صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

We had been led to expect light N. E. winds and smooth sea on the passage from Aden to Galle, that being the usual condition of matters at this period of the monsoon. But human calculations seem very uncertain even in such well known phenomena as monsoons and trade winds, and we experience a variety of weather, from a half gale from the N. with a heavy sea, to an almost dead calm with a slight swell and a fierce sun. The time passes somewhat monotonously, and one almost loses count of the different days of the week. We verge on the state of the two passengers between whom and a steward the following conversation is said to have taken place :- Passenger A to passenger B: 'Is this Wednesday?' Pass. B to Pass. A: 'I don't know; ask the steward.' Pass. B to Steward : 'Steward ! is this Wednesday ?? Steward : 'I don't know, Sir; I'll go and see.'

and see. When we have two or three hotter days than the rest of the voyage, some of the passengers complain that they cannot sleep at night, and that in the day they cannot do anything else. But, what with the various amenities of life on a good passenger steamer, extending from music and chess to foils and a nautical recreation termed slinging the monkey,' the ten days between Aden and Galle soon glide away.

One or two of the humorous of the party certainly help them on in their flight; especially one, whose character may be partly guessed at from the opinion said to have been formed of him by a quondam negro servant in Jamaica : “Golly! when massa die, him die of laughing !' One evening is spent in watching an eclipse of the moon, and another in attending on theatrical performances given by the steward with great spirit and success. Yet it is a pleasant change to both ear and eye to find ourselves in Galle harbour on the 25th, with the engines stopped, and a semicircle of cocoa-nut palms to luok upon instead of a

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

monotonous expanse of salt water. The harbour has a lively appearance given to it by the number of ships lying at anchor in it; among them before evening there are no fewer than five P. and 0. steamers, arrived respectively from Calcutta, Bombay, Singapore, Aden, and Sydney.

The blue waters of the harbour, fringed by a belt of white sand over which droop the bright green branches of many cocoa-nut trees, must at all times look pretty; but they probably come with a fresher charm on the senses of those whose latest recollections of dry land consist of the scorched rocks of Aden, the bare desert of Egypt, and the yellow sandstone of Malta. Within a few minutes of our dropping anchor, our vessel is in the midst of a fleet of canoes, whose owners seldom miss a rupee by coming too late for it. The Cingalese canoe is a curious craft, with a length of 30 ft. and a breadth of 2 ft., its equilibrium being

a secured by a log of wood lashed parallel to the canoe at the end of two poles which project horizontally over the water to a distance of 6 or 7 feet. The owners scramble on board, with a profuse selection of ornaments made of tortoise-shell and ivory, a few genuine precious stones, and a great many rings direct from Birmingham. We will leave them to find what prey they can, and go ashore.

, Before we have been five minutes in the streets of Galle, we have passed a number of natives of whom it would puzzle us to say whether they are men or women. A Cingalee, before he has grown a beard, or as long as he shaves, has little in the mild and soft expression of his face to distinguish him from one of what is not in Ceylon the fair sex.' There is, too, this peculiarity in the race, that the man's bust has almost the same contour as the woman's; consequently the distinction of the sexes is almost imperceptible to an unpractised eye.

There is little of interest to detain us in the town of

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

Galle, so without delay we take a carriage and drive out to the hill of Wak-Wallah, some five miles away. Our road leads through groves of cocoa-nut palms, under the shade of which are many native huts, made almost entirelywalls, thatch, and furniture—of the useful tree of which so many specimens grow around them. Now and then the continuity of the groves is broken by cleared spaces, irrigated and converted into rice-fields. The young rice is just protruding its light green stalks above the ooze of mud and water which covers its roots, and here and there is a native working among the plants, up to his knees in slush. We reach the foot of Wâk-Wallah, and get out of the carriage to walk up a steep gravelly path. On each side is a fine growth of hard-wood trees, while beneath them is a luxurious undergrowth of ferns and flowers, creepers and sensitive plants, among which flits every now and then a gay butterfly or a beetle with wings of every metallic hue. In the trees above are not a few songsters, whose notes would do credit to an English wood; among them is the Bul-bul, or Indian nightingale, whose notes are not unlike those of a song-thrush moderated. Ten minutes' walking brings us to the bungalow at the top of the hill, and an opening in the trees around gives us an extensive and beautiful view into the interior of Ceylon.

Immediately below us is a narrow tortuous plain, winding in and out among clusters of wooded knolls, and threaded by a mazy river which serves to irrigate the paddy-fields on either side of its course. Beyond rise a crowd of hills, picturesque in outline, and bright with all the luxuriance of tropical foliage; the view ends in a pile of high mountains, blue in the distance, conspicuous among which is Adam's Peak, 7,4000 ft. in height, and some sixty miles away. The brightness and clearness of

[blocks in formation]

the atmosphere, the blending of hill and dale, wood and water, in the landscape, the birds in the branches, and the buffaloes slowly wandering by the side of the river below, all may well recall Milton's lines describing the scene in Paradise to which Adam awakes created :

· About me round I saw
Hill, dale, and shady wood, and sunny plains,
And liquid lapse of murmuring streams : by these
Creatures that lived and moved, and walk'd or few :
Birds on the branches warbling; all things smiled ;
With fragrance and with joy my heart o'erflowed.'

a

a

But we must get back again to Galle before sunset, if possible, and so are constrained to leave the beautiful view behind, carrying away with us its memory, to be called upon whenever we are in want of a few moments' pleasant recollection. We spend a cool hour when the stars are out, on the sea-wall, watching the frequent flashes of summer lightning in an electric cloud towards the west, and then, having failed to find comfortable rooms on shore, return on board our steamer.

Next morning we go ashore again, and charter a carriage for a drive to the Cinnamon Gardens, the very mention of which probably seems to convey at once to the senses a whiff of the famous spice. If it really does do so, we had better be content with the mention of it, for in the gardens themselves no "spicy breezes' are perceptible, and it is only by plucking a small branch from one of the shrubs, and then rubbing or scraping it, that any scent is perceived. The shrubs here grow to an average height of ten feet; they are tolerably bushy, with dark green leaves, in shape, colour, and size much resembling the leaves of a camellia tree; the branches possess the cinnamon scent, while the leaves, when crushed, smell like cloves, and the root emits a scent like camphor. The gardens contain a number of other trees and shrubs, interesting to any one

fresh to the tropies; among them are the bread-frnit tree, the traveller's tree, the cardamum shrub, and others.

We return through the groves of cocoa-nut palms, and cannot fail to notice how every tree of this kind seems to have a bend of its own, some stooping down almost to the horizontal, and others looking as if they had tried hard to grow quite perpendicular. But we may look in vain for a specimen without a bend in the trunk, for a straight cocoa

a nut is proverbially in Ceylon as scarce as a dead post-boy in England. In this point these trees differ much from almost every other kind of palm, though when growing in groves most people will allow that they gain variety and lose stiffness by their irregularity. Our steamer is longer in coaling, taking in cargo, and

, discharging cargo, than her officers had calculated, and it is not till nearly midnight that we are clear of Galle Harbour and on our course for Madras. Throughout the next forenoon we are in sight of the Ceylon coast, but we lose it again soon after mid-day, and our next land sighted is the coast some twenty or thirty miles south of Madras. At 1 P.M. on January 29 we cast anchor in the open roadstead of that place, and are at once surrounded by a number of large surf-boats, each manned with a dusky crew of Madrasees, from eight to twelve in number, who seem to think that their chief business is to shout and gesticulate to their very utmost. In both these performances they are such adepts that Babel and Bedlam seem undone, and the noise produced would almost do credit to a Pandemonium. The costume of the boatmen is scanty to the last degree. A loin-cloth constitutes the whole of their wardrobe : for the rest, they follow the fashion of the Garden of Eden. Yet their appearance will not shock you as much as you might have expected. A black skin, somehow or other, has a look of dress about it, and you must reserve your disgust

« السابقةمتابعة »