Sarah’s Journal2021-12-20T02:45:12+00:00

SARAH’S JOURNAL

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September 17, 1853

Bayard Taylor’s Impression of the Sea Serpent
Sulu Sea
Bayard Taylor’s Description of the Start of the Voyage
Bayard Taylor’s Impression of the island of Cagayanes
Horse-Shoe Robinson by John Pendleton Kennedy
Nineveh and Its Remains by Austen Henry Layard

September 17th

It is a week this morning since we left Whampoa and, indeed, Canton. It has seemed to me a very long week, more like two. Part of the time I have felt quite sick with a cold, perhaps as bad a one as I ever have had. Yesterday and today I have felt much better. While I was feeling so unwell, laid down Bishop Heber’s “Journal in India”, which I had commenced and was reading with a chart, and took up a revolutionary tale called “Horse Shoe Robinson” written by Kennedy, formerly our secretary to the Navy. It is very interesting and well written. “Horse Shoe” is a well drawn character, no doubt there were many such characters. The account of the desultory warfare carried on at the south by Sumpter, Marion, Clarke and Williams is very fine and exciting. Some of his incidents are almost too wonderful to be true and then sometimes his tale is a little unnatural but altogether I like it very much. The story of Mary, the Miller’s daughter, and John Ramsay is too sad. It was a shame to kill poor John. Besides this one, we have two other works by the same author. I look forward to reading them with such pleasure. Those books were given to Williams by Mr. Nye, also several others, among them Layard’s “Ninevah and Its Remains”, a book I have long wanted to read. This present of Mr. Nye’s is certainly a most acceptable one, nothing could be more so for a sea voyage. We have altogether an abundance of books, more than we can read this voyage.

Early this morning Willie awoke crying, I hastened to him (Mary having taken my place by his side ever since I have been so unwell) and found him burning hot, he seemed to have quite a fever. I gave him a little simple medicine, nothing to eat through the day. This evening he seemed much better and is now sleeping quietly. I trust he will be quite well tomorrow. Williams thinks it something like the cold I have just had. It may be this but I rather think these lazy teeth of his have something to do with it also. Dear child he has been very good all day – I shall return to my own bed tonight; Mary can watch him as well as myself.

I have been walking with Williams on deck – the first walk I have had with him since leaving China. He has been far too busy watching winds and sail to think of walking. Our voyage homeward has been commenced much earlier this year and at a very unfavorable season, just between the two monsoons. Consequently, to make headway Williams has had to take a different route than that he has before taken since I have been with him. Instead of going to the southwest we have been going southeast to the eastward of Borneo. Today we have been sailing with very light winds in the Mindoro sea just north of the Sulu Sea. Until today we have had for three days land constantly in sight – islands not very large. We have passed very near them, so that with a glass you could see the leaves of the trees. Many of these islands have looked beautiful. The weather has been very fine, the water smooth and all have enjoyed this lovely sailing. The islands we have so close by passed were the Cuyos Islands.

Today we have also passed a number of islands but the most beautiful of all that I have seen was the island of Cagayanes. We passed it this afternoon, very, very slowly. How I longed to have a boat lowered and go ashore in her. The island was long, had a beach with a narrow strip of land back, then rose beautiful heights covered with grass and trees. Beyond these spread out a beautiful cultivated country with plenty of trees in the background beside others scattered here and there in clumps. The huts of the natives were to the sun along the shore and on the heights. Toward the northern end of the island along the shore were to be seen quantities of cocoanut trees. How I longed for some of the good nuts. I truly hope we shall be able to get some this year at Anyer. I long to taste a green cocoanut – hope I shall like it.

