« PoprzedniaDalej »
no traces or memorials now remain to fill the spot with recollections of the Floral fête. The gathering of the flowers, either at its commencement or its close, is unaccompanied by those grand revels, which seem to be almost inseparable from a harvest of roses. No gay troops of youths and maidens
. pile the glowing treasures in osier baskets, or wreathe them round their brows. The work is performed, systematically, by a multitude of poor labourers, who, while carefully securing every full-blown flower, think of nothing except the pice which will repay their easy toil.
. The first process which the roses undergo is that of distillation. The goolūābee pāūnee (rose-water) thus obtained is poured into large vessels, which are exposed uncovered to the open air during the night. The narnes, or jars, are skimmed occasionally, the essential oil floating on the surface being the precious concentration of aroma, so highly prized by the worshippers of the rose. It takes 200,000 flowers to produce the weight of a rupee in atta.
This small quantity, when pure and unadulterated with sandal-oil, sells upon the spot at 100 rupees (£10): an enormous price, which, it is said, does not yield very large profits. A civilian, having made the experiment, found that the rent of land producing the abovenamed quantity of atta, and the purchase of utensils, alone, came to £5; to this sum the hire of labourers remained still to be added, to say nothing of the risk of an unproductive season.
Young ladies in England, who spend the rosy months of June and July in the country, and who can command a hot-house where the thermometer rises to 100° or 120°, might try the experiment of manufacturing atta : 200,000 roses could easily be obtained by levying contributions upon friends and neighbours; and from the rose-water they would yield, poured into China vases, and placed amongst the pine-apples, delicate hands might be employed to extract the floating essence.
Rose-water which has been skimmed is reckoned inferior to that which retains its essential oil, and is sold at Ghazeepore at a lower price; though, according to the opinion of many persons, there is scarcely, if any, perceptable difference in the quality. A seer (a full quart) of the best may be obtained for 8 annas (about Is.). Rose-water enters into almost every part of the domestic economy of the natives of India : it is used for ablutions, in medicine, and in cookery. Before the abolition of nuzzurs (presents), it made a part of the offerings of persons who were not rich enough to load the trays with gifts of greater value. It is poured over the hands after meals, and, at the festival of the Hoolee, all the guests are profusely sprinkled with it. Europeans, suffering under attacks of prickly heat, find the use of rose-water a great alleviation. Natives take it internally for all sorts of complaints; they consider it to be the sovereignest thing on earth for an inward bruise, and eau de Cologne cannot be more popular in France than the goolāäbee päänee in India.
The environs of Ghazeepore are exceedingly pretty, planted with fine forest trees, which may be supposed to bear the nests of the bulbul, haunt, ing the gardens of the rose; though, whether the nightingales ef the east are found in this district the writer cannot vouch with any degree of certainty,
having only heard and seen those divine warblers in cages. Birds, however, abound; the branches are loaded with the pendulous nests of the crested sparrow, and the blue jay sports in dangerous proximity to the Ganges, being selected at a barbarous Hindoo festival as a victim to the cruel Doorga. At the annual celebration of her inhuman rites, these beautiful birds are thrown into the river, and though sometimes rescued by Europeans, who do not share in the superstition that it is unlucky to intermeddle with the vengeful goddess's offerings, they seldom survive the immersion. There are some fine old banian-trees in the neighbourhood of Ghazeepore; one, in particular, which overshadows a ghaut in an adjacent village, may be styled the monarch of the Ganges. This tree, as well as the peepul, is sacred, and when a brahmin takes up his abode under its boughs, it becomes an asylum for all sorts of animals : the fine old patriarch of the woods near Ghazeepore is the haunt of innumerable monkies, who actually erowd the branches, and gambol along the steps of the ghaut, perch upon its balustrades, and play their antios with the bathers in perfect security, and in multitudes which remind the gazer of rabbits in a warren.
