Introductory—My father’s history—Enters the navy as a surgeon—Learns Spanish—Appointed to the “Zebra,” in the Pacific—Takes Dicky Duff under his charge—A shooting expedition on shore—Captured by Spaniards on coast of Guatemala with Dicky and Paul Loro—Carried to Panama—Meets an old friend, who takes him to Guayaquil—Visit Loja to inspect Peruvian bark—Meets Dr Cazalla—Accompanies him to Popayan—He marries Miss Cazalla, who becomes my mother; and Richard Duffield marries her niece, an heiress—They both settle at Popayan.
The circumstances which led my father, Dr Andrew Sinclair, to settle in New Granada—the land of my birth—are of so romantic a character, that I cannot better preface an account of my own adventures in that country than by narrating them.
My grandfather, Duncan Sinclair, after whom I was named, was a member of an old Covenanter family in Dumfriesshire, and was the parent of six sons,—all of whom, with the exception of the eldest, who inherited the estate, had to seek their fortune in the world. My father was his fourth son. Having gone through a medical course at the University of Edinburgh, where he gained not only a knowledge of his profession, but of science generally, he entered the Royal Navy as an assistant-surgeon, and was ultimately promoted to the rank of surgeon. Among his many other talents, he possessed that of acquiring foreign languages, and he spoke French and Spanish remarkably well; though at the time he learned the latter—from a wounded Spanish prisoner, whose life was saved by his skill—he little thought how useful it would prove to him. After visiting many parts of the world, adding greatly to his store of information, he was appointed to the Zebra sloop-of-war of eighteen guns, which soon after sailed for the Pacific.
Among the youngsters on board was a midshipman named Richard Duffield,—generally known, however, as Dicky Duff. He was the orphan son of an old messmate, who had been killed in action. The brave lieutenant’s last thoughts, as he lay mortally wounded in the cockpit, the guns still thundering overhead, were about his son.
“The boy’s mother is dead, and when I am gone he’ll not have a friend in the world. Doctor, will you look after him? I know you will!”
“Don’t let any doubt about that trouble you. I’ll act a father’s part towards your boy as well as I am able,” was the answer.
My father faithfully fulfilled his promise; and when the boy was old enough, he got him placed on the quarter-deck, and generally managed to take him to sea with himself. Richard Duffield was grateful for the kindness shown him, and became much attached to his protector, with whom he had many tastes in common.
My father, whenever he had an opportunity, was in the habit of going on shore with his gun, to obtain specimens of the birds and beasts of the country; while he also frequently brought off a bag of game for the benefit of the commander and his own messmates. On such occasions he was generally accompanied by Dicky Duff, who had become as good a sportsman as himself.
On one occasion, when the Zebra was off the coast of Guatemala in Central America, my father, having obtained a boat from the commander, left the ship, taking with him Dicky Duff, and their constant attendant, Paul Lobo, an African seaman, and a crew of six men. No inhabitants appearing, the boat was hauled up on the beach, and the crew amused themselves at leap-frog and other games, while my father and his two attendants proceeded some way inland....