My acquaintance with our gentlemen passengers does not progress very fast. They keep together and talk among themselves which is somewhat of a disappointment to me as I had anticipated much pleasure from their company – particularly Mr. Taylor’s. I have had but two or three pleasant talks with him. These I certainly did enjoy. In one of them he told me somewhat of his travels in Egypt, and of one or two adventures that he met with there. We also talked of some mutual friends at home – found we had quite a number. At another time we talked of his travels in India, particularly of his visit to Mr. Sleeman, or rather Colonel, author of the book I have just been reading on India. He told me that Colonel Sleeman lived at Lucknow where he visited him; that he was minister or ambassador to the independent prince of that country or province. Mr. Taylor admired the old gentleman, for such he is now, very much. He also told me of his visit to Agra, the city of the beautiful tombs. He showed me a very small but exquisite Flindos painting of the beautiful “Taj”, built by Shah Tahan for his wife Nournak. Also of the only other tomb erected by Shah Tahan. The “Taj” was build two centuries ago and cost $15,000,000. The “Taj” alone is fully worth a trip from the United States to see. I like much what I have seen of Mr. Taylor. He ever looks pleasant and bright and seems to have a light, happy heart – looks as if he could enjoy a piece of fun very much. He is not at all handsome and his figure at sea in a round-about looks tall, awkward and ungainly. He has a rough unpolished look, does not look or act like a man that has seen so much as he has. He often makes me think of a bright, laughing, pleasant overgrown boy.

With Mr. Contee I have had several chats; did not amount to much. Indeed the gentleman seems to think it rather too much trouble to have to raise his voice to talk with me. To me he has an unhappy, irritable look. I may be mistaken, but think not. He does not grow upon me.

With Mr. Parkman, my acquaintance has advanced most slowly. He is quite young, looks pleasant and amiable. At present he is constantly with the other gentlemen. I presume if I could hear well I should enjoy their conversation very much and take my share in it and all that goes on, but unhappily if one would really converse with me it must be a tete-a-tete, else I understand little that is said and in consequence can say but little if anything. Oh that this hard trial could be removed, but I fear it never, never will, only that it will necessarily become worse. God give me grace and patience to bear it and that cheerfully, but oh! I do feel so sadly cut off from those around me.

For the last few days I have felt very lonely. Williams can scarce give me any of his company. When Willie is with me, and about me then, I cannot feel lonely but his taking a long nap in the morning and going to bed at seven in the evening then I long very, very much to have Mary by my side. Oh how pleasant it would be if she could be with me. But where’s the use of fretting – I trust we shall have a short voyage to dear friends. How lonely I feel tonight.

September 20, 1853

Sulu Sea
Bayard Taylor’s Description of Mindanao and Basilan

September 20th

Yesterday and last night were spent in passing between the islands of Mindanao and Basilan. This morning we have just rounded the eastern end of Basilan and are entering the Celebes Sea. The weather is, and has been, delightfully fine. Wind very light. Last night was magnificent moonlight and all have deeply enjoyed this delightful sailing with beautiful shores on either side. The Island of Basilan I have admired the most. It is very hilly and its outline is beautiful, picturesque and very fine. Some of the hills most graceful in their slope. Most particularly so that part of the island in view this morning; parts of the island, particularly the parts in view this morning, seem to be highly cultivated in some places to the tops of the hills – beautiful trees are scattered about in all directions. Some of the hills and the highest ones are entirely covered with trees. This diversity adds much to the picturesqueness of the landscape. There is scarce any wind this morning yet the air is delightfully cool and refreshing. The water is nearly as smooth as glass. How much I have longed for a row on shore the last twenty-four hours.

This morning we have taken in quite a supply of cuttlefish for the bird, one was a foot long and the back was a beautiful white and rose color. There were quantities around the ship early this morning. I was most glad to get them as birdie was reduced to his last one.