Snakes are very numerous in this part of the country, and their deadly enemy the mungoose is frequently seen on the watch for the victims which he pursues with unrelenting animosity. Both natives and Europeans, who have witnessed the encounters of these extraordinary animals with venomous reptiles, are convinced that the mungoose is acquainted with an antidote to the poison, which medical men of the highest eminence have pronounced to be mortal, refusing, in many instances, to yield to the strongest repellent known (eau de luce), which is sometimes administered with success. It is certain that the mungoose frequently receives very severe bites in its conflicts with the snake; that after being wounded it is seen to retire, as it is supposed for the purpose of applying the remedy, and that it will return again to the charge with unflinching vigour, never relinquishing the fight until it has succeeded in destroying its opponent. The mungoose is often domesticated as a pet, for the purpose of keeping houses free from snakes; and thus amateurs have constant opportunities of witnessing its combats with the cobra de capello. Its movements are so exceedingly rapid, that no one has yet been able to follow it to the plant which yields the specific; and scientific men have not hitherto thought it worth their while to ascertain this interesting point by a series of experiments.
Ghazeepore is the quarter of a King's regiment of infantry, and is reckoned a very desirable station, on account of the easy nature of the duties, and the healthiness of the climate. In times of peace, upon the landing of European corps of foot soldiers, it has usually been the custom to allow them to make the tour of the provinces by slow degrees, resting, during intervals of two or three years, either at Berhampore, or Boglipore, on their way to Dinapore, Ghazeepore, Cawnpore, and Meerut. This practice, however, has been departed from in the case of the 26th regiment, which, alınost immediately after its arrival at Fort William, was marched up to Kurnaul, a frontier station on the distant borders of the Company's territories. The upper provinces being considered infinitely more healthy than the low plains of Bengal, it would be advisable, if not interfering with the welfare of the service, to send King's corps into the interior at the first season in which it would be practicable to perform a long march. The process of acclimation is attended with a melancholy catalogue of deaths, when it is carried on in the damp. districts near the presidency. Though Dinapore has the advantage of a dry sandy soil, cholera is no stranger to its cantonments, and it is not until the arrival of a regiment of Europeans at Ghazeepore, that much hope can be entertained of clean bills of health in the medical report.
King's troops are very expensive appendages to the Company's territories; the care and attention necessary for the preservation of their lives, generally has the effect of unfitting them for the duties which a soldier is called upon to perform in a colder climate; while, in despite of the pains taken to ensure their health and comfort, their existence in India must be far less pleasurable than a life of toil and hardship under a more genial atmosphere. During many months, European soldiers are doomed to spend their whole time in imprisonment and idleness; their parades take place very early in the morning, and after the daily exercise is over, they must confine themselves to their barracks. They are strictly enjoined not to proceed to the bungalows of their officers upon duty, in the heat of the sun, without an umbrella, and it is no uncommon sight to meet a private with a black attendant carrying a chattah (awning) over his head. The penny literature of the day would be invaluable, could it reach the stations of European soldiers in India with the regularity and cheapness of its production in England, for reading is their grand resource. Happy are those who find in the Bible every book they need! Religious exercises form the consolation and the occupation of many, but there is still a very large majority who require other aids to fill up their time. Books are, unfortunately, rather a scarce commodity, and notwithstanding the establishment of regular libraries, want of funds renders the supply inadequate to the demand. A very impolitic attempt was made, during the maladministration of a former commander-in-chief, to abridge the mental enjoyments of the European soldiery by depriving them of the newspapers. The forbidden fruit was only the more eagerly sought after, and a strict enforcement of general orders would have occasioned serious discontent amid a set of men, whose natural eagerness to obtain information from home could not be repressed. Commanding officers have usually the good sense to encourage, or at least to sanction, intellectual amusements. In many places, the soldiers have been permitted to construct a theatre for their own performances, and at others they are allowed the use of that belonging to the station. The prices of admission are generally sufficient to cover the expenses, though in India, as well as in England, dramatic speculations are often found to be losing concerns, and scarcely any manager or managing committee can contrive to keep out of debt. Infinite pains are taken to divest theatrical amusements of the danger which might arise from love-scenes between married women and gay Lotharios. The soldiers' wives are not permitted to
