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The knights and retainers were gathered around,
How oft at such revels, old cup! hast thou been ?
Or perchance, by the sick, all pallid with pain,
And the deeds of the brave feudal barons of yore,
To the knights of old times and their memories dear.!
BY MONTGOMARY D. PARKER, U. 8. O.
LEAVING our kind friends at St. Paul de Loando, who during the whole of our stay had treated us with the greatest attention, we replenished our sea stock of fruit by large drafts
orange boats, which come off in fleets to pay us a parting call (and to be paid some of good old · Uncle Sam's dollars), and were soon standing out of the harbor, with a fair wind, on our northward cruise, and anchored at about sundown of the same day off Dande Point and river. Our object in visiting this place was to fill up with wood and water, which we were told at St. Paul we could do much easier and at, a less expense than any
where else on the coast. We remained at anchor nearly a week, during which time I took many pleasant tramps on shore, and made quite a long and interesting trip up the river in the captain's gig; for the fatigue and discomforts of which, in being exposed to a burning sun and mosquitoes, I was amply repaid by the novelty of things in this vicinity, when compared with other parts of the coast which I had already visited.
People at home, and more particularly those having friends in the navy — indeed, officers in the navy themselves — have accustomed themselves to speak and think of the African station as the ne plus ultra of all that is disagreeable and to be dreaded; and when the disadvantages to one's own personal comfort is alone to be considered, it is not perhaps unnatural that they should look upon it, as I know many of them do, as the Botany Bay of the navy, and carry out with them
a discontented mind, which alone is enough to make . fever-and-ague' fatal. It has, like many other things, a dark and a bright side. The means of communication between officers on the station and their friends at home are very irregular and uncertain, which is the greatest of the evils I ever experienced there, and one much to be regretted ; but I do not know that it is more felt here than on the other naval stations, excepting the Mediterranean. For the news of the world the African cruiser has to depend upon a chance newspaper, picked up often enough perhaps on board of some merchant or slave-ship, and then dated some six or eight months back; making one feel painfully conscious that what is news to him has sunk into oblivion where the said • news' originated. The mess stock of sea-stores, husbanded with all the care of a good caterer, sometimes runs low, without the prospect of replenishing, and visions of salt junk' and hard tack' dance before the irritated eyes of the watch officers, who'growl' at the caterer until he growls defiance and threatens to resign his post. Then there is the climate, enervating doubtless when one is unnecessarily exposed to it for too long a time, and highly dangerous to careless livers, and useless adventures in sickly places, but not near so bad as commonly represented, where prudence is observed, and not to be compared for unhealthiness with the generality of the East Indies. The rainy seasons on the African coast are very unpleasant, but a winter in the Mediterranean is infinitely more so. There are tornadoes and heavy rain-squalls, with thunder and lightning in any quantities, which however always give timely notice of their approach, so that sail can be taken in and things made snug; which is more than can be said of a 'bora' in the Gulf of Venice or a‘nor'-wester on our own coast. To the traveller, or to a man of an observing disposition, fond of seeing and comparing the different countries of the world, with their varieties of climate and scenery, and the costumes, manners, and modes of living of the inhabitants in their original state, Africa presents a never-failing and untiring scene of interest and attraction. I say Africa, but should more correctly express myself as meaning the African coast and the country immediately adjacent to it; for in reality but little is known, even at this late period, of the inland country, notwithstanding the heroic endeavors of Park, the Landers, Tuckey, Clapperton, and other daring men, most of whom perished in their untimely and ill-fated attempts to penetrate into and explore the vast, unknown countries of this mighty continent. Many of their discoveries perished with them, and what little was saved and made known to the world from the wrecks of their unfortunate expeditions has availed but little to the causes of science and commerce.
The African cruiser has therefore the advantage of novelty in going over ground which has been but little trodden, and visiting in his long cruises many places where a white face was never before seen.
I speak not of those unfortunates whose lot has been cast to drag out long weary months on board of certain flag' and other ships; of which I ween, under fever-scarred commanders at anchor in one of the northern "refreshment' (?) ports; but of those who, like myself, have spent upward of two years in a cruising vessel, and have seen
the hard work and the elephant' in an African cruise. One word in explanation : that the United States' African squadron has not in some cases been a useless expense to the government, and a mere farce so far as real utility was concerned, in consequence of the inefficiency and indisposition to cruise of several of the commanders, not only of the ships, but of the squadron itself, no one who has been in it will for one moment deny; but I am happy to know and state, from an observation and connection with it of a little more than five years, that it has never to my knowledge been in a more effective and really useful state than at the present time, with the gallant Commodore G its head, supported by as noble a set of commanders and officers as the navy ever yet produced.
