Port Royal & Kingston

Friday 10th January – Fresh sea breezes all night. At day-light we made sail again, and favoured by the wind came to anchor off Port Royal at 9.15 A.M. Our arrival was the signal for several boats putting off to us – from the different men of war (7 in number) – and also from Kingston and Port Royal. But all were disappointed as we would not allow any one to board us, until the Quarantine boat had come alongside, and either put us in Quarantine, or given us Practique. I must do our Officers the justice to say, that they don’t keep you waiting long, but visit you as soon as circumstances will permit. We soon saw the boat with the yellow flag approaching, having on board D.r Stewart the Medical Officer, & a man of colour. When he came along side, everything done denoted the greatest caution. He asked the usual questions respecting the state of health on board – whether we had spoken any vessels or not, & where, & whence – and lastly if we had a clean Bill of Health. From all this particularity, we perceived they meant to be strict, but still we thought that our having a clean Bill of health – the crew and passengers having all been uniformly healthy the length of time since we had left Falmouth, that there would have been no hesitation in admitting us to Practique. We were therefore not a little surprised, when we were told to consider ourselves under strict Quarantine – to break open the Mail together with the Governor’s and Admirals Dispatches – and after fumigating them, to hand them over the sides into the boat prepared for them. In this predicament (for such it was, as we had a M.r Barlow and family to be landed here, our Captain took the only course to procure our liberation. He declared that he would certainly consider himself under Quarantine, but that it [was] more than his Commission was worth to break open the seal of office, without a written order from the Post Master General authorising him so to do. This declaration he persisted in, notwithstanding the repeated assertions of those who came for the Mail, that they would be responsible for this act. The consequence then of our Skipper’s determination was, that D.r Stewart left us in a huff, taking with him our clean bill of health. As did likewise the person sent for the Mail, re inpeacha. On the departure of these gents, our Packet signal was hauled down & the yellow flag hoisted in its place – and we were left to speculate what would be the result of our refusal to deliver up the Mail. We judged (& experience shewed that we judged correctly) that by refusing to break open the seals, which was tantamount to a refusal of the Mail, they would soon release us from durance vile, whereas had our Captain acted as they wished him to do, we were certain that they would have kept us in Quarantine all our time – and it would consequently have been impossible to have landed our passengers, but we should have been obliged to have carried them on with us. Two hours or more elapsed and we were still in suspense, when we observed an answering pennant hoisted at the flag staff of the Commercial rooms at Port Royal, and very shortly afterwards we observed the Quarantine boat shove off, accompanied by a host of shore boats. From this latter circumstance we drew a happy omen and were not deceived, for as soon as D.r Stewart was along side, he informed us that we were at liberty to go wherever we pleased without let or hindrance, or in other and more technical terms, that we were admitted to Practique.

As you may suppose, we lost no time in delivering up the Mail. Some of our passengers hired a large shore boat & proceeded in it to Kingston. For my own part I did not feel inclined to accede to their request that I would accompany them, but preferred remaining on board all day. When we were left to ourselves, I found it so dull that I regretted my determination, but there was no help for it – so I amused myself, as I best could – watching the manners of the negroes – the watering of the ship from the Government tank – and smoking away like a Turk. I had intended in the evening to have gone on shore at Port Royal, but as our gig did not return from Kingston till very late, and there were no shore boats along side, I was obliged to be contented as I was.

Saturday 11th January – this morning I accompanied our Master to Kingston. We had a most delightful passage – indeed the finest I have ever yet made. Immediately on landing, we met one of our Passengers – M.r Philip Ball, with whom we visited several places – made several purchases of fruit and medicine – and then finally adjourned to Harty’s Hotel, where his brother M.r Dennis, & M.r & M.rs Ebert were quartered. It was yet rather early – but the table was covered, dinner having been ordered for half past two, in order to enable the Master & self to go for the Mail at half past three. We were immediately asked what we would take & invited to stay and enjoy the coolness of the well ventilated rooms. At 2.20 we sat down to a most Capital dinner, consisting of soup – veal – mutton – fish & vegetables, followed by tarts, with abundance of claret and Madeira, & the option of beer or porter to wash all down. I never enjoyed myself more, or had a better appetite. I felt quite at mine ease, owing to the pleasant manners of our entertainers, than whom I never met any more kind & attentive. We were attended by three blacks whose contretemps – negro dialect & mutual quarrels excited much laughter. If you called for any thing – the answer invariably was ‘rectly,’ [3] which meant in half an hour, more or less. They were continually committing mistakes and evidently required drilling. Upon making inquiry into the subject, we were told that the proprietrix M.rs Harty was in London – that the person, who kept the concern for her in Kingston was at present in the country – and that the whole management was now left to an inferior person – all which easily accounted for the carelessness of the servants.

