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HYMN TO CONTENT.
Art thou poore, yet hast thou golden slumbers ?
The Pleasant Comedie of Patient Grissil. 1603.
Or dost thou, charmer, rather love
bosom of its pain;
Or through the woodlands thou dost roam,
Among the garden's verdant trees,
Summer noontide's sweetest strain,
AN ALMOST TRUE TALE.
In India, as every body knows, the day does not sink to rest through the soft gradations of twilight, but an almost sudden darkness falls, like a curtain, over its glories. Rachael Hyssop and her sister Lucy, the daughters of an indigo-planter in one of the Bengal districts, had been sitting, for some time before sun-set, in a small bungalow on the banks of the river, which formed on one side the boundary of the lawn or compound belonging to the mansion in which they resided. It was what in England might be called a summer. house, though perhaps of too rude and primitive a construction to deserve the title. Its chief recommendation was its coolness: the zephyr that wantoned amidst the luxuriant tresses of the maidens having, as it flew over the Ganges, dipped its wings in the refreshing waters.
Rachael and Lucy led somewhat of a monotonous existence, and their chitchat in this retired spot was one of their principal enjoyments. Hither, therefore, they were wont to carry their work, or some grave book,- for the index erpurgatorius of Brother Tubby proscribed all light and even elegant reading ;—and hither, if Rachael perchance was detained by household cares, Lucy sometimes flew to a stolen interview with Charles Sutherland. It is not pleasant to divulge secrets; but the truth must be spoken.
Brother Tubby was a soi-disant missionary. He had, by combined luck and dexterity, got conveyed to India without license and without sanction from or connexion with any society in England, and by appearing literally "all things to all mes," — drinking brandy with some, pandering to others, and preaching to pious persons what he did not himself either practise or believe,-be became useful to many and therefore unmolested; consequently, he found the luxuries of the Mofussil (to which he prudently confined himself) a delightful exchange for bread and water and the tread-mill, which he narrowly escaped in England.
“ Indeed, Lucy,” said Rachael, at one of these sisterly conferences, “ you are unreasonably prejudiced against that good man,”-for Tubby had been the subject of their conversation, which had gradually risen to the tone of debate“ I am sick of his name,” rejoined Lucy, and an angry shade came over her fine dark eyes, as she spoke. “ Is he not,” continued Rachael, “ devoting his youth, or at least the vigour of his years (the missionary was at least forty) to the conversion of the heathen, and bringing back the lost sheep to their fold ?”
Bringing back sheep to a fold from which they never strayed,” retorted Lucy, “seems to me, Rachael, little better than nonsense.'' “ Oh, Lucy! foolish perverse girl,” said the other; “ oh that you could take delight, as I do, in his scriptural discourse—those sweet words of comfort", “Which he misapplies and profanes,” interrupted her sister, with an asperity little akin to her feelings, which were kindly and charitable to all. "For my part, I am shocked to hear those sacred words prostituted to every light and trivial occasion, and made a distasteful jargon by his mode of applying them.” “ Poor lost girl !" murmured Rachael to herself, and unwillingly dropping the conversation, Lucy being not only the better logician, but having a vein of quiet satire at her command, which sometimes hit off a caricature of the missionary with so hideous yet so faithful a resemblance, as sometimes to extort a smile from the prim, screwed lips of Rachael herself.
The Hyssops had resided at Rohanpoor for some time. Saul had conferred a decent education on his daughters whilst they were in England, but the carly
loss of their mother had rendered it desultory and imperfect. Of the two brothers, Jacob and Christopher, the former only resided with him. Christopher was the strangest creature on earth. It would put common language out of joint to describe his almost giant stature, his enormous stride, and hideous visage. The natives, at first, particularly the women and children, were half inclined to hide themselves, when this Cyclop walked forth. Their terrors vanished by degrees, for his features, at least as much as could be seen of them from beneath a profusion of hair and a dense brushwood of beard, were rather prepossessing. They betokened, it is true, something of misanthropy, but it was that sort which inclines a man to shun rather than hate his species ; and even this, he manifested only to his own countrymen: the natives he loved and sought. So uncouth a creature, it may be supposed, had some rough criticisms to endure in a confined society of English, where there was an unusual scarcity of topics. Accordingly, not a single point of his person or dress escaped. Even his horse came in for a share of their satire ; and it must be owned, that he had so little in common with that noble quadruped, as to look like a composite out of the odds and ends of the animal creation. But when Christopher bestrode him, it was for all the world like Ariosto's magician mounted on his hyppogriff. He resided in a hovel, the architect of which, never dreaming of its being tenanted by so huge a being, had so curtailed its dimensions, that if, on awaking in the morning, Christopher indulged in a hearty stretch, his legs projected considerably beyond the door, which was seldom or never closed.
