صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني
[blocks in formation]

for the yellow, oily-looking bodies of the Chinamen whom you will first meet at Penang or Singapore.

We have heard much of the excitement and danger of landing at Madras in a surf-boat, and are consequently rather disappointed to find that on this occasion both the surf and the danger are at their minimum. Entrusting ourselves to one of the boats manned with ten rowers, we make for the shore, but beyond some frenzied howlings from the steersman as we near the line of breakers, the momentary straining of the natives at their oars, and one or two gentle heaves from the breakers as we passed through them, we experience none of the excitement, uproar, and 'pitch-and-toss' work which is said to be the rule here so often. We land on the hard, surf-beaten beach, and at once begin to realise the statement that Madras is never cool; for this is January, and yet the sun beats down on us with intense power.

We drive through the straight streets, full of dust and lined with dusty-looking houses and shops, and accept a kind invitation to take a meal with a doctor of the hospital which stands on the south-west of the town.

We go through the hospital, the wards of which seem almost filled with both natives and Europeans. Of the natives a large number are suffering from crushed feet and legs, the result of the apathy which influences them even in crossing a crowded street, and the recklessness with which their fellow-countrymen drive, when once started. Of the Europeans, alas ! there seem to be more suffering from the effects of brandy-pawnee than from any other disease.

In the comparatively cool hour of sunset we go to the Peoples' Park, where Europeans, half-castes, and natives, are driving listlessly round a gravel path, and trying to shake off the languor induced by the labour and

heat of the day. Neither horses nor drivers look very lively; but this a Calcutta companion declares is only what was to be expected in what he is pleased to call the Benighted Presidency. Happily for him, he has in Calcutta a cold season to refresh his frame yearly; here in Madras it is, as the Irishman said, never cooler! A monotony of heat reigns through the year.

After sleeping all night under a punkah, we pay a visit early next morning to the Club, considered the best club in the East, and by 10 A.M. we are off again on the last stage of our voyage. Half an hour after starting we stop again to loosen some screw which was causing a “hot bearing,' and then we are finally off, extra coal being piled on to the furnaces to make up for some of our lost time.

Soon after daybreak on February 2 we are off the outermost lightship in the mouth of the Hooghly; the water is already muddy, but the low mud swamps which form the nearest coast are not yet visible.

By nine o'clock we are abreast of Saugor Island—a flat mud-bank covered with jungle, said to be a perfect tigerpreserve, and bearing a lighthouse near its northern end. With a favourable tide we run fast up the ninety miles of narrow channels, broad and shifting mud-banks, and uncertain back-currents, which intervene between Saugor Island and Calcutta, and render the Hooghly perhaps the most difficult of navigable rivers. But the Hooghly boasts the finest pilot service in the world ; and steered by one of the members of that fraternity, we arrive at Garden Reach in safety, and bring up alongside the bank, a short distance above the palace of the ex-King of Oude. The bank is tolerably well lined with friends and relatives of many of the passengers of the Mongolia,' and not a few hearty and touching welcomes may

1

[blocks in formation]

be witnessed on the ship's deck, almost before she is made fast to the shore. Receiving our own share of this, we are soon driving in a 'buggy' with our own kith and kin, and that night we are lying on a more roomy couch than a ship’s berth, in the suburb of Ballygunge.

CHAPTER II.

CALCUTTA.

A hundred years ago the tract now covered by the palaces of Chowringhee contained only a few miserable huts thatched with straw. A jungle, abandoned to water-fowl and alligators, covered the site of the present Citadel and the Course, which is now daily crowded at sunset with the gayest equipages of Calcutta.'—Macaulay's Essay on Lord Clive.

The experience of our first evening and night in Calcutta tends to modify some, and confirm other, preconceived ideas of the place. Accustomed to imagine Calcutta as the hottest of hot places, we are agreeably suprised to find that our first evening there is cooler than any evening we have had since leaving Suez. The water, too, in which we take our morning's tub’is fresher and colder than what the steamer's baths drew up for us from the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Bay of Bengal. We begin to think of the Calcutta climate with less dread than we did as Indiophobists at home; and from subsequent experience, first and second-hand, we conclude that for three months out of the twelve-December, January, and February-a pleasanter and healthier climate than that of Calcutta would be difficult to find. For the other nine months, or at least for seven of them, perhaps the less said the better.

In another point our English impressions of the place are confirmed. We have scarcely reached the room which is to be our dormitory, when in glides a white-turbaned, white-skirted native, and dropping down on his knees

[blocks in formation]

If we

before our chair, with all that air of mechanical submission which marks one born to serve, proceeds to take off our boots, stockings, and every other piece of apparel we please. Unless we assert our independence, and prefer assisting ourselves, he will not stop till he has really put us to bed, as if we were imbeciles or grown-up children.

Next morning he will call us, and if we aspire to becoming thorough Anglo-Indians, we thrust one foot from beneath the bed-clothes, which he immediately invests with a stocking, the process being repeated with the other foot, and continued with the necessary variations to the rest of our enervated frame. take a bath after a morning ride, he will rub us down afterwards like a consummate shampooer; indeed, if we stay six months in the country, we shall have grown accustomed to being as much groomed and dressed as a favourite thorough-bred in an English stable. This may be very pleasant and even necessary when the thermometer is at 100°, and when every motion brings out the beady drops; in the cool weather, and to a fresh comer, it seems superfluous.

Ballygunge is a pleasant outskirt, lying to the south of Calcutta, occupied chiefly by substantial houses, standing each in its own compound,' at a convenient distance (three miles) from the business part of the city, and bordering on the south side on a mixture of jungle-land and cultivated ground, through which are many paths fit for riding, and a few good roads.

But we will drive into Calcutta on the morning after our arrival, and leave the country rides for a morning when we can get up early enough to anticipate the sun. Our road into the city leads us across the Midân, which may well be considered the glory of Calcutta. It is a great open space of ground, covering, exclusive of Fort William, which

6

а.

« السابقةمتابعة »