. The dark of houses with difficulty descried on ship board, came more & more into view distinct & separate. The domes, spires & turrets were seen in less prominent relief because contrasted with the other buildings. We passed thro’ a number of ships in the inner harbour, distant about ¾ of a mile from the beach. As we neared the shore the water became shallower & shallower till at last we stuck fast more than 40 yards from terra firma, which had there not been some contrivance for the purpose we could not have reached without being thoroughly wetted. Every country which is destitute of conveniences possessed by others is always sure to contrive a remedy – and it is no bad rule for the young traveller to trust himself in dangerous places to guidance & skill of the natives. So here when we must have been otherwise in a fine mess, we found ourselves well by the contrivance of the peons. Carts of a very simple & unambitious construction (which I shall hereafter describe) drove at rapid speed thro’ the water to our reach, each striving to gain us before the other & little caring whether in the race they splashed or capsized us. The latter & by far the worst accident would certainly have befallen us, had we not skilfully avoided the collision of two rivals carts – and by dint of oaths & threatening language, we at last secured one, into which we got & were driven comfortably ashore for about 7 pence in all. We were then landed on a sandy beach in front of the Alameda or public walk & from thence proceeded to mount up to the Town. I shall not here stop to discuss the beach, town &.c but proceed with the adventures and incidents of others by leaving all my remarks on Buenos Ayres to be given in the bunch.