enact the heroines in dramatic entertainments, lest it should lead to deviations from the path of duty, and when female characters cannot be cut out, they are performed by beardless youths, much to the deterioration of the spectacle, although the principle which deprives the Mofussil stage of femipine attraction cannot be too highly commended. · A theatre affords interesting occupation to numbers of poor exiled soldiers, who would otherwise be devoured with ennui. Those who can handle a brush are employed in painting the scenes; less accomplished amateurs are too happy to be allowed to shift them, and the orchestra is open to musical aspirants, the Orpher of the Mofussil, who, maugre the disadvantages of instruments which will not keep a single instant in tune, beguile many weary hours with the practice necessary for a grand display. Petting animals also offers a pleasing source of employment to a soldier; great varieties of parrots, highly accomplished in the vulgar tongue, are to be found in the barracks, and the inaster frequently becomes too much attached to a docile and apt scholar to part with it, though tempted by a high price: twenty rupees (£2) are usually given for a well-taught bird. Constant attention and untiring patience are necessary for the instruction of the feathered race, and as the organ of speech is much more strongly developed in the skulls of some paroquets than in those of others, an acquaintance with phrenology would save an infinity of labour. The parrot's cage is hung in some dark place, not unfrequently down a well, while the tutor, lying on the brink, repeats the same sentence over and over again for an hour together. The education of parrots on the continent of India is almost wholly confined to Europeans; though they are frequently kept in a state of captivity by the natives, and are objects of veneration to some castes of Hindoos, they are rarely if ever taught to speak by them. All their cares appear to be lavished upon the hill mynahs, beautiful large black birds with a yellow mark on each side of the head, which are easily trained to the performance of a variety of amusing tricks, and turn out far better orators than the paroquets.
That pining after home, which, in hearts endued with sensibility, too often sows the seeds of disease and death, is acutely felt by a large portion of the King's soldiers, whose terms of service in India being seldom less than twenty years, nearly amounts to a sentence of perpetual banishment. Excepting during a war, when hardships, however severe, are rendered endurable by the spirit-stirring incidents attendant on a hot campaign ; destitute of all excitement, bold and hardy men drag out a life of inglorious ease, in a completely artificial state of existence, preserved, as it were, in glass cases for times of need. Their society at all periods is exclusively military; they have no communication, as at home, with their fellow-citizens ; no jovial meetings with strange faces in public-houses; no large assemblages of persons belonging to their own class at fairs and festivals. Their wants are carefully attended to, but their enjoyments are few; beer is a luxury which their purses can rarely command; they have few opportunities of forming matrimonial connexions with people of their own colour, and life must be irksome to all who cannot give themselves up to sedentary employments. Long habit lends its aid to the subduing influence of the
climate to reconcile the greater number of European soldiers to this state of vegetation; they are conscious that a protracted residence in India has rendered them unequal to the performance of military duties elsewhere, and when, at length, a regiment receives orders to embark for England, numerous volunteers are found willing to remain in the country in which they have worn out the fairest portion of their existence. The ties which bound them to their native land have all been severed; the fond hopes which they cherished of an early return, laden with the spoils of conquered rajahs, have melted away, and they are content at last to relinquish the fair visions of home and happiness, for the solid provision which can be attained in India. These are usually steady men, of sober views and habits, who have outlived the illusions of their youth, and are satisfied to have a choice of minor evils. Warmer temperaments indulge more vivid expectations; to them the name of home acts like a spell; painful experience has not yet taught them to anticipate disappointment, and they return with the same briglit hopes which led them gladly to seek a land whose splendid promises remain unfulfilled. A few, driven to despair by the melancholy prospect of interminable exile, unable to await the slow approach of their recall, and allured by the flowery descriptions of Australia, plunge into crime for the purpose of exchanging honourable servitude in India for a felