« ZurückWeiter »
MY GUN-BOAT AND CREW.
to get under weigh and follow the pinnace, for she was already pulling in for Quedah fort, whilst the
Hyacinth,” spreading her wings, was running northward for another river called the Parlis. The crew in a trice ran the anchor to the bows, and got out the sweeps*, as there was no wind, and pulled so heartily as to show me that we had, at any rate, the legs of all our consorts. Checking the zeal of my serang, who, standing amongst the rowers, was exciting them by word and gesture to outstrip the senior officer, I dropped astern into my place, and proceeded to make myself acquainted with my strange shipmates and vessel.
The interpreter Jamboo's history was a short one. He was one of that numerous class who do not know their own fathers. His mother, who was a Burmese woman of Moulmein, averred that a British officer was entitled to the honour of the parentage, though Jamboo, with a smile, said, I don't know sar, she an assertion I was quite ready to believe. A halfcaste he undoubtedly was, and, as such, passed for a Portuguese! although his only reason for so saying was, that the people of that country were about as
Sweep is a nautical term applied to large oars used in heavy vessels ; for instance, those used in barges are sweeps," properly speaking
THE INTERPRETER'S APPEARANCE.
dark as himself, and that Jamboo, finding himself without a religion as well as a father, had, faute de mieux, become a Roman Catholic, his faith being strongly mixed up with his poor mother's Buddhism and the wild superstitions of his Malayan companions. His face, of a dark olive colour, was perfectly beautiful; his figure, although effeminate, was graceful and lithe to a degree; his hands and feet might have served Phidias as a model; and he was not wanting in intelligence. Weak and nervous in temperament, he was as obedient as a child, and it was painful to witness his cringing, fawning manner.
Jamboo's account of my worthy crew was somewhat startling: the majority of them had, I learnt, at various times been imprisoned in Singapore jail as pirates, the most notorious scamp being my serang, Jadee. “Pleasant company!" I ejaculated, as I scanned
Ι the rogues who, seated along the deck on either side, were throwing themselves back with a shout at every stroke of their “sweeps," and displaying twenty-five as reckless, devil-may-care countenances as any equal number of seamen ever exhibited. The serang, Jadee, was, to my astonishment, standing on the main-hatch, with a long Illanoon creese in his hand, which he waved as he gave utterance to a series of expressions, uttered with frantic energy and rapid pantomime,
THE COXSWAIN'S ORATION.
stopping every now and then to allow his crew to express their approval of what he said, by a general chorus of Ugh I which sounded like a groan, or an exulting shout of Ya! ya ! yal which was far more musical. “He is only telling them what fighting and plunder is in store for them,” said Jadee, “and pointing out the certainty of victory while fighting with white men on their side, mixing it up with descriptions of revellings they will have when this war is over."
COMMENCE TO BLOCKADE QUEDAH FORT.
Commence to blockade Quedah Fort. Jadee's imaginary Fight with a Tonkoo. — My Malay Coxswain's Appearance.
- His Attire and Character. — Jadee's piratical Propensities. - Escapes Imprisonment by hanging a Man.- Quedah Fort and Town. — The Appearance of the adjacent Country. – A wet Night. — My Crew.–Jadee's Want of Bigotry. — Primitive Mode of eating.
The pinnace, with the “Pearl” and “Emerald,” soon reached the shallow bar which lies across the Quedah river, a feature common to every river on this side of the Malayan peninsula, and doubtless occasioned by the action of the south-west monsoon against the natural course of the rivers, causing the sediment to be deposited at their entrances instead of being carried out into the deeper parts of the sea. The fort of Quedah hoisted its colours, and armed men showed themselves along the battlements ; but we merely placed ourselves in line across the entrance of the river, out of gunshot, and anchored to commence the blockade. The north-east monsoon, which is the fine weather season of this coast, had scarcely set in
JADEE'S IMAGINARY FIGHT
yet, and flying showers, with occasional squalls, promised a wet and cheerless night. Rain-awnings were spread at once, and after every preparation had been made for a sudden action with war-prahus, I sat down with Jamboo, and my serang, Jadee, to glean information and pick up Malay. To my inquiry, through the interpreter, as to the opinion Jadee held of the line of conduct likely to be pursued by the occupants of Quedah, he assured me that the Malays would never voluntarily fight the "white men, Orangputihs,” as we, of all Europeans, are styled par excellence. It was quite possible, if we were very careless, that they would try and capture Englishmen as hostages for their own safety; and that, by way of inspiriting his men, a Malay chief might, if he found one of the gun-boats alone, which was manned by Malays, fight her in the hopes of an easier capture than they would find in the pinnace. prospect of such a piece of good fortune seemed to arouse all Jadee's recollections of by-gone forays and skirmishes; for no sooner had Jamboo told him that I only hoped Tonkoo Mahomet Said might take it into his head to try the experiment upon the “Emerald,” or “ Numero Tega,”* as she was called
Tega” is Malay for “ Three ;" the Malays preferred calling the vessel by her number, instead of by her name of " Emerald."