Douglas and his party, and led away to another room, the ceiling of which seemed very much inclined to come down on our heads. There was a table here, and a couch. I had no sooner taken my seat on the latter, than a well-dressed Chinese put writing materials before me, red paper, Indian ink, and a small brush. He made signs for me to write, salaaming low at the same time; I immediately complied with his request, and wrote a few lines for him. Indeed, they always made a marked difference between the white men and the men of colour, holding up the thumb to signify the former, and the little, finger, the latter.
Note 9. In this room refreshments were brought for us; hard-boiled eggs, fowls and pork cut into small pieces, and two sorts of cakes, one being plain, with small seeds on the top; the other very like dumplings, with minced pork inside. In fact, there was as much as we could eat, and all was good of the kind; at any rate, we completely demolished the good things, and then we returned to our sedans, and were carried back to our rooms.
Here we fonnd the Lascars anxiously awaiting our return; we told them that the mandarins said we were going to Chusan in six days, which good news raised their spirits very much, and they began to abuse the Chinese, especially the female part of the community, for having imprisoned them at all. In the course of the same day, my friend of the previous night came and requested me to write something more for him; I of course consented, and he then produced some plain white fans ; I wrote a few lines upon them, and he seemed much pleased with my performance; Wombwell also wrote on one for him.
In return, he gave us two a basket full of sweet cakes, which were very acceptable ; he came to see us several times afterwards, and never failed to bring some token of his gratitude with him. Time wore away : the six days went by, and we were not released; some said they were perhaps waiting till the Lascars' jackets were ready, but they were brought, and we were still kept prisoners. We were glad to find that what we had at first set down to our own dirt and unwholesomeness, was more attributable to the dirt and laziness of our jailers and other people.
Even the walls had their inhabitants, for they fell down out of the rafters upon us. Days and weeks passed on, and we gave up all hopes of a speedy release, expecting nothing less than an imprisonment of a year or two; but I cannot say that I was now much troubled with the fear of losing my head. During this time we were sometimes amused with a fight in the yard, between two of the soldiers—a most unpleasant kind of combat, for they seized hold of each other's tails with one hand, and dragging the head down almost to the ground, clawed and scratched with the other hand, till the one with the weakest IN CHINA.
Sometimes, again, a drunken soldier would make his appearance, and coming to the window afford us a little amusement, for, getting hold of his tail, we made it fast to the grating, and then left him to get loose as he could ; generally one of his comrades, attracted by his bellowing, came and released him; all this was not very edifying employment, but it served to pass the time, which, having no books or employment, hung very heavily on our hands.
The weather now changed, and the winter set in; we were glad to put on our thick clothes, which we found very comfortable, except that they afforded a great harbour to the vermin: this was, however, by this time only a secondary consideration, as the cold weather had rendered them very torpid, and they did not bite so hard.
The servants discovered it once or twice, but we generally managed to secrete some rice from our breakfast. The Chinese used now to carry about little teapots, full of hot water, at the spouts of which they were constantly sipping ; and also a kind of salamander, an oblong brass vessel, with a handle to it, and filled with hot water; in the lid were several small holes, and the steam coming through kept them warm.
They carried these things either in their long loose sleeves, or, sitting down, placed their feet upon them; but I should have imagined that the steam would have damped their clothes, and rather chilled than warmed them. This threat made but little impression, for, a short time after, another of the party walked off with a teapot belonging to one of the soldiers; this we kept for several days, till the owner found out where it was ; but we would not give it up unless he paid for it, and as our jailer and his own comrades only laughed at him, we obliged him to redeem his teapot with a hundred or more pice, much to his dissatisfaction.
ONE evening, about the latter end of November, we were surprised by the appearance of the moving board, and expected that we were to be taken away again, when, to our great amazement, one of the marines that we had left in the prison walked in, looking stout and well; but after him came, or rather was carried, the other, a most horrid spectacle, a moving skeleton, with the skin stretched tightly over his bones ; his eyes were sunk deep in his head, and his voice was awfully hollow ; he was the most melancholy sight I ever saw.
When on board the ship he was a stout, well-made man, and now how dreadfully changed! The other had been very ill indeed, but owing to a good constitution, and the kindness and attentions of Mrs. Noble, who did all that possibly lay in her power to alleviate their sufferings he had got over his sickness, and was now in a fair way for recovery.
Douglas and Mrs.
Translation Train Wreck
Noble, promising us some money. The marines had received their pice, and ours were to come the next day, which they accordingly did ; four hundred pice for each of the white men, and three hundred for each of the Lascars. I now began to learn a little of the language, and found out the names of several things in the eating way; such as pork, beef, and all sorts of cakes, and the celebrated bird's-nest soup, which, by-the-bye, was uncommonly good; these things we were enabled to buy with the money we had received.
That night this old servant was constantly at our window, with a lantern, to look at the sick person.
Towards morning the marine became much worse, and lost his senses, and soon after he died. He was no sooner dead than the servant, who had been watching very narrowly at the window, came in, and rolling the body up in a long coat, and taking it by the arms, threw it on his back, and making signs for one of the Melville's boys to keep the legs off the ground, they walked off with him through the gate, and some way into the town, till they came to an open space, where there was a shed with some straw in it.
Here he laid the body down, and covering it decently with the coat, made the boy understand that it would be buried that night. Noble's kindness. Our jailer and attendants made signs to this effect, but they moved him only to another part of the joshouse. He had received several spear-wounds when he was taken, which had never properly healed; and when attacked by the dysentery, these wounds broke out afresh, and reduced him to a dreadful state, and it was not long before we heard of his death.
There was now only one marine left. A short time after this, a new interpreter, who had just arrived, as he said, from Canton, came up to us ; he brought us two letters to read, one from Mrs. Noble, and the other from Captain Austruther, to their friends at Chusan, requesting to have some clothes and other things sent to them.
We complained of the smallness of our room, and of our having nothing but rice to eat, and said we wished to have meat sometimes ; he agreed that it was a most uncomfortable place, and promised to speak to the mandarins, and get all things put to rights for us. He told us, however, that either Captain Anstruther or Lieut. Douglas would come to see us in a few days. On this point he did not deceive us ; for two or three days after his visit, Lieut.
Douglas, to our great pleasure, walked in : he was very indignant at the treatment we had received, and at our being confined in such a miserable place, and said he would get it altered immediately. The officers at Chusan, finding that the prisoners at Ningpo did not write, suspected the cause to be something of this kind, and therefore bribed a Chinese to carry letters from them to Lieut.
Douglas and the others ; and they answered them by the same person. They asked for all they wanted' in their letters by the Chinaman, and always mentioned the same things in those that were given to the mandarins, so that these gentlemen imagined the English were conjurors, or some such thing; for with all their cunning they never found out the spy, and the things that were written for, through them, always came, although they never sent the letters. He told us he had tried several times to get up to see us, but that the mandarins would not allow him to come.
He had sent us several things, and amongst the rest a bar of soap ; but none of these things arrived. I suppose the Chinese ate the soap; as they have no such article themselves, they would most likely imagine it to be some eatable; and as they are in the habit of eating far nastier things, the soap might have been rather a delicacy to them than otherwise. After some more conversation, he gave us a dollar apiece to procure us better and more substantial food, and then left us, promising to see us soon again, and to improve our situation.
Douglas continued to supply us with money, at the rate of a dollar apiece for fourteen days; but the persons who brought it to us generally pocketed one or two dollars each time, and altogether robbed us of nine dollars; a large sum in that country, where the necessaries of life IN CHINA. The proper exchange, I believe, is rather more than a thousand pice to the dollar; but we could only get nine hundred and thirty-two, or at most nine hundred and fifty. Christmas was now close at hand, and we accordingly bought some meat and other things, that we might not eat such an unEnglishlike dinner as rice, turnips, and very small fish, our usual food; and with a little coaxing on our part,we prevailed on the old jailer to allow us to have some samshu, a liquor very like gin, and obtained from rice.
From this time we were allowed to have as much samshu as we liked; and with the exception of one Lascar getting drunk, no one ever forgot himself. The Lascar, when he came to his senses in the morning, we tried by courtmartial, and sentenced him to receive three dozen, which were administered with a cat made for the purpose, of threads twisted and plaited together. The marine was now the only Englishman in irons, and notwithstanding the mandarins had promised Lieut. Douglas, in consequence of his remonstrances, that they should be taken off, they had as usual deceived him ; so one day we took them off ourselves, and lifting up one of the floor planks in a corner of the room, hid them there.
This we were enabled to effect the more easily, as they had been taken off when he was at the jail, to allow him to put on a pair of flushing trousers Lieut. The Chinese never noticed that his irons were off, and they were left in the hole as a legacy to the rats. One evening, whilst at our supper, one of the soldiers came to the window, and amused himself by imitating our awkward attempts to eat with the chopsticks.
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This impertinence so incensed one of our men, that he jumped up, and filling a basin with water, dashed it through the bars into the soldier's face, taking him quite by surprise; the water streamed down his breast, inside his numerous jackets, and must have made him most uncomfortable. But his only revenge was swearing and shaking his fist at us as he ran away.
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Finding that no harm arose from this first attempt, we determined never to be annoyed again, regretting that we had allowed ourselves to be overlooked so long; therefore all parties that would not pay for peeping, we drove away by throwing water at them; and having a bucketful in the room, the water Avas always at hand. It was now January, and we had some very cold weather, and several falls of snow; our jailer, therefore, allowed us sometimes to have a small earthenware pot, in which was some mould, and on the top a few pieces of charcoal; this, of course, was soon expended, so, to keep up the fire, we tore out the bars of the door, and part of the flooring, and burnt them.
These were the only things I saw in use at the joshouse in lieu of fire-places. Our room was too crowded for us to feel the cold much, but still it was rather chilly ; so, to keep ourselves warm, we ran round and round our apartment, played at leapfrog, and such other games, which kept the IN CHINA. We could see the old officer, who lived in the room next ours, sitting, for hours together, in his yard, basking in the sun, and smoking a long pipe; wrapped up in two or three dresses, made of skins sown together, and wearing a curious kind of head-dress, resembling the cap worn by jesters in the olden time, only minus the bells.
Soon after Lieut. Douglas's visit, Wombwell and I were sent for by the mandarins ; thanks to the person for whom we had written on the fans, as he came with the servants, and pointed us out. On arriving at the mandarin's, we found the Canton interpreter, with several letters and boxes from Chusan.
The interpreter wished me to explain the letters, which I did, making him understand our expressions as well as I could; I then told him to whom the boxes belonged. Wombwell and I were kept separate, and, after interpreting one letter, I was sent away, and Wombwell brought in, to give his interpretation. This way of proceeding of course took a long time; so that we were there nearly all day. About noon a small table was brought in, upon which they placed refreshments for us ; cold meat cut into small pieces, hard boiled eggs, cakes, and a metal jug, containing about a quart of samshu.
This came in very happily, and the interpreting went on with fresh vigour.
In the centre of the table was a large bowl, with a heater in the middle of it, containing a rich soup, full of vegetables and meat, cut into very small pieces. Around this were several large plates, containing pork and fowls cut up, the bones having been taken out, pickled fish and vegetables in a rich thick gravy; two small plates, one containing salted shrimps, and the other, something exactly like sea-weed, and also a small basin, filled with a white lard, into which the officers dipped their chopsticks, and taking out a small quantity, mixed it with their rice.
The rice, which was very fine and white, was in a small wooden bucket; from which the servants gave their masters a fresh supply, when their basins were empty. Two servants stood behind their masters' chairs, and waited upon them with the assiduity of European servants. When the officers had finished, the servants took their places, and made their dinner off the remains. They followed their masters' example in excluding me from their repast; though they very readily gave me cups ef hot water, which I suppose they called tea, as I could discern two or three leaves at the bottom of the cup.
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Having now nothing to do, I went to the entrance, and, on looking out, I observed, opposite to me, a building, from which proceeded a Babel of voices, and seeing a little girl come out of the door, I thought I would take the opportunity, whilst the officers were in another apartment, and the servants intent upon their supper, to walk over, and see what was in this place ; so on the girl's return, I followed her ; but was noticed too soon by the ladies inside, who no sooner saw me than they jumped up, and slammed the IN CHINA.
I now returned to the interpreter, and liaving finished our task, the small table was again placed before us, furnished in the same manner as before; so that we could not complain of their want of hospitality. The mandarin, a fat jolly-looking old gentleman, asked me, through the interpreter, whether we ever had any snow in our country; and seemed very much surprised when I told him, we had far more than was then on the ground; lie was very much taken with the appearance of my blue flannel shirt, which I was then wearing: but as it was my warmest piece of clothing, I could not afford to make him a present of it.
The ceiling was painted buff colour, and varnished; and from it were suspended four large ornamented lanterns. There were neither rushes nor mats on the floor, but merely the bare boards, and these by no means too clean.
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When we reached home, as we were obliged to call our miserable prison, it was quite dark, and we found all the others had lain down. We communicated the happy news we had learned from the letters, and then followed their example. A NIGHT or two after our visit to the mandarin, we heard the priests chaunting two or three silvery toned bells were struck at the same time, and now and then a drum. We could see nothing of their proceedings, but from the glare of light the temple must have been brilliantly illuminated. The jjriests were not exactly sober all the next day; so they must have taken strong stimulants during the night.
A few days after was the Chinese New Year's Day; when an immense number of worshippers visited the joshouse with offerings of various kinds ; mostly ornaments of filigree paper. One of them, a man, arrayed in a splendid silk garment, had some words with our jailer, and I believe struck him, at least I saw his hand up: he was seized by the soldiers, and dragged by his tail to an inner court, from whence he was shortly led by a soldier with a long heavy chain round his neck, and handcuffed.
What became of him afterwards I did not learn; but it seemed to me summary justice, and very hard usage, for apparently so slight an offence. The old officer, who lived behind our prison, wore a magnificent dress, something similar to a tartan, but the colours more varied, and brilliant.
On his breast was a piece of beautiful embroidery ; representing some extraordinary animal, only existing, I should suppose, in the imaginations of the Chinese.