Their extreme apprehensions of that nation were principally occasioned by some circumstances attending an insurrection that had happened at Bolcheretsk, a few years before, in which the commander had lost his life. We were informed, that an exiled Polish officer, named Beniowski, taking advantage of the confusion into which the town was thrown, had seized upon a galliot, then lying at the entrance of the Bolchoireka, and had forced on board a number of Russian sailors, sufficient to navigate her; that he had put on shore a part of the crew at the Kourile Islands, and among the rest, Ismyloff, who, as the reader will recollect, had puzzled us exceedingly at Oonalashka, with the history of this transaction; though, for want of understanding his language, we could not often make out all the circumstances attending it; that he passed in sight of Japan; made Luconia; and was there directed how to steer to Canton; that arriving there, he had applied to the French, and had got a passage in one of their India ships to France; and that most of the Russians had likewise returned to Europe in French ships, and had afterward found their way to Petersburg. We met with three of Beniowski’s crew in the harbour of Saint Peter and Saint Paul; and from them we learnt the circumstances of the above story.
On our arrival at Canton, we received a farther corroboration, of the facts from the gentlemen of the English factory; who told us, that a person had arrived there in a Russian galliot, who said he came from Kamtschatka, and that he had been furnished by the French factory with a passage to Europe.
We could not help being much diverted with the fears and apprehensions of these good people, and particularly with the account Mr Port gave us of the serjeant’s wary proceedings the day before. On seeing me come on shore, in company with some other gentlemen, he had made him and the merchant, who arrived in the sledges we had seen come in the morning, hide themselves in his kitchen, and listen to our conversation with one another, in hopes that by this means they might discover whether we were really English or not.
As we concluded, from the commission and dress of Mr Port, that he might probably he the commander’s secretary, he was received as such, and invited, with his companion, the merchant, to dine with Captain Clerke; and though we soon began to suspect, from the behaviour of the latter toward him, that he was only a common servant, yet this being no time to sacrifice our little comforts to our pride, we prevented an explanation, by not suffering the question to be put to him; and, in return for the satisfaction we reaped from his abilities as a linguist, we continued to let him live on a footing of equality with us.