TRAVELS IN EPIRUS AND ALBANIA
Voyage from Ancona to Ragusa.
AN September 1805, I received an order to return to Greece, together with M. Julian Bessières, who was instructed by government to introduce me as consul-general of France, to reside at the court of the Vizier Aly, Pasha of Janina. The hardships I had formerly undergone, during my captivity in Turkey of three years duration, and the character I had heard of the personage in whose capital and presence I was to reside, had so deeply affected my mind, that nothing less powerful than the prospect of being able to visit Greece and the adjoining regions, with the advantages resulting from my official situation, and from the special commands of government, could have overcome my reluctancy to engage in such a business.
Leaving Paris on the 21st of October, I overtook M. Bessières in Milan, then, as all the north of Italy, in great agitation. A French array of only twenty-two thousand men, under Massena, encamped on the river Adige, would, it wfts feared, he driven back; and the British and Russian forces, landed in the kingdom of Naples, had roused a spirit throughout the country, by which our journey to Ancona, where we purposed to embark for Greece, might probably be frustrated. Our apprehensions were however vain, for we reached that port without interruption; and after some delay on account of contrary winds, on the 16th of November we sailed for Ragusa, a course of eighty marine leagues, in the brig Fortunate, in company with two other Ragusan vessels. Light but fair breezes, aided by the currents, carried us forward to the coast of Dalmatia, till the 20th, when, the wind turning against us,
we put into Cavo Sesto, in Sclavonia, a port east by north forty leagues from Ancona. We were indeed but ill prepared to keep the sea; for the vessel was loaded with corn very imperfectly stowed, and our crew too weak. On the other hand, the land was occupied by the Austrians, who might not perhaps respect the neutral flag of Ragusa. Scarcely had we come to anchor in the road, when we were joined by an Austrian convoy of twenty-five sail; but being bound for Trieste, they weighed again on the 21st without noticing us. The road of Cavo (or Cao) Sesto, between Sebennico and Spalatro, is one of the best in the Adriatic, in the midst of a long tract of bare limestone rocky coast. The entrance of the port is divided into two passes by an island, a quarter of a mile long from north to south. Ships from the northward stand in south-east by the north pass: the south pass, with twenty-three English fathoms water, shows by the green weeds a shoal at the south end of the island. Going on shore, the town brought to my recollection the dirt and poverty of those I had formerly seen in Turkey; but it was defended by walls, and therefore possessed a high-toned society of antique gentry, for its members were enrolled in the celebrated golden book of Venice. Nor, indeed, could the remote date of the noblesse be questioned, after beholding the specimens which came under our eyes. For we met in our walk a gentleman in an enormous peruque, clothed in laced velvet, dragging a rapier of formidable length, and having on his arm a lady swelled out with two overgrown hoops. Being supposed to belong to the Venetian government, the nobles of Saint Mark, we found the townsfolks kindly disposed towards us, but eager to say all the ill possible of their new masters. For the Austrians exercised sufficient rigour on both land and water; and a superior imperial officer was hourly expected, to raise troops in the town and environs, and to make a survey of the coast. Our alarm on this information was greatly increased by the arrival of another convoy, protected by a Russian sloop of war. Fortunately, however, on the following morning, the 23d of November, the wind sprung up from the north, and we put to sea, in the hope of reaching Ragusa the day following, a distance of at least forty marine leagues over the chart. Wind and sea favoured us till near sun-set, when clouds began to assemble in the west on the coast of Italy; a sure sign of a change of weather. The crew had sung the evening-service to Saint Blaise, the patron of the ship and of the republic of Ragusa, and we had quitted the deck for the cabin, when we were alarmed by the trumpet of the captain calling out to another ship to bear up; hut in vnin, for slip fell on board of us
with prodigious force. Hurrying-on deck we found both captain and crew
in despair on their knees, waiting with imploring hands till we should
go down. The man at the helm, the only one of the crew who seemed to preserve
his faculties, put the tiller in my hands, and running below to examine
the vessel, called out that all was well, and that she took in no water;
on which the crew instantly hastened to their posts. She had, nevertheless,
suffered so much by the shock, that it became necessary to throw overboard
the guns, cables, part of the anchors, &c. At day-break we found ourselves
on a very dangerous part of the coast, at the entrance of the strait of
Narenta; and at noon we prepared to run the vessel ashore on the island
of Lissa. The gale, however, abating, we righted the ship, and stood on
with easy weather to Ragusa, where we arrived on the 27th. Our passports
being examined, and the regulations of quarantine complied with, we landed,
and our seamen hastened to discharge, in the church of our Lady of Grace,
the vows they had poured out to her in their distress.
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