In the same village, but at the opposite ends, as if to mark their moral contrarieties, dwelt the two missionaries, Tubby and Eustace; the latter a Catholic priest, but, unlike his fellow.labourers in the vineyard, cultured with various learning, sacred and profane. Tubby, on the other hand, was gifted with a memory unusually retentive of scripture-reading, but his diction was diffuse and entangled. What he wanted, however, in clearness, he made up in vehemence of expression. He was for taking the Hindoo mind by storm, affrightening it into surrender, like a beleagured fortress ;-discoursing to them, in a rude sort of Bengallee, of endless torments, the worm that never dies, a small handful of the elect, born, nursed, dandled to predestined happiness; the rest, as stubble, to be cast into the fire ; with other doctrines equally comfortable and alluring. Padré Eustace went to work differently; he admonished more than he denounced, and he denounced only violations of the moral law, not imperfections of faith or errors of doctrine. His presence was consoling and his ministry useful. Tubby hated the Hindoos, and had unfortunately influence enough over the narrow sectarian feelings of the indigodealers, to infuse the bigotry of his own sentiments into theirs. Iuto the heart of - Lucy, he could inspire nothing of the kind. It was a soil unkindly to the bad passions.
There are mystic sympathies that draw coarse minds to each other, and in the family of Saul Hyssop, Tubby was a frequent inmate. Nay, he had ventured to cast an eye of affection on Lucy, who cordially despised him. It had been better for poor Rachael bad she despised him too. She was a fanatic, and fanaticism is a troubled passion, that has an affinity to love. Padré Eustace visited them rarely; but Christopher was his sworn friend. Indeed, the Padré was the only European he could endure. Matters stood thus at Rohanpoor in August 18–.
The capital of the Hyssops was limited, but they had recourse to expedients of doubtful morality towards the ryots, whom, on every occasion, they laboured to circumvent. In these acts, strange as it may seem, they often found at the presidency that candid interpretation, or qualified censure, which is equivalent to protection. Tubby was in habits of confidential correspondence with one of the secretaries, who was suspected, and with some reason, of not being free from a sectarian tinge; so that, when complaints were sent up to Government against the indigo-planters, it sometimes happened that Tubby was himself the referee, as being on the spot and from character and calling an unexceptionable witness.
About this time, a treaty had been going on between Saul and Jacob, and one Rutaub Doogal, a cultivator of the Kaysht caste, for the lease of some lands, of which Rutaub was in actual possession of the fee-simple, or what is nearly equivalent, of the zemindary rights. The sum, however, they offered being much below Rutaub's valuation, he refused to complete the assignment.
The two brothers had many anxious consultations as to the means of getting over the difficulty, and at these conferences Tubby was present. It was the vaunt of this man, that he had made numerous converts among the Hindoos. He had perhaps found proselytes amongst a class, to whom, be longing to no caste and doomed to the lowest offices of life, any change was desirable; but they were converts that did as little honour to their new faith, as to that they had abandoned. One of these Christianized Hindoos, a pariah and an outcast, cunning and mercenary, making his Christianity, such as it was, a cloke for sensual indulgences, the two Hyssops found possessed a conscience which, after a few appliances of brandy, was sufficiently pliant for their purposes. Rutaub still remaining obstinate, it was resolved in their conclave to affix upon him some act, which, by the loose practice of the zillah courts (an anomalous jumble of Mahomedan rules with English notions), might be held equivalent to an actual assignment. Under the pretext of paying Rutaub the 5,000 rupees he demanded, the Christianized pariah placed a bag, to all outward appearance containing coin to that amount, under the arm of a peon, carefully impressing on the man's mind, that he was conveying the sum which the Hyssops had agreed to pay Rutaub. This, indeed, was but a slight circumstance, but it was thought that it would come strongly in aid of other evidence. In pursuance of this virtuous scheme, the pariah took the bag from the peon, whom he dismissed, and entered Rutaub's dwelling with the bag in his hand. But not a picé was paid to Rutaub. The two Hyssops, however, instituted a process in the zillah court, for a specific performance of a pretended agreement to grant them the lease, alleging a payment of the consideration-money; and, though at that time there was an arrear of many hundred causes, contrived, to the surprize of every body, to obtain almost an instant hearing-and what was still more extraordinary, though Rutaub's vakeel nearly burst his lungs, while he insisted on the conclusive fact of the non-existence of a deed of assignment, the Hyssops contended with success that the defect was supplied by extrinsic evidence, the pariah swearing on the Gospel that he had actually paid Rutaub the money, and the peon bringing some faint confirmation to his deposition, by the fact of having carried a bag containing that weight, as he verily believed, in sicca rupees. The pariah swore, farther, that he put the assignment into Rutaub's hand, which he cares fully read over, and having deposited the rupees, which he had previously counted in his desk, was proceeding to execute the deed, having actually taken a pen for that purpose, when he was suddenly seized with a fit of sneezing, and deeming it a bad omen, requested till the next day to make his septa-paAsiat, Journ. N.S. VOL. 12, No.48.
rayan (seven prayers)—and from that time, under various pretexts, refused or evaded its execution.
Such was the feeble presumption, on which a decree passed for the Hyssops, who took instant possession of a large paddy-tract, to irrigate which Rutaub had expended considerable sums, destroying many flourishing crops, and, amidst the triumphant exultations of Tubby, pulling down a temple dedi.cated to a goddess of no inferior rank in Hindoo mythology: an inexpiable profanation in the eyes of the natives. The ejected party said nothing, but was not the less bent on retribution. Now and then, indeed, he expressed his discontent, likening British justice to a ravenous beast, that springs from the ambush of what it calls law, on the weak and defenceless. In a short time, there was a hurrying to and fro among the caste;—peons despatched through the different provinces, in which that caste was most numerous ;-a sullen brooding over the wrong sustained by one of their body, and it was remarked that Rutaub himself, though urged by several Europeans to appeal against the decision to the Sudder Adawlut, obstinately rejected the advice.
Disturbances, and even popular risings, are not rare in the indigo-districts, and, on such occasions, so completely transformed is the passive character of those creatures of endurance, that they rush into acts of outrage. In this in. stance, it was a kind of subterraneous combustion, collecting its might in secrecy and silence. The two Hyssops were deeply tinctured with the hate so often indulged by the vulgar classes of Europeans against the Hindoo race, and these, the merest pieces of humanity, took it into their heads that beings of the noblest proportions and stamped in their mien with the blazonry of nature's aristocracy, were created their inferiors, and fit only to hew their wood and carry their water. In their fancied security, the Hyssops laughed at Christopher, who augured but too truly of the indications he had observed; whilst Tubby infused into them renewed doses of that spiritual pride, which blinds us to consequences. Ignorant, that in the rites of the Ummaul, or goddess whose temple they had pulled down, the prolific agencies of the universe were allegorized, the Calvinistic missionary proclaimed, from his pulpit and in field-sermons, a savage triumph over the demolition of the heathen altar. But though the building itself was little more than a rude heap of stones stuccoed with chunam, its demolition rankled deeply in the minds of the natives, and accelerated their schemes of revenge. Lucy, indeed, spared not her sarcasm and satire upon brother Tubby ; yet the more did he seek opportunities of inflicting on her his wearisome preachments, and sometimes in a style of discourse strangely intermingling the phraseology of earthly passion and spiritual rapture.
As for Padré Eustace, skilled not only in the vernacular idiom of the Hin. doos, but the hidden language in which they dissemble their thoughts, he deemed it befitting his pastoral character to warn the Hyssops of what might be expected from their resentment,-giving them pretty strong hints of their covert but inexpiable sense of wrong, when their religious prejudices were insulted. “Remember,” said he - but he spoke in vain—" that in our father's house are many mansions, and that whilst we are waiting that fulness of time, when all shall be gathered into one tribe, we are permitted to use no means of conversion but those of reason and persuasion."
In the meanwhile, the Hyssops had erected, at a great outlay, their indigoworks on the lands, of which they had so unjustly obtained possession. Poor Lucy, if she ventured to breathe her repugnance to Tubby's triumph over the demolished shrine, was compelled to endure a series of vulgar insinuations,