Yesterday we had a very fine view of the beautiful island of Mindanao. It is a very valuable island and parts highly cultivated. Sugar and tobacco are raised in large quantities. We passed very near this island and with the glass could see distinctly the houses and fortifications, built of stone, on shore. These last were really very extensive. The town looked quite large, the houses seemed all built of wood, were painted white and looked very large. The island, one of the Philippines, belongs to the Spaniards and quite a number reside on the island. The town looked lovely as we passed, situated close to the water with fine sloping hills rising in the background with beautifully cultivated lands on the sides. I longed to visit this town; to go in the houses and see how the inhabitants of these far distant lands live; what they do, how they enjoy life, how their houses are furnished, etc. Would that I could see and make myself acquainted with more of this beautiful world that I am so often passing round.

Yesterday afternoon a native boat put off from the Mindanao shore. We all thought she was coming to hail us but she passed close to our side without speaking and went on the way. The boat was small and very picturesque looking. About the middle it had one of these rounding bamboo cones so common to the Chinese boats. On either side she had three long arms extending out which touched the water as she rocked, slats of wood were fastened to these arm like looking affairs connecting them one with the other. “Their object”, Williams said, “was to prevent the boat from rolling over in rough weather.” This boat had one mast with a most singular looking little sail. She was also impelled forward by rowers. The oars, or whatever they may be called that were used, were singular looking affairs, had very short handles, just allowing the large round board at the end going in the water. This was their shape: o—-. One was used in front, one on either side, one at the stern. They watched us most earnestly in passing and we returned the compliment. There was one man, the gentleman of the affair, who attracted from us a good deal of attention. He stood most attentively watching us just in front of the bamboo covering He was dressed in long robes of yellow with a turban on his head. One or two of the rowers had turbans on their heads but generally they were uncovered; the inhabitants of these islands are Malays. Mr. Taylor has made several very pretty sketches of these islands. I really feel a desire to follow his example. If I stay another voyage I will be prepared to do so if our route homeward should be the same. I have had long and pleasant conversations with all our passengers the last two or three days. I really have enjoyed them very much – Williams at present being too busy to attend to anything but his ship.

Yesterday Mr. Taylor showed me many very pretty India sketches – magnificent trees forming a very conspicuous object in several of them. Several of them will be very beautiful when finished.

Our dear little Willie has not been very well for several days owing to a cold and also I think, his gums. He seems rather better this morning and has enjoyed a visit out to see the pigs, chickens and pigeons.

September 22, 1853

The Confessions of Fitz-Boodle and Some Passages in the Life of Major Gahagan by William Makepeace Thackeray
Heber’s Journal of India by Reginald Heber

September 22nd

A fine cool day for these latitudes, being very near the Equator, which we shall probably pass today. We are now, and have been through the night, going with a pleasant light wind some five or six knots an hour. Willie seems better this morning, does not cough nearly as much. He had, however a restless and wakeful night last night – did not get to sleep till nearly eleven and was awake a little after five this morning, besides waking several times through the night. This wakefulness in Willie is singular. I know not what to make of it. It does not make him fretful or cross but he will lay for hours perfectly good and without saying a word. I have spent the greater part of the last two days in looking over and repairing Williams’ clothes. Also finished last evening one of Thackeray’s Works “Confessions of Fitz-Boodle and Some Passages in the Life of Major Gahagan”; it is an amusing burlesque, occasionally put me in mind of Gillivers. I find “Heber’s Journal” very interesting but thus far not anything like as interesting as Colonel Sleeman’s work. How sorry I am that I had not the time to finish that work. Hope I shall meet with it again.

Night before last we had a magnificent sunset – one I should like to have impressed on my memory like a much admired painting, but a vivid remembrance of a sunset is one of the hardest things to remember. I gaze long and earnestly at one. I admire much, hoping and thinking that I shall be able to fix that one certainly in my memory, but its impression is alas too generally vague – like that of a dream. It leaves just enough of an impression to trouble us with the vain effort to catch it more. However, this is not always the case. There are some very few sunsets I think I shall always remember quite distinctly.

Our visit to China was most fortunate to the comfort of mortals in some respects. I have not seen a cockroach since my return to the ship and not more than two or three mosquitoes. This is indeed a blessing, so unlike our former experience and what we most certainly expected.

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