But I have digressed widely from my sketch, and fancy that I hear already some of the readers of the KNICKERBOCKER calling me to order, and perhaps not a few saying • Turn him out !'
Dande Point is a remarkable bluff jutting out into the sea, at the distance of perhaps twenty miles to the northward of St. Paul de Loando. One of its sides forms a kind of bay, which, however, affords little or no protection to vessels at anchor there, for which reason they rarely anchor within less than three-quarters of a mile from the shore, to avoid the danger of the “rollers' in the rainy season. At the head of this bay the beautiful little river Dande throws its pure waters into the sea, and just within the bar at its mouth stands a native town and Portuguese settlement, with a small white-washed stone fort to protect it. Few places of this description on the coast present a more picturesque and pleasing appearance than does Dande river, with its town and the wild African scenery of its banks. It is more pleasing from its great contrast with the surrounding country; for where the soil is not watered and nourished by the river, nothing presents itself to the eye but a succession of barren hills and plains, covered with a kind of dry brush and some stunted grass. To the sportsman, however, these hills would perhaps present the greater attraction, for they abound in grouse, quails, and other wild game. The banks of the Dande are covered with the most luxuriant vegetation of a tropical climate. The trees and bushes are filled with birds of the most rare descriptions and most brilliant plumage; monkeys are throwing themselves continually from tree to tree, cutting a thousand fantastic capers; the hideous alligator reigns sole monarch of the waters of the stream, and is rarely disturbed, except by the canoe of the native as he goes to and from the white man's settlement at the mouth to exchange his produce for perhaps a twentieth part of its value in rum.
On the second day after our arrival I set out early in the morning with the captain, to go on an excursion up the river in his gig. We were well provided with fowling-pieces, pistols and ammunition, as well to shoot game as to protect ourselves in case of need against the natives, who are sometimes not to be too well trusted; we also laid in an ample stock of refreshments for a pic-nic. The time could not have been better chosen for our trip; the air was neither too hot nor too cold, but a happy medium between the two. The sun was just rising as we pulled into the mouth of the river, and the little white-washed battery
on the right bank shone out gaily in its rays. The river at its mouth is about fifty yards wide, and fifteen or twenty feet in depth. This we ascertained by sounding; and I may remark, that we carried twelve feet of water for the distance of a couple of miles or more up, when it gradually shoaled to one fathom.
On the left bank, near the mouth, stand the ruined walls of a small stone church, which we were told is another relic of the Jesuits, who had a settlement here centuries ago, probably under the supervision of the fraternity whom I have already spoken of as having existed in great strength at St. Paul de Loando. "I was surprised at finding, on a visit which I afterward made to this ruin, a large number of human skulls and bones lying on the ground about the church, and even in it. Several of these skulls were examined by our party, and proved to be those of white men (though it is impossible to imagine how they got there), while the greater number were without doubt the remains of natives of the place. They were probably dug up after interment by the beasts of prey, who are attracted to the banks of the river in the dry season for water. As a general thing, however, the country immediately bordering on the sea-coast is very free from carnivorous beasts of all descriptions.
The ruined church is the only remains of any building on the left bank of the river, the native town being in the rear of the Portuguese fort on the right bank; and as I cannot imagine that it was necessary in former times for all who wished to go to church to take the trouble of crossing the river every morning, it is but natural to conclude that the town originally stood on the left bank, where the church is, whence for some unknown or forgotten reason it was transplanted to the opposite side of the river. With regard to the fort, it is merely a small battery of six light guns, commanded by a Portuguese officer of artillery, who has a sergeant and some twenty or thirty native soldiers under him; and for what purpose it is kept up I cannot conceive, unless it is to keep the natives under subjection to the Portuguese
e ; for during the whole time I have been on the coast I have never heard of there being any great trade of importance at this place worth protecting. But to return to our excursion.
We pulled leisurely into the river, receiving as we passed the battery, a polite bow from the commandant, who was taking his coffee in the cool morning air in front of his quarters, and a little farther on, passed our launch with her jolly crew of Kroo-boys, busily engaged in filling water casks. Immediately above the watering-place some natives were drawing a rude kind of seine made of twigs and rushes, and to judge from their cries and uncouth antics they were making a successful haul of fish. We passed a place where an immense tree had fallen into the water from the bank, and the Captain got a shot at a fine black monkey, who was sitting on the trunk taking his morning draught. Poor jocko escaped however, and ran off with a scattering shot in his posterior, covering his wounded seat of honor with one paw
ludicrous manner. I was very
anxious to obtain a specimen of a kind of crane or heron, which we saw in great numbers in this river. They were of a snowy white plumage, with long red legs, and so extremely shy, that I could
in a very