by Richard Francis Burton
First edition, 1851.
Richard Bentley, London.
PDF Page Images
From Chapter One:
WHAT a glad moment it is, to be sure, when the sick and seedy, the tired and testy invalid from pestiferous Scinde or pestilential Guzerat, " leaves all behind him" and scrambles over the sides of his Pattimar.
His what ?
Ah ! we forget. The gondola and barque are household words in your English ears, the budgerow is beginning to own an old familiar sound, but you are right-the "Pattimar" requires a definition. Will you be satisfied with a pure landsman's description of the article in question? We have lost ou redition of "The Ship," and to own humbling truth, though we have spent many a weary month on the world of waters, we never could master the intricacies of blocks and braces, skylights and deadlights, starboards and larboards. But if we are to believe the general voice of the amphibious race, we terrestrial animals never fail to mangle the science of seamanship most barbarously. So we will not expose ourselves by pretension to the animadversions of any small nautical critic, but boldly talk of going "up-stairs" instead of " on deck," and unblushingly allude to the "behind" for the "aft" and the "front" instead of the "fore" of our conveyance.
But the Pattimar--De suite: you shall pourtray it from our description. Sketch a very long boat, very high behind, and very low before, composed of innumerable bite of wood tied together with coir, or cocoanut rope, fitted up with a dark and musty little cabin, and supplied with two or three long poles intended as masts, which lean forward as if about to sink under the weight of the huge lateen sail. Fill up the outline with a penthouse of cadjans (as the leaves of that eternal cocoanut tree are called) to protect the bit of deck outside the cabin from the rays of a broiling sun. People the square space in the middle of the boat with two nags tethered and tied with halters and heel ropes, which sadly curtail the poor animals' enjoyment of kicking and biting ; and half-a-dozen black "tars" engaged in pounding rice, concocting bilious-looking masses of curry, and keeping up a fire of some unknown wood, whose pungent smoke is certain to find its way through the cabin, and to terminate its wanderings in your eyes and nostrils. Finally, throw in about the same number of black domestics courting a watery death by balancing themselves over the sides of the vessel, or a fever by sleeping in a mummy case of dirty cotton cloth.
And you have a pattimar in your mind's eye.
Every one that has ever sailed in a pattimar can oblige you with a long list of pleasures peculiar to it. All know how by day your eyes are blinded with glare and heat, and how by night mosquitos, a trifle smaller than jack snipes, assault your defenceless limbs; how the musk rat defiles your property and provender; how the common rat and the cockchafer appear to relish the terminating leather of your fingers and toes ; and, finally, how the impolite animal which the transatlantic delicately designate a "chintz," and its companion, the lesser abomination, do contribute to your general discomfort. Still these are transient evils, at least compared with the permanent satisfaction of having " passed the Medical Board" - a committee of ancient gentlemen who never will think you sufficiently near death to meet your wishes - of having escaped the endless doses of the garrison surgeon, who has probably, for six weeks, been bent upon trying the effects of the whole Materia Medica upon your internal and external man - of enduring the diurnal visitation of desperate duns who threaten the bailiff without remorse; and to crown the climax of your happiness, the delightful prospect of two quiet years, during which you may call life your own, lie in bed half or the whole day if you prefer it, and forget the very existence of such things as pipeclay and parade, the Court Martial and the Commander-in-chief. So if you are human, your heart bounds, and whatever its habits of grumbling may be, your tongue involuntarily owns that it is a joyful moment when you scramble over the side of your pattimar. And now, having convinced you of that fact, we will request you to walk up stairs with us, and sit upon the deck by our side, there to take one parting look at the boasted Bay of Bombay, before we bid adieu to it, with a free translation of the celebrated Frenchman's good bye, "Canards, canaux, canaille," adieu ducks, dingies, drabs, and duns.