Of the reason of our going to Ceilon,
and Detaimnent there.
In this Fourth and last Part, I purpose to speak concerning our Captivity in this Island, and during which, in what Condition the English have lived there, and the eminent Providence of God in my escape thence, together with other matters relating to the Dutch, and other European Nations, that dwell and are kept there. All which will afford so much variety, and new matters, that I doubt not but the Readers will be entertained with as much delight in perusing these things, as in any else that have been already related. I begin with the unhappy Occasion of our going to this Countrey.
Anno MDCLVII. The Ann Frigat of London, Capt. Robert Knox Commander, on the One and twentieth day of January, set Sail out of the Downs, in the Service of the Honourable the English East-India Company, bound for Fort S. George, on the Coast of Cormandel, to Trade one year from Port to Port in India. Which we having performed, as we were Lading of Goods to return for England, being in the Road of Matlipatan, on the Nineteenth of November Anno MDCLIX. happened such a mighty Storm, that in it several Ships were cast away, and we forced to cut our Main-Mast by the Board, which so disabled the Ship, that she could not proceed in her Voyage. Whereupon Cotiar, in the Island of Ceilon, being a very commodious Bay, fit for our present Distress, Thomas Chambers Esq; (since Sir Thomas) the Agent at Fort S. George, ordered, That the Ship should take in some Cloth, and go to Cotiar Bay, there to Trade, while she lay to set her Mast. Where being arrived according to the appointment of those Indian Merchants of Porta Nova we carried with us, to whom those Goods belonged, they were put ashore, and we minded our Business to set another Main-mast, and repair our other Dammages we had sustained by the late Storm.
At our first coming thither, we were shy and jealous of the People of the Place, by reason our Nation never had any Commerce or Dealing with them. But now having been there some Twenty days, and going a Shore and coming on Board at our Pleasure without any molestation, the Governor of the Place also telling us, that we were welcom, as we seemed to our selves to be, we began to lay aside all suspitious thoughts of the People dwelling thereabouts, who had very kindly entertained us for our Moneys with such Provisions and Refreshings as those Parts afforded
By this time the King of the Countrey had notice of our being there, and as I suppose grew suspicious of us, not having all that while by any Message made him acquainted with our intent and purpose in coming. Thereupon he dispatched down a Dissauva or General with his Army to us. Who immediately sent a Messenger on Board to acquaint the Captain with his coming, and desired him to come ashore to him, pretending a Letter to him from the King. We saluted the Message with firing of Guns, and my Father the Captain ordered me with Mr. John Loveland, Merchant of the Ship, to go on shore and wait upon him. When we were come before him, he demanded who we were, and how long we should stay? We told him, We were English, and not to stay above twenty or thirty days, and desired Permission to Trade in his Majestie’s Port. His answer was, the King was glad to hear that the Englishwere come to his Countrey, and had commanded him to assist us as we should desire, and had sent a Letter to be delivered to none, but to the Captain himself.
We were then some twelve Miles from the Sea-side. Our reply was, That the Captain could not leave his Ship to come so far, but if he pleased to come down to the Sea-side himself, the Captain would immediately wait upon him to receive the Letter. Upon which the Dissauva desired us to stay that day, and on the morrow he would go down with us.
Which being a small request, and we unwilling to displease him, consented to.
The same day at Evening, the Dissauva sent two of his chief Captains to the House where we lay to tell us, That he was sending a Present to the Captain, and if we pleased we might send a Letter to him; that he would send the Present in the Night, and himself with us follow the next Morning. At which we began to suspect, and accordingly concluded to write and advise the Captain not to adventure himself, nor any other on shore till he saw us. We having writ a Letter to this purpose they took it and went away, but never delivered it.
The next Morning the Present, which was Cattle, Fruit, &c. was brought to the Sea-side, and delivered to the Captain; the Messengers telling him withal, that we were upon the way coming down, with the Dissauva; who desired his Company on shore against his coming, having a Letter from the King to deliver into his own hand. Hereupon the Captain mistrusting nothing, came up with his Boat into a small River, and being come ashore, sat down under a Tamarind Tree, waiting for the Dissauva and us. In which time the Native Soldiers privately surrounded him and Men, having no Arms with them; and so he was seized on and seven men with him, yet without any violence or plundering them of any thing: and then they brought them up unto us, carrying the Captain in a Hammock upon their Shoulders.
