Under the Dragon Flag eBook

James Alexander Allan
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 97 pages of information about Under the Dragon Flag.
took a tremendous lurch, and washed away our lee-quarter boat.  It was dark, and the sea barely discernible at a distance of thirty yards, being blown into a thick mist.  At six the hurricane continued with unabated fury with terrific squalls; a fearful sea struck the ship and nearly broached her to.  The sea was a mass of foam, and running very high, but kept down to some extent by the violence of the wind.  Later we were running under bare poles.  Again the gale went down, and again we got up sail, but without warning a tremendous squall struck us and laid us on our beam ends.  A boat was blown away, the fore-sail split, and through the carelessness of the men at the rudder they jibed the main-sail; it came over with terrific force, but fortunately did no harm.  Luckily the sails could be very easily and rapidly lowered.  One only had to let go or cut the halyards and down they came.  Throughout all this the junk behaved in a manner which astounded me.  She actually never shipped any water, that which came aboard being tops of seas blown off.  But the very qualities which made her so steady-going militated against her speed.  She was a safe boat at all points.  One night we had to anchor off a dead lee-shore; the crew decorated their cables with some extra red rags, and with death grinning under our lee, went to supper with a serenity which I should have been glad to be able to imitate.  But their confidence was as well grounded as their anchors, which held with an unshakable tenacity.

Though so long acquainted with the compass, the Chinese have always been as unenterprising in sailoring as in everything else, and seldom lose sight of the land, if they can help it.  Their fondness for hugging the coast was very noticeable to me, and, unused to the constant vigilance and care which a long sea voyage demands, their system of duty was very lax and careless.  There were no proper watches; at nightfall the Ty Kong used quietly to lower about three reefs of the main-sail and the whole of the mizzen.  All the crew would then go to their cabin, leaving the helmsmen alone on deck.  At midnight a supper was prepared, and the sleepers awakened.  The meal ended, the helm would be relieved and the men retired to their berths again.

At this rate it may be supposed that we made slow progress, and more than one incipient mutiny had to be dealt with, some of the crew refusing to work, and the soldiers complaining on the far from unreasonable ground that they had not enough to eat.  We spoke several northward-bound vessels, both native and foreign, to whom we wished to entrust the discontented warriors, but these ships one and all gratefully but firmly declined the compliment.  By dint of necessity, aided by the mandarin’s promises, we struggled along, and as everything must come to an end some time or other, we reached our port at the beginning of January.

I have little more to add.  Ki-Chang showed himself grateful, and not only entertained me royally, but gave me substantial pecuniary aid, a thing I was in very pressing need of.  Of course I have long since repaid his loan.

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Under the Dragon Flag from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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