Week 7

Under the influence of the same fresh and favourable breeze, which we had  received as a new years gift, we bowled along most merrily. On Monday 6th as 5.30 P.M. we saw Alta Vela, and if the wind had continued as before, we should have entered Jacqmel early next morning. But the breeze failed us, as I fancy from our near proximity to the island of S.t Domingo, so that on Tuesday we were becalmed or nearly so in sight of the entrance to Jacqmel. By very slow degrees we got abreast of it and as there was no chance of us getting a strong sea breeze this day, the Captain at 4 ordered the boat to be got ready and the Mail to be put into it, intending to send it ashore while the Packet remained out side. Accordingly this was done & together with the Mate & the two Mess.rs Ball, I set off for the shore from which we were distant about 10 or 12 miles. We had a long and tiresome pull – the sun shone hot & bright upon us, exciting a sensation of scalding in the neck & face, and making us all very drowthy. A Handkerchief knotted over our heads partially abated the first evil and luckily we had two bottles of Madeira with plenty of water to relieve the second. Each man also smoked his cegar, and beguiled the time by spinning yarns. With all these appliances and means in the boat we reached the shore at 6.30 P.M. There we found one of the Clerks of the vice Consul, who was also the partner of M.r Frith. This person first took us to the house of the Government Interpreter, and immediately afterwards to the Packet Office, a room fitted up for the purpose in M.r Friths house, since we were here last.

We found that M.r Frith had left for Port au Prince, but we met with a most kind reception from our Vice Consul. After the Mail had been delivered we were shewn up stairs and in a handsome apartment, we perceived a table laid out with dinner.

In less than half an hour we were all cosily seated before the viands, and tho’ we had already dined on board, we managed to devour a pretty considerable quantum of the solids and fluids in token of our good appetite & our satisfaction at their quality. During dinner a mistake of mine gave rise to much mirth. A large round tin cann was brought in from which our Vice Consul scooped out something with a table spoon. I thought it was some sort of pudding, nor was I undeceived by the appearance of the contents of the cann, which resembled curds. Therefore when he handed me the plate, I very quietly set it down before me & made ready to commence operations on I forthwith. To my great surprise, the Consul said he thought I had too much on my plate, & in consequence I returned him nearly the whole of it, not without wondering what he could mean. My blankness on the subject was soon enlightened and the mystery cleared up. I found that what I had mistaken for a pudding was really and truly a Stilton cheese tho’ upon my honour I declared it had no more resemblance to cheese than the man in the Moon. I bore the laugh against me as well as I could, & laughed as much or more than any one The real Lemon Pare coming in soon afterwards, I atoned myself for my error by a double allowance.

Perhaps my dear Mother, it may be interesting to you to know what we had for dinner, as you may naturally imagine, the materials of our repast were very different  from what you have at home.

Well then, we had excellent beef soup, with plenty of vegetables but of what description I know not. Next there was some curious sort of a fish stewed very nice indeed. If you preferred it you might have had some very so so roasted mutton – or a fowl – or corned beef. No potatoes were to be seen. Their place was supplied by boiled yams – boiled Indian corn, really very good – or caravansa beans prepared with butter. And lastly we had a large plate of fried eggs, a dish which most of us preferred from its rarity. To wash down all this, we had claret, sherry, and brandy and water. Immediately after dinner, we had each a cup of superbly prepared Coffee, concluding with a glass of brandy and syrup neat i.e. without the dilution of water.

After due service had been done to the eatables and drinkables, we rose to take our departure. We were accompanied to the landing place by the consul and D.r Daly (a Physician established here about 9 months – a rival of the American doctor Lorie – a very pleasant fellow & a clever man), preceded by a black boy carrying a lantern, for it is to be observed that there are no public lamps to dispel the intense darkness of the streets. When we reached the wooden jettee the Consul recommended us to set off a blue light, as probably from its height the signal might be better seen by those on board than if we were to set it off in our boat. His advice was adopted & our blue light shone up for a few seconds like a star of the first magnitude, flaming & flickering and casting over whites & blacks a bluish tinge to the great delight of the assembled of the latter. In a few moments, afar out at sea the answering light was descried – so bidding adieu to those who had so kindly and without ostentation entertained us, we embarked & pulled away in the direction in which we had seen it. It was a beautiful star light night – the water was smooth as a mill pond, and a gentle breeze blew off shore right astern of us facilitating our progress greatly. We were all very comfortable & happy, partly from the novelty of our situation, and partly I must confess under the influence of our late Entertainers Hospitality. We doubted not but that we should shortly come up with our Packet & I am sure no one anticipated any difficulty in doing so. As soon as we came abreast of the point of land forming the Harbour & which before had shut us in from the open sea, we set off another blue light, and patiently awaited some answer. We judged ourselves to be very near our vessel. But in vain we waited – in vain we cast our eyes on all sides around : No signal of any kind was made – our eyes could make out no object amidst the darkness, which encompassed us. What were, now to do was the object of our next consideration. We had still one blue light left, and a musquet with three charges. It was resolved to fire the musquet, reserving the blue light till we were reduced to extremity. We had also a lantern, intended to be hoisted, but unfortunately we had no means with us of relighting it. The musquet was quickly loaded & fired – loaded & fired again – but no sight or sound announced the situation of the Old Duke. Our doubts and difficulties increased every moment. We could not explain why our signals had been unanswered, & our supposition was that the Packet had been drifted by the current far to the Westward & beyond our ken. We looked around to see if we could observe any lantern at the mast head – for we fancied that if they had no blue lights on board (which was the case) they would certainly use this means to point themselves out to us. We saw a large fire, but that was on the land behind us & in a situation where it was impossible our vessel could be in. We imagined her to be right ahead of us – & there to be sure we saw a light, which some averred to be a star, & some a light at the mast head. The dispute ran strong and warm – & for my part I thought it to be our signal for it was at one time distinctly seen, at another time invisible a circumstance which I imputed to the surging of the lantern at the mast head, from the rolling of the vessel. But again it appeared far out at sea, & therefore unlikely to be what we wished it to be. However we pulled towards it – but not long had we done so, when (fortunately for us) the man who pulled the starboard bow oar called out that he saw the Duke astern of us. His exclamation completely startled and electrified us, for no one ever thought of her being there. We instantly all turned round & sure enough we descried a tall dark object looming majestically against the sky. “Pull round, men quickly” was the word “load the gun & fire, – keep a good look out for an answer.” This was soon done – the gun was fired & answered by a peoy or black Devil [2]. We next lighted our remaining blue light to shew where we were, and bore down upon them. We soon saw that she had tacked towards us & almost before you could say Jack Robinson (at 10 P.M.) we got once more alongside of our friends & shipmates, whom we found in great alarm on our account & preparing to fire our nine pounders.

With a moderate land breeze we set sail for Jamaica.

Of course from the lateness of our arrival at Jacquemel, I could make on observations in addition to what I have already made. I believe that no change has taken place in the Town – but I noticed that the fort on the right hand as you pass up the harbour, has been repaired & enlarged. The country is perfectly quiet and healthy.

Next day we had a moderate & favourable breeze, and kept the Island of S.t Domingo in sight all day. On Thursday 9th Jan.y – we had a continuance of the same breeze. At 1 P.M. we made the East End of Jamaica. At 5 P.M. we were sailing along the Island, which as far as the Yallahs is most beautiful, particularly at this season of the year, when the sugar crops are still to be seen on the ground. At 8 P.M. we lay-to till day-light, with the sea breeze blowing fresh.

Read on …