Thursday 6th – this morning stark calm – off the town of Funchall. The Captain proposed to land the Mail in our gig, and accordingly at 9 A.M. the Master, M.r Alfred Snell and Self started for the shore, the distance being about nine miles. The weather was very sultry and our men were soon fatigued. Three weary hours were spent in pulling to the shore, which when we were near, we were met by the health-boat to put the usual questions, Cholera then raging so furiously in Britain. The Master gave satisfactory replies and shewd our clean bill of health from Falmouth. Then commenced a long string of questions relative to Portugal, & the fortunes of the two contenders for the crown – to all of which I gave such replies as I could, having lately read the papers. My answers were translated to a military officer who sat in the boat, and who in turn proposed so many new interrogations that I was heartily tired & professed a greater degree of ignorance than was really the case. Knowing that Madeira was in the interest of Don Miguel I was glad that the latest accounts from Portugal would enable me to please them without telling a lie – but the more favourable I represented their cause, the more voluble and eager they became in questioning & cross-questioning me – and it was not until they had exhausted every topic, that they told us to follow them to the shore. We were not yet permitted to land. It was necessary to speak to the Governor & the Health Officer said that as his Excellency lives close to the beach, he would not detain us more than a few minutes – meanwhile we might lay upon our oars. To all this we could do nothing but assent & waited patiently the return of the officer with permission to land.
We waited so long that I thought the rascally officer had intended to signify hours instead of minutes. Our patience was very severely tried. Within a very few yards of the beach, we dared not land, as there were several sentinels ready to prevent us. To add to our unpleasant situation, it began to rain and we had no shelter. Often and often we looked towards the city gate, imagining that the next person who should pass thro’ would be the (In-) sanity Officer & as often we were disappointed. Our anger was vented in expression not loud but deep, and could we have had our will, 6 dozen would not been ill bestowed on certain persons backs. At last after nearly an hour, we discerned the officer coming at a snail’s pace – but when we expected him to hail us to come on shore, he entered to our mortification into his own boat and rowed to us. This was a bad omen & we fully anticipated an entire prohibition against landing. When we were alongside, a letter was handed to the Master, addressed to the Captain. M.r Geach of course opened it & found it was from M.r Veitch our Consul, expressing his sorrow that we could not land the Mail immediately in consequence of our Bill of health not having been signed by the Portuguese Consul. We were requested to deliver up all the papers & letters, having first immersed them in vinegar – after which we would be allowed to land. I thought it strange that we should be permitted to land without washings and fumigations, if they had entertained any doubts or fears – but of course I said nothing, being glad to get on shore on any terms. During this my short stay at Madeira I observed nothing new – Houses and men the same. All seemed quiet. The old fortifications have been repaired, and some new ones erected since my first visit. There was only an English brig, strange to say, in the harbour. Three small native craft were anchor for protection behind the insular fort, of which I think I made mention in my former Journal. All here are on the qui vive for news from Portugal from different motives. There are Miguelites & Pedroites in plenty. The heads of the former are the priests & the bulk are the ignorant, the fanatic, or priest-ridden, & the holders of civil & military offices. The latter are composed of the enlightened – the liberal & lover of a free constitution – to which add that in secret the English favour their sentiments. At the Consul’s office we were met by a priest, who made us a low obeisance, and said something in Portuguese which was translated to us & meant that he thanked us for the good news we had brought.
We spent the time very agreeably – short as it was. We were invited to the Consul’s house where we were entertained with various fruits, wines & preserves – & afterwards we walked about until the Mail was ready for us. At 5.30 we left Madeira to go on board and luckily for us our Packet had been able to come within a mile or two of the shore. As soon as we arrived, the boat was hoisted up and we set sail for Rio with very light and favourable breezes – fine weather in the afternoon and evening: When darkness came on we perceived a very brilliant but very partial illumination on shore, which we supposed was caused by our good news – tho’ what these good news were I could not imagine. I an glad that we have touched at Madeira, altho’ it is only within these two months that the Buenos Ayres has done so, were it merely to see how the place looked.