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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Captain Reid's bulldog

[August 1800] The commandant accompanied my husband off to the ship this afternoon; and amongst other things, very much admired a fine bull-dog we had on board, the very sight of which struck terror into the Malays; but he was docile and harmless, unless very much provoked. 

I cannot help travelling back to Ireland for a short account of this faithful creature’s adventures. He had belonged to an industrious blacksmith, who used to do jobs for the ship at the passage of Waterford; the owner had a garden that was not too well defended against depredators, in consequence of which a neighbour’s cow entered, and was feasting away upon the cabbages. The blacksmith’s son, a boy about fourteen years of age, seeing this, called the dog, who instantly seized her by the nose, and pinned the poor cow down, bellowing out so loud ass to arouse all the neighbours, and amongst the rest her master. The dog was soon loosened from his hold, but left the blood streaming from the cow’s mouth, the owner of which said the dog should not live; but the blacksmith, well knowing the threat would be put in execution, getting my husband (who happened to be present) to take the dog on board the ship, and save his life.

This was complied with, and a guinea given to his master, who shed tears, as well as his son, at parting with the animal; the dog, however, very soon became attached to the captain, who called him Friends, and was the same he now presented to Col. Taylor. The latter, highly pleased with the gift, declared that he need fear no mad Malay whilst Friends should be with him. The poor animal had been so long on ship board, that when he landed he seemed beside himself; he could not pass a bush without running round and about it several times; rolling on the grass was a great luxury to him: but on the way from the boat to the castle no Malay approached near; they all kept at a respectful distance, some were even running into their houses and shutting the doors.

These people have a most disgusting custom of chewing the beetle-nut with the chunam, which is a kind of paste prepared like lime from shells; and the better sort keep a slave in constant attendance, with a box, for this purpose. Their teeth are as black as jet, and their mouths and lips as if dyed with a deep red, in consequence of this filthy propensity. They are idle, and very treacherous in their dealings. The Chinese are the only industrious people here; a China-man is, indeed, generally a jack of all trades, and the colonel has several of them in his service as domestics, who act as cooks, gardeners, painters, show-makers, and carpenters, all in turn. I was shewn a book of drawings, in which most of the fruits and shrubs of this place were coloured in the most correct and beautiful manner, by a China-man who was then at work in the garden. I think no person of the least observation could mistake a Malay for a China-man, let them dress as they will; and although they appear to have originally sprung from the same stock, they have the same flat cast of countenance, and the larger lineaments are closely similar, the Chinese having at the same time fairer complexions and smaller eyes than the Malays.

Some of the gentlemen riding out one morning, attended by the dog “Friends,” were in a dangerous predicament, passing a large pool or tank of stagnated water, where several buffaloes were cooling themselves, with their heads just above the surface. At sight of the dog, they instantly rose, and pursued the party, leaving poor Friends to bring up the rear, who was reluctantly obliged to obey his master, and retreat also. These creatures are just like swine in the mire, their backs being covered with wet mud, from rolling in the dirty water, which is gratifying to them whenever they can indulge in such a luxury, but no doubt serves also to keep the stinging flies from biting them. They have no hair, only a few bristles on their skins, like those of a pig, but more thinly scattered over the surface of the body; they have a twisted rattan passed through the nostrils, in the shape of a ring, by which they are led when at work. When in a wild state, it is said that no animal, not even the tiger, will attack the buffalo, or if he do, is sure to give up the encounter first. There are numbers of tigers as well as crocodiles at this place, together with very large and venomous snakes, of which many stories were related by the inhabitants.

After spending five most pleasant days with our very kind and hospitable friends, we prepared to go on board, and parted with regret on both sides from several Dutch families, who visited at the castle while we were there, from Col. Taylor and his amiable partner, of whom all agreed in speaking in terms of the highest commendation.

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