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Commander Morris to Commodore Talbot.
"Hydra," at Sea, Lat. 15° 54' S., Long. 41° E.,
February 8, 1854.
1. I HAVE the honour to inform you that at daylight this morning, when steering for Mozambique, we bore up south-by-east to close a schooner then about eight miles off. We hoisted our colours, and when within about four miles we fired a blank gun to make the stranger show hers.
2. With the wind westerly, she was standing across our bows, close hauled on the port tack; when about a mile and a-half from us she hoisted a Portuguese ensign. I doubted her having a right to that flag, and that it was only used as a ruse to avoid being searched; she had new fore and aft sails well cut. It would have been to risk missing her if we had tried to run alongside, and fruitless to hail her, as she appeared to be manned by natives; therefore, when about three-quarters of a mile a-head, we wore round; firing a blank gun to draw attention, we hove to with our head the same way as hers, in a position to get in her way if necessary, for she would sail as fast as ourselves.
3. I sent the Second Lieutenant to ascertain what she was, as in Case 2, page 12, of the Slave Instructions. When he had shoved off, she hove to: he had been on board about two or three minutes, when I saw him from the ship standing between her masts, and he appeared to be looking into her hold. I thought he was overstepping his orders, which, however, was not the case, as his accompanying statement will show; I therefore went on board immediately, intending, as he kept his flag up, to search him. I produced the necessary documents to the master, and asked the name of his vessel; he said it was the "4th of April." I knew there had been a Portuguese cruizer of that name out here, and on inquiry I gathered that the vessel was really a Portuguese Government vessel, and freighted by a merchant at present.
4. I made them understand that, as she had hoisted no pendant, I could not be aware of her being a Government cruizer; I then left her, having given the certificate ordered in the Instructions, page 110, and also a note in addition, saving "the vessel had been visited by me, not knowing her to belong to the Portuguese Government, as she showed no pendant; that no search had been made, a lieutenant having preceded me to ascertain what she was, but no English was understood, and the master lifted the hatches without being asked."
5. The master appeared the only European on board, and no one wore any kind of uniform.
6. I beg herewith to inclose a copy of Lieutenant Comber's statement of the circumstances.
I have, &c.
(Signed) H. G. MORRIS.