FRENCH CIRCUMNAVIGATORS, I
"Any one who saw Rio de Janeiro only by day would come to the conclusion that the population consisted entirely of negroes. The respectable classes never go out except in the evening, unless compelled by some pressing circumstance or for the performance of religious duties; and it is in the evening that the ladies especially show themselves. During the day all remain indoors, and pass the time between their couches and their looking-glasses. The only places where a man can enjoy the society of the ladies are the theatres and the churches."
During the sail from Brazil to the Cape of Good Hope nothing occurred deserving special mention. On the 7th March the Uranie anchored in Table Bay. After a quarantine of three days, the travellers obtained permission to land, and were received with a hearty welcome by Governor Somerset. As soon as a place suitable for their reception had been found, the scientific instruments were brought on shore, and the usual experiments were made with the pendulum, and the variations of the magnetic needle observed.
MM. Quoy and Gaimard, the naturalists, in company with several officers of the staff, made scientific excursions to Table Mountain and to the famous vineyards of Constantia. M. Gaimard observes, "The vines that we rode amongst are in the midst of alleys of oak and of pine; and the vine-stems, planted at the distance of four feet from one another, are not supported by props. Every year the vines are pruned, and the earth about them, which is of a sandy nature, is turned up. We noticed here and there plenty of peaches, apricots, apples, pears, citrons, as well as small plots cultivated as kitchen-gardens. On our return, M. Colyn insisted on our tasting the several sorts of wine which he produces,—Constantia properly so-called, both red and white, Pontac, Pierre, and Frontignac. The wine produced in other localities, which is called Cape wine par excellence, is manufactured from a muscatel grape of a dark straw colour, which seemed to me in flavour preferable to the grape of Provence. We have just said that there are two sorts of Constantia, the red and the white; they are both produced from muscatel grapes of different colours. People at the Cape generally prefer Frontignac to all the other wines produced from the vintages of Constantia."
Exactly a month after quitting the southern extremity of Africa, the Uranie cast anchor off Port Louis in the Isle of France, which, since the Treaties of 1815, has been in the hands of the English. The necessity for careening the ship, that it might be thoroughly examined, and the copper sheathing repaired, led to a much longer stay in this port than Freycinet had calculated upon; but our travellers found no cause to regret the delay, for the society of Port Louis fully sustained its old reputation for generous hospitality. The time passed quickly in excursions, receptions, dinners, balls, horse-races, and all sorts of festivities. It was, therefore, not without some regret that the French guests bade adieu to a place where they had been received with so much kindness both by their old compatriots and by those who had so lately been their bitter enemies.
The stay of the Uranie at the Isle of France had not, however, been sufficiently long to allow Freycinet to investigate many subjects of much interest, but this omission was remedied by the polite readiness shown by some of the leading residents in supplying him with valuable papers on the agriculture of the island, its commerce, its financial position, the industrial pursuits, and the social condition of the people, the correct appreciation of which demanded a more careful and minute examination than a mere passing traveller could possibly give to them. Since the island had come under English administration, it appeared that a number of new roads had been planned out, and a policy of reform had supplanted a benumbing system of routine fatal to all activity and progress.
Bourbon was the next place touched at by the Uranie, where the supplies of which the travellers stood in need were to be procured from the government stores. She cast anchor off St. Denis on the 19th July, 1818, remaining in the roadstead of St. Paul until the 2nd August, when she set sail for the Bay of Sharks, on the western shores of Australia. There is little of interest to be noted in connexion with the stay at Bourbon beyond the steady increase of the population and of trade which had taken place during the century preceding the arrival of the French expedition in 1717. According to Gentil de Barbinais, there were living in the island only 900 free people, amongst whom were no more than six white families, and 1100 slaves. At the last census taken in 1817, these numbers had risen to 14,790 whites, 4342 free blacks, 49,759 slaves, making a total of 68,898 inhabitants. This large and rapid increase must be attributed partly to the salubrity of the climate, but chiefly to the freedom of trade, of which the island had for some time enjoyed the advantage.