CHAPTER IX. THE EAST INDIES - SINGAPORE.

ARRIVAL IN HONG-KONG - THE ENGLISH STEAMER - SINGAPORE PLANTATIONS - A HUNTING PARTY IN THE JUNGLE - A CHINESE FUNERAL - THE FEAST OF LANTERNS - TEMPERATURE AND CLIMATE.

The passage from Canton to Hong-Kong was accomplished without any circumstance worthy of notice, save the time it took, in consequence of the prevalence of contrary winds the whole way. We were, it is true, woke up the first night by the report of guns; but I expect they were not fired at us, as we were not molested. My travelling companions, the Chinese, also behaved themselves on this occasion with the greatest politeness and decorum; and, had I been enabled to look into the future, I would willingly have given up the English steamer and pursued my journey as far as Singapore on board a junk. But as this was impossible, I availed myself of the English steamer, "Pekin," of 450 horse-power, Captain Fronson commander, which leaves for Calcutta every month.

As the fares are most exorbitant, {116} I was advised to take a third-class ticket, and hire a cabin from one of the engineers or petty officers; I was greatly pleased with the notion, and hastened to carry it out. My astonishment, however, may be imagined when, on paying my fare, I was told that the third-class passengers were not respectable, that they were obliged to sleep upon deck, and that the moon was exceedingly dangerous, etc. It was in vain that I replied I was the best judge of my own actions; I was obliged, unless I chose to remain behind, to pay for one of the second places. This certainly gave me a very curious idea of English liberty.

On the 25th of August, at 1 o'clock, P.M., I went on board. On reaching the vessel I found no servant in the second places, and was obliged to ask a sailor to take my luggage into the cabin. This latter was certainly anything but comfortable. The furniture was of the most common description, the table was covered with stains and dirt, and the whole place was one scene of confusion. I inquired for the sleeping cabin, and found there was but one for both sexes. I was told to apply to one of the officials, who would no doubt allow me to sleep somewhere else. I did so, and obtained a neat little cabin in consequence, and the steward was kind enough to propose that I should take my meals with his wife. I did not, however, choose to accept the offer; I paid dearly enough, Heaven knows, and did not choose to accept everything as a favour. Besides, this was the first English steamer I had ever been on board, and I was curious to learn how second-class passengers were treated.

The company at our table consisted not only of the passengers, of whom there were three besides myself, but of the cooks and waiters of the first-class places, as well as of the butcher; or, in a word, of every one of the attendants who chose to take "pot-luck" with us. As for any etiquette in the article of costume, that was entirely out of the question. Sometimes one of the company would appear without either coat or jacket; the butcher was generally oblivious of his shoes and stockings; and it was really necessary to be endowed with a ravenous appetite to be enabled to eat anything with such a set.

The bill of fare was certainly adapted to the crew and their costume, but decidedly not to the passengers, who had to pay thirteen dollars (2 pounds 12s.) a day each for provisions.

The table-cloth was full of stains, and, in lieu of a napkin, each guest was at liberty to use his handkerchief. The knives and forks had white and black horn handles, with notched blades, and broken prongs. On the first day we had no spoons at all; on the second we had one between us, and this one was placed on the table in solitary grandeur during the entire voyage. There were only two glasses, and those of the most ordinary description, which circulated from mouth to mouth; as I was a female, instead of my turn of the glasses, I had, as a peculiar mark of distinction, an old tea-cup with the handle knocked off.

The head cook, who did the honours, pleaded in excuse for all this discomfort, that they happened this voyage to be short of servants. This struck me as really a little too naive, for when I paid my money I paid for what I ought to have then, and not for what I might have another time.

As I said before, the provisions were execrable; the remnants of the first cabin were sent to us poor wretches. Two or three different things would very often be side by side in the most friendly and brotherly manner upon one dish, even although their character was widely different; that was looked upon as a matter of no import, which was also the case as to whether the things came to table hot or cold.

On one occasion, during tea, the head cook was in unusually good humour, and remarked, "I spare no possible pains to provide for you. I hope you want for nothing." Two of the passengers, Englishmen, replied, "No, that's true!" The third, who was a Portuguese, did not understand the importance of the assertion. As a native of Germany, not possessing the patriotic feeling of an English subject in the matter, I should have replied very differently had I not been a women, and if, by so replying, I could have effected a change for the better.

The only light we had was from a piece of tallow candle, that often went out by eight o'clock. We were then under the necessity of sitting in the dark or going to bed.

In the morning the cabin served as a barber's shop, and in the afternoon as a dormitory, where the cooks and servants, who were half dead with sleep, used to come and slumber on the benches.

In order to render us still more comfortable, one of the officers pitched upon our cabin as quarters for two young puppies, who did nothing but keep up one continued howl; he would not have dared to put them in the sailors' cabin, because the latter would have kicked them out without farther ceremony.