Three days more and it will be a month since we left China. I expected a long voyage through these seas but I had hoped not quite so long. Yesterday we had much more wind than we have had in some time. This morning, however, we go along very gently. I trust tomorrow will find us at Anyer.
Yesterday morning finished “Blithedale Romance” by Hawthorne. I had commenced it the afternoon previous and found it extremely interesting – parts of it powerfully written. It is a strange wild story. Mr. Taylor admires extremely the character of the principal heroine “Zenobia” – thinks Hawthorne has Margaret Fuller in his thoughts while he writes. I entirely disagree with him, as far as looks went she was indeed a splendid woman, but I cannot say that she is a fine character. Perhaps she was splendid but certainly not fine – not like Margaret Fuller. I like her perhaps best in the first scene where she is introduced. The scene between her and Coverdale in the city when he makes his evening call is very fine. She is most sweet with her tongue, is queenly in her bearing and shows her real woman’s character. The last scene at Eliot’s Pulpit is really grand. Zenobia’s opinion of Hollingsworth, her true reading of her character, and then, when it is acquiesced in by Coverdale and he pronounces Hollingsworth a witch; then Zenobia’s defiance of him, her estimate of his intellectual character and of Coverdale’s are so like the woman. Also her message to Hollingsworth when the injured woman’s feelings find vent – all is very fine. But what is the aim or purpose of Hawthorne in all these wild stories that he writes thus beautifully bewitchingly?
Williams busy writing letters to Canton to be forwarded by way of Anyer. He thinks I ought to write to Mrs. Nye and I suppose I ought, yet somehow I don’t feel like it.
My little Willie’s forehead looks rather badly. I fear he is going to have a second boil, otherwise his complexion is clearing up nicely from the effects of prickly heat and notwithstanding boils he looks more as he used to, particularly his eyes so large and deeply blue. Prickly heat as long as it continues seems to work a complete change in his looks so much so that I fear at the time that he never will look like his beautiful self again but he seems ever to come around. Willie, since he has recovered from his cold has been as good a child as one could wish. He amused me very much the other day. “Mama”, said he, “do you smoke cigars?” “Why no, Willie.” “Do you smoke a pipe?” “No, Willie.” “Well, Mama, what do you smoke?” He sees so much smoking going on among the gentlemen that he seemed to think that I must in some way join them. I really am becoming perfectly disgusted with this everlasting smoking. I suppose I should not mind it so much. If it were not for the continual spitting which seems to be its inevitable consequence – it makes me fairly sick sometimes.
I arose at sunrise on the morning of the 8th of October, in time to see the Sea Serpent enter the Straits of Sunda. On our left, five or six miles distant, arose the lofty headland of Point St. Nicholas; in front was the rock called “The Cap,” and the island of “Thwart-the-Way,” while the mountains of Sumatra were barely visible far to the west. We were scarcely abreast of the headland when two native prahus, or boats, were seen coming off to us, the boatmen laboring at their sweeps with a sharp, quick cry, peculiar to semi-barbarous people. One of the boats was soon alongside, with a cargo of yams, plantains and fowls, with such fancy articles as shells, monkeys, parroquets and Java sparrows. The captain and crew were Malays, and nearly all spoke English more or less fluently. The former had an account-book, showing his dealings with ships, and a printed register from the Dutch Government, containing notices of the vessels called upon in the straits. We were gratified to find that we had not been beaten, the shortest passage from Whampoa, previous to our own, being thirty days.
The second boat soon arrived, and between the two Capt. Howland managed to procure about fifteen ewt. of yams, with abundant supplies of potatoes, fowls, and paddy. The fruits they brought off were plantains, cocoa-nuts, ripe and green, and a few mangosteens, which were then going out of season. The latter were mostly rotten, but the few fresh ones which we picked out were enough to convince me that its fame as the most exquisite of all fruits had not been overrated. The very look of the snow-white pulp, softly imbedded in its thick, juicy, crimson husk, is refreshing; and its melting coolness and sweetness, relieved by the faintest mixture of a delicious acid flavor, makes it the very nectar and ambrosia of the vegetable world. Certainly no other fruit is comparable to it in flavor and lusciousness.
While the boat went back to Angier for fresh supplies of paddy and other necessaries—an arrangement which deprived us of all chance of landing there—we slowly drifted down the straits with the tide, past Cap Rock and towards “Thwart-the Way”. I was charmed with the beauty of the Javanese shore. Low hills, completely covered with foliage, rose from the water, with ascending upland slopes beyond, and groups of lofty mountains in the background. In the almost interminable wealth of tropical vegetation which covered the land, the feathery cocoa-palm and the massive foliage of the banyan could be plainly recognized. Passing the picturesque headlands and leafy wildernesses of “Thwart-the-Way,” we lay to off Angier, waiting for the boat. We were nearly two miles from shore, but the scattered Malay village, the big banyan-tree, the Dutch fort, and the light-house, with its tiled roof, were all distinctly visible. The lofty promontory of Rajah Bassa, on the Sumatra side, loomed in the distance. The wind was blowing fresh from the south, and favorable for us, but we were obliged to lay to nearly an hour for our supplies, surrounded in the mean time with small boats, from which we purchased fish, shells, parroquets and Java sparrows. At last, all the fresh stores were shipped, and we ran off before a spanking breeze. Point St. Nicholas, Button Rock, Angier and “Thwart the-Way” soon disappeared, and the superb conical peak of the island of Crockatoa rose on our lee bow. We saw Prince’s island at dusk, on the weather bow, and entered the Indian Ocean before the twilight had wholly faded—having made the passage through the straits under unusually favorable auspices.
Have had quite an exciting day, having arrived early this morning off Anyer. Have had many of the natives in their boats to visit us and taken quite a fresh supply of eatables on board. We had quite a fine view of the town. The appearance was very pleasant as we saw it from the water – directly on the landing place is a Banyan tree. The foliage was very thick and of a very green color. It looked like a large tree, but was small for a Banyan. I could not see whether any of the branches had dropped and taken root. Of coconut and banana trees there were any quantity. As the town passed from our sight we had a good view of the lighthouse, a square building, the roof terminating in a pointed peak on top of which was the place for the lantern It looked like a high square box and was painted black. The sloping roof extended some distance beyond the walls of the house and formed the covering to a piazza that surrounded the building. Mr. Taylor said that it looked like an India bungalow.
This morning I ate, for the first time, the mangosteen. I had heard much of its lusciousness and was not at all disappointed. It is really a most delicious and refreshing fruit, cool and juicy. It is about the size of a China orange with a thick hard rind of purplish color. The fruit itself is perfectly white and divided into five or six parts. Some much larger than others. I gave Willie some of the fruit. He said “Mama, I think it is delightful.” Williams and the other gentlemen sent off for a large number of cocoanuts – 120. Only four were sent. I know not why. It was a great disappointment to us all. However, I shall, I hope, now taste a green cocoanut; as yet have never done so. Could not get them here last year and could not get them at the Sandwich Islands. We have, however, plenty of bananas and quite a supply of pineapples, besides chickens, fresh eggs and vegetables. Three monkeys were also taken on board and a variety of birds. One of the men promised to bring me a basket of handsome shells, but they made not their appearance. Williams got a bundle of beautiful bamboo canes, finely polished, some six feet long I should think.
Have just witnessed a burial at sea. It was very solemn. It was the burial of one of the sailors. He was ill with dysentery when he left. He had had it a long time and it had become chronic. He was under the consulate’s care and Williams took him, as the doctor thought that a sea change might be of benefit. He has been quite ill ever since we left. For the last few days almost unconscious. He died last night about midnight. I trust it is all well with his soul. Just about this same spot, 180 miles from Anyer, died one of our sailor boys when returning home the first voyage. He was a pleasant little fellow, had left New York with us and we all felt interested in him.
This morning Williams read the morning service aloud to me. I hope now we shall be able to read it every Sunday. This morning tasted the green cocoanut. The milk is clear like water, tastes rather pleasant but nothing to be compared to the milk of a good coconut at home. The pulp I did not like. It was sickish. In the future I shall feel quite content with a hard shell one. I have also eaten for the first time a piece of sugar cane. It was pleasant, cool, juicy and sweet and must be very refreshing to a weary, thirsty traveler. Persons become very fond of it, missing it much when deprived of it. I shall keep the remains of my piece for Willie. I think, without a doubt, he will love it very much. I have also kept some of the cocoanut milk for him; he shall have the satisfaction of tasting it, indeed, drinking it, for there is nearly a tumbler full (four large tumblers full from one nut), for once in his life. I trust he may live to travel and drink it in many lands. If Willie has the means to do so, and inherits my disposition, longing desire to visit foreign lands, he will be a great traveler – and then, if his mind and attention is directed to some natural scientific pursuit, how very delightful it will be for him. I hope from my heart that it may be thus with him.
We received on board yesterday a regular colony of birds and I hear nothing but tweet all day. Mary and my Chinese boy have each a cage of a dozen Java sparrows, beautiful little quaker looking birds. Mr. Taylor and Mr. Parkman have each a parakeet.
We are now fairly on the broad Indian Ocean. Yesterday afternoon, left Anyer about three, and last night had a good wind. Today it has been very light. Sent two notes to Canton yesterday for Doctor Parker and Mrs. Nye. Willie’s boil just between his eye and nose is coming to a head. This one does not seem to give him any trouble. He has, I fear, another one coming on his eyelid. It is very red and much swollen but does not seem to give him any pain.
Yesterday morning finished Heber’s “Journal”. I had become extremely interested in it and it’s sad and sudden and made me feel very sad. I seemed to go back thirty years and sympathize with the sad and desolate widow, desolate indeed she must have been, thus to lose, and under such trying circumstances too, a husband she must deeply have loved. I should like much to know what her future history was and what it may now be, for she may be living. Also of those two little girls. How little we know what the future of a day may bring forth.