Symzonia; Voyage of Discovery, by Adam Seaborn (pseud. John Cleves Symmes?), , at sacred-texts.com
The Author arrives at Canton.—Transactions in China,—Sails fur the United States.—Loss of manuscripts.—Difficulties with Mr. Slim.
We had a pleasant run to Macao Roads, with all the usual varieties of wind and weather. Having a full cargo of furs from the South Seas, a chop to proceed to Whampoa, the place where foreign ships unlade and lade their cargoes, was readily obtained. The Chinese regulations provide for the prompt admission of vessels actually laden with useful merchandise, but exclude all such as have no cargoes, which compels vessels that have nothing but ballast and specie to report their stores as cargo.
I received abundant civilities on my arrival at Canton. A shipmaster, with a cargo of three or four hundred thousand dollars at his disposal, is exposed to the most assiduous attentions. Upon this occasion my thanks were particularly merited by Mr. W. and Mr. C., both of whom very kindly proffered me all the services
in their power for a moderate commission but in this, as in other instances, I preferred dealing directly with the natives, from the belief that they were quite as well versed in the business of their country as any foreigners could be.
Chien-loo, a native, obtained handsome offers for my cargo very promptly, and I soon sold the whole of my skins, large and small together, at two dollars and three quarters each. These, with the tortoise shell, produced the handsome sum of three hundred and thirty thousand dollars, clear of charges. I lost no time in selecting a cargo of teas, nankeens, and silks, and as much china ware as was necessary for dunnage.
Of the three hundred and thirty thousand dollars, one-third belonged to tiny officers and people, payable on their arrival in the United States, and two-thirds to myself as owner and master. Being rich, I now spent money freely, and advanced my officers and men as much as they wished to lay out; and after defraying port charges and other expenses, found I had a cargo of only three hundred and ten thousand dollars invoice; but, as the profits on this
cargo were all to be my own, I reasonably calculated that on receiving them, I should be able to pay the balance due to the crew, and have a clear three hundred thousand dollars.
To make room for this cargo, I stowed the boxes containing the large bones, and my botanical, geological, mineralogical, zoological, ornithological, icthyological, conchological, and entomological specimens, which were very extensive and valuable, in one of the paddle spaces between the double sides, and, to save a little room which remained, stowed a cable on top of them.
We touched at Angier Point, in the Island of Java, to fill up our water, and regale ourselves with the delicious mangusteens, which are there to be had in great perfection and abundance. That fruit is considered the most delicate and best flavoured of any on the external world. Formerly it had given me great satisfaction; but now, after having enjoyed the exquisite fruits of Symzonia, it seemed quite insipid.
The day after leaving Angier Point, we were in the open ocean, with a stiff gale from S. E., driving us rapidly towards our
homes, our wives and children. It is a delightful sensation which the mariner experiences on clearing port for his homeward passage, after a long and toilsome voyage. His home, his family, his little prattlers, and all the delightful associations of a happy fireside, crowd upon his imagination, which is cleared by long absence of all the asperities and disagreeables of real life. He flatters himself that he shall soon fold to his heart the wife of his bosom and the children of his love, improved in beauty, virtue, and affection; fancies a thousand enjoyments which the gains of his voyage will enable him to procure, and forgets the numberless vexations attendant upon business, and upon the duties of man in civilized society, encumbered with useless ceremonies and pernicious customs.
Mr Slim had been confined to his stateroom whilst we lay at Whampoa; and no more intercourse was allowed between our people and their countrymen, than was necessary to keep up appearances. Our men were particularly cautioned not to drink grog whilst out of the ship, lest it should make them too talkative. They kept this injunction tolerably well for sailors; but
one of them had nearly betrayed the whole secret, after drinking a second can of grog on board a Boston ship, where the Yankees seemed determined to get it all out of him. Happily one of his shipmates forced him away, but not until enough had escaped him to produce an hundred absurd stories amongst the shipping in the river.
Being now at sea, Mr. Slim was permitted to go at large as usual. But alas! I had melancholy cause to regret this lenity. Having one day spread my Symzonian manuscripts on the after lockers, to dry away the mould which, from the humid atmosphere of the external world, had accumulated on them, I took a walk on the quarter-deck. On my return to my cabin, I was overwhelmed with consternation and alarm at the disappearance of my books and papers, which were all gone except my journal and volumes of extracts and translations. I immediately summoned the steward, but he could give no account of them. He had not been in my cabin during my absence. The cabin and stateroom were searched in vain. The manuscripts were gone! A man who had been working aloft, declared that he saw them
going astern soon after I came on deck and Will Mackerel, who was asleep in his birth, was positive that he saw the shadow of Slim passing from the direction of my cabin towards his state-room. There was great cause to suspect that Slim had been into my cabin, and thrown them all out of the windows to gratify his inveterate malice: but there was no help for it—there was no proof. A monkey, which, out of a foolish partiality to Jack Whiffle, I had permitted him to bring on board, and which visited every part of the ship, and was very mischievous, might have done it. They were irrevocably lost; and though I deplored them more than I should the loss of the mainmast, I was not without consolation. I had read most of them attentively, and being favoured with a very retentive memory, I had treasured up their contents.
After this, I excluded Slim from my cabin, and kept a sharp eye upon him. Various modes were suggested by my officers and men, to obviate the difficulty which his refusal to accede to my measures threatened to produce. That which appeared most feasible, was, to confine him in irons, carry
him home as a madman, and trust to the effect of his stories about the internal world, for a corroboration of his insanity. I however did not altogether like to trust to this manœuvre, lest some of my people should prove treacherous, and, by joining their testimony to that of Slim, defeat all my projects.
My mind was suddenly diverted from this subject, which had long weighed heavily upon it, by the occurrence of real and immediate danger.