Immediately after dinner, the Master and I rose up to go for the Mail, promising to be back for coffee, which tho’ Fiddy engaged to get ready ‘drectly,’ we now knew would not be too late for us on our return. When we reached the Post Office, we found the Mail all ready, & carried it off at once. As we had not gone far on our way back, when we fell in with the Rev.d M.r Baker formerly Chaplain of the Astrea at Falmouth, now of the Admirals ship Vernon. Having brought us up, he entered into a conversation which, but a moment before, I little thought would occasion me so much trouble. He happened, in answer to an inquiry by M.r Geach to say that he was in good health. The word health struck upon me like an electric shock. All at once I remembered our Bill of health, which had been promised – but not till this moment did I think of ascertaining whether it was so or not. Without saying a word to the Master or M.r Baker, I hurried off to Smith, and there sure enough I ascertained that no Bill of health had been sent. I told Smith of its importance to us, upon which he accompanied me to the house where the Board of Health held their meetings, thinking it likely we might find it there. But no Bill of health was there – nor did they know where it was. I accompanied M.r Smith back to his store, when he ordered his black servant John, to shew me the way to D.r Bancroft’s, the Chairman of the Board. I knew no more than the unborn child, where this medico lived, & therefore started off at once with John for my guide, anticipating only a short walk. For some time I trudged along in silence – till we reached the barracks – a pretty considerable way off – at which place I became rather impatient of the length of the journey performed under burning sun, and over very stony roads – I asked John if we were near the Doctors house. John shook his woolly head, and said it was a long way off yet. I asked no more – on on we walked, turning now to the right, now to the left, along long rows of pens or country houses – & still his answer to my question ‘not see him house yet Saar.’ At last when we had gone about three miles out of Town, the Black said with a grin, ‘that him house dere Massa – D.r Bancroft’s.’ The house pointed out was large and handsome. Passing thro’ a gate and a small court, I tapped politely at the door, whereupon a tall upright old man appeared, who replied in the affirmative to my civilly presuming that he was D.r Bancroft. I was heartily rejoiced to find him at home & still more that he really had our Bill of Health – for it would have been useless to have continued our route without it, as all the Ports would have been shut against us. Just as the old boy was handing it to me I asked him to endorse it, stating that we had been admitted to Practique and that the Island was healthy, to which he agreed and for the purpose retired to another room. Meanwhile he kept me broiling with impatience at his dilatoriness, for West India like, he never hurried himself, but seemed to be writing every word as if he were half asleep. My patience was quickly exhausted, the more so as it was getting late and the Master would be waiting for me with the Mails & I had a long way to travel back. I shuffled with my feet – coughed & hawked and at last was on the point of rising to request the old fellow to give me the paper as it was, when he reappeared with the slow & deliberate steps & solemn air & thereby convey[ed] a tacit report of my impatience & disrespect. If such were his intentions the effect designed was lost on me. I hastily seized the paper & as hastily not to say uncivilly wished him a good afternoon – and in a giffy I was plodding my way back, at a hand gallop – leaving the pool black puffing & panting far behind me. Arrived at Harty’s Hotel once more, I was glad to find the Master there waiting for the gig to come on shore. I was hot and thirsty and greedily drank off two cups of strong coffee which greatly refreshed me.

In almost an hour afterwards we took the Mail on board the gig & started off on our return to the Packet. At 7.30 P.M. we were again walking our decks – at 8 P.M. went on shore at Port Royal – found no amusement there & returned tired & sleepy at 9. I may here remark that I saw nothing new at Kingston. The Island is very quiet at present, but it is thought that in the ensuing _____ [Ayust ?] when the new system will come into operation matters will be in a state of great agitation. From the little time I had left to myself, I had no opportunity of finding out John Drummond.

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