The next day after, the Long-boats Crew, not knowing what had happened, came ashore to cut a Tree to make Cheeks for the Main-mast, and were made Prisoners after the same manner, tho’ with more violence. For they being rough and making resistance, were bound with Wyths, and so were led away till they came where the People got Ropes. Which when our Men saw brought to them, they were not a little affrighted. For being already bound, they concluded there Page 119could be no other use for those Ropes but to hang them. But the true use of them was to bind them faster, fearing lest the Wyths might break, and so they were brought up farther into the Countrey; but afterwards being become more tame, they were loosed. They would not adventure to bring them to us, but quartered them in another House, tho in the same Town. Where without leave we could not see one another. The House wherein they kept the Captain and us, was all hanged with white Callico, which is the greatest Honour they can shew to any. But the House wherein the other men were, that were brought up after us, was not. They gave us also as good Entertainment as the Countrey afforded.
Having thus taken both our Boats and Eighteen men of us, their next care was, fearing lest the Ship should be gone, to secure her: Therefore to bring this about, the Dissauva told the Captain that the reason of this their detainment was, that the King intended to send Letters and a Present to the English Nation by him, and therefore that the Ship must not go away, till the King was ready to send his Messenger and Message, and thereupon desired the Captain to send on Board to order her stay; and it being not safe for her to ride in the Bay, lest the Dutch might come and fire her, that he should take order for her bringing up into the River. Which advice of his, the Captain approved not of. But concealing his dislike of it, replied, that unless he could send two of his own men on Board with his Letter and Order, those in the Ship would not obey him, but speedily would be gone with the Ship. Which he, rather than he would run the hazzard of the Ships departing, granted; imagining that the Captain would order the Ship to be brought up into the River, as he had advised, tho the Captain intended to make another use of this Message.
Upon which the Captain sent two of his men, some Indians accompanying them in a Canoo to the Ship, the Captain ordering them when they were aboard not to abuse the Indians, but to entertain them very kindly, and afterwards that setting them ashore, they should keep the Canoo to themselves, instead of our two Boats, which they had gotten from us, and to secure the Ship, and wait till further order. These two men stayed on Board, and came not back again. This together with the Ships not coming up displeased the Dissauva, and he demanded of the Captain the reason thereof. His answer was, That being detained on Shore, the Men on Board would not obey his Command. Upon this some days after the Dissauva bid the Captain send his Son with order to those aboard that the Ship might be brought into the River, but provided that he would be Security for my return; which he promised he would. His order to me was, to see the top Chains put upon the Cables, and the Guns Shotted, and to tell Mr. John Burford chief Mate, and all the rest, as they valued their Lives and Liberties to keep a Watch, and not to suffer any Boat to come near, after it was dark: and charged me upon his Blessing, and as I should answer it at the great Day, not to leave him in this Condition, but to return to him again. Upon which I solemnly vowed according to my Duty to be his Obedient Son.
So having seen all done according to his appointment, I wrote a Letter in the Name of the Company to clear my Father and my self, to this effect; That they would not obey the Captain, nor any other in this matter, but were resolved to stand upon their own defence. To which they all set their hands. Which done according to my Promise and Duty I returned again, and delivered the Letter to the Dissauva, who was thereby answered, and afterwards urged the Captain no more in that matter: but gave him leave at his pleasure to write for what he pleased to have brought to him from the Ship: still pretending the King’s order to release us, was not yet, but would suddenly come. And so we remained expecting it about two Months, being entertained as formerly with the best Diet and Accommodation of the Countrey.
Having continued thus long in suspence, and the time and season of the year spending for the Ship to proceed on her Voyage to some other place, and our condition being, as we feared, and afterwards found to be, the beginning of a sad Captivity, the Captain sent order to Mr. John Burford to take the charge of the Ship upon him, and to set Sail for Porto Nova whence we came, and there to follow the Agent’s order.
If any inquire what became of the Cloth of our Lading, which we brought thither, they only took an account to see what it was, and so left it where and as it was before, and there it remained until both House and Goods rotted, as the People of the same Town informed me afterwards
I impute the main reason of our Surprize to our Neglect, viz. in not sending a Letter and Present to the King at our first coming. Who looking upon himself as a great Monarch, as he is indeed, requires to be treated with sutable State.
Thus were Sixteen of us left to the mercy of those Barbarians, the Names of which are as follow. The Captain, Mr. Joh. Loveland, John Gregory, Charles Beard, Roger Gold, Stephen Rutland, Nicolas Mullins, Francis Crutch, John Berry, Ralph Knight, Peter Winn, William Hubbard, Arthur Emery, Richard Varnham, George Smith, and my Self. Tho our hearts were very heavy, seeing our selves betrayed into so sad a Condition, to be forced to dwell among those that knew not God nor his Laws; yet so great was the mercy of our gracious God, that he gave us favour in the sight of this People. Insomuch that we lived far better than we could have expected, being Prisoners or rather Captives in the hands of the Heathen; from whom we could have looked for nothing but very severe usage.
The Ship being gone, the King sent to call the Dissauva speedily to him, who upon this order immediately marched away with his Army, leaving us where we were. But concerning us was no order at all.