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different sets of four relieving each other every few minutes. As there is room in the inside to lie down almost at full length, the mode of travelling is by no means an uncomfortable one.
But we are already at the bank of the river, scarcely a mile from the station, and must creep out of our palkees and transfer ourselves and our belongings to a ferry-boat. While our coolies are occupied with shipping our baggage, we are surrounded by some half-dozen beggars, who have issued from the neighbouring village at our approach. Their ragged scraps of clothing, maimed limbs, or tettered skins, are sufficient proof of the squalid indigence and the loath some diseases which afflict them; and the importunity with which they thrust their deformities upon us is so repulsive that we are fain to get rid of them in a rather summary manner, and then gladly take refuge in the boat. The Ganges here is at least 1,000 yards in width, even at this dry season, but it is so shallow that the ferrymen pole the boat across almost the whole distance.
Arrived at the other side, we again take to our palkees, and for the first half mile pass across a waste of sand which is usually covered by the river. A strong wind raises a dense and hot cloud of dust and sand over this dry tract, but we soon emerge from it into cultivated
, land. We wind our way through fields of wheat, barley, opium-poppies, vetches, oats, grain, and cotton, studded here and there with palmyra palms or mango-trees. Every three miles or so bring us through a small village of mud huts, round which a few natives are loitering, almost as bare as the walls of their poor hovels. The soil in the fields looks perfectly pulverised with drought, and we are told that scarcely a drop of rain has fallen for four months. There is said, however, to be always a plentiful
supply of moisture at a certain distance below the surface, and certainly the crops look most flourishing.
Our bearers carry us along at the rate of five miles an hour, their pace being something between a walk and a run—a quick shuffle, in fact. They keep time with each other by means of a sing-song strain which they hum over and over again, and which we are afterwards told consists chiefly of the praises of the sahib who forms part of their load. When not shouldering the pole, they chat and joke with each other in quite a lively manner. Looking at their light forms, and reflecting on the fact that their diet is almost exclusively a vegetable one, one would not believe them capable of much continued exertion ; yet they carry us to our first station, the Bogwanpore plantation, a distance of twelve miles, in something under two hours and a half, and seem quite fresh at the end. Our destination for the night is Meghoul; but the Bogwanpore planters will not let us pass on without ' tasting of their salt,' so the remaining nine miles we accomplish after sunset.
Arrived at Meghoul, we are sorry to find that our friend the manager of the plantation has gone, on the previous day, unwell, to the house of a neighbouring planter at Dowlutpore. We are too late to follow him before to-morrow, so we call into requisition the Meghoul charpoys, and sleep soundly till morning. It is pleasant to find on awaking that the Tirloot temperature is decidedly cooler than that of Calcutta. The thermometer at 7 A.M. marks only 62', 6° or go less than the usual standard at this time of the year in Calcutta. By eight o'clock we are off in a buggy for Dowlutpore, and after half-an-hour's driving over what the planters of the neighbourhood are pleased to call a road—but what would be more accurately described as a choice and varied selection
of ruts and hillocks, with a level piece put in occasionally by way of contrast--we find a hearty welcome at our friend's bungalow.
An indigo planter's bungalow varies about as much in appearance and comfort as a farm-house in England. It may be an erection that looks as if it had intended to be a mud hovel, but had thought better of it at the eleventh hour; or it may be, like the one at which we have just arrived, a well-built house, with good rooms inside and good verandah outside, with garden, stables, kennels, and outhouses to boot. It may be occupied by a rough-andready owner, in whom expatriation and solitary living have developed fully all the untidy, boorish habits, into which a bachelor is supposed to fall rather easily; or it may be adorned by the presence, and kept in order by the management, of one of the more refined sex, the effect of whose companionship on him who owns the house is that ascribed in the Latin Grammar to the learning of the liberal arts-emollit mores, nec sinit esse feros.'
We must make the best use of our day here in seeing something of the plantations in the evening we can return, to play a game of croquet on the lawn, have our ears regaled with the musical feast provided by our hostess, join in a Scotch reel, and become fully convinced of the flagrant error we commit at home when we imagine an indigo planter must be a creature beyond the bounds of civilisation.
The plantation consists of about 3,000 acres of land, the soil of which is that fine alluvial deposit which spreads over the whole of the Plain of the Ganges. We can see no traces of the indigo plant yet, for only half the ground has been sown, and that only a fortnight ago. The sowing, in fact, generally commences and ends with February. If the slightest rain falls during, or less than three weeks
after, the sowing, a crust is formed on the surface of the ground which prevents the tender young plant shooting up, and a re-sowing has to be resorted to. At the end of the three weeks the plant is about six inches high, and is then considered safe from weather, unless excessive drought take place.
The first cutting of the plant commences in July, the second and third at intervals of a month after that time. The branches, when cut, are thrown into large tanks, or vats, of masonry; water is poured over them, and they are slightly pressed. The water, passing through the mass, is drawn off into other vats, having assumed a yellow colour. It is then beaten up with rods by native labourers, and this singular process has the effect of turning it purple. The water is then allowed to stand, and a sediment soon forms at the bottom. The water is now drawn off, the sediment is thrown into large caldrons, boiled for twelve hours, then strained repeatedly, and finally dressed into a solid form. After drying for one or two months in airy sheds, it is fit to be sent down to Calcutta and exported.
Owing chiefly to the extreme delicacy of the young plant, the profits of an indigo plantation vary considerably; and about once every seven years the profits are said to be changed into losses. The capital required to carry on a plantation is considerable, the annual expenses being something like 31. per acre. Yet labour is wonderfully cheap: an able-bodied native's daily pay for ordinary manual labour, such as hoeing, weeding, gathering the plant, &c., averages one anna, or threehalfpence! There are no strikes and no Trades Unions yet in India. Nearly one half of the indigo grown in Bengal is grown on land owned by natives, on contract with European planters. But to enter into details of the rights and
customs of the ryots' would open up questions which have caused much discussion at home as well as in India, and have been handled long ago by many able pens.
. We could spend many pleasant days at Dowlutpore, and we can hardly leave it without trying our fortune at the wild-fowl shooting, of which there is a good variety in the ‘jheels' and 'nuggeries,' the ponds and meres, in the neighbourhood. Early one morning we drive off to a noted - haunt of coot and hern,' seven miles away, and as soon as we get within half a mile of the reedy mere we can see long lines and dark crowds of wild fowl, stretching across the open water, or clustered round the sedges and rushes that fringe the lake's margin.
Stepping each into a long canoe of the most primitive pattern-a mere palm-tree trunk hollowed out-we are poled along gently through the reeds towards where the birds swarm thickest. Two thirds of them are coots; the rest are made up of mallard, teal, widgeon, other ducks whose names we know not, cranes, paddy-birds, snipe, and a few of strange plumage and unfamiliar forms. The first shot rings out suddenly over the water: there is a whirr of countless wings, the rising of a cloud of moving bodies, and the myriad shriek’of wheeling waterfowl; the coots keep sweeping past our canoes within easy range, but the wary ducks, for whom we have specially come, will keep just beyond our reach, and after three or four hours we return to shore with only a dozen ducks, of at least four kinds, between us. As we drive back we may count up how
kinds of birds we have already seen in Tirhoot which are familiar to us in England. We put down swallows, sparrows, sparrow-hawks, wagtails, terns, cormorants, snipe and ducks, besides some handsome varieties of fly-catchers, jays and kingfishers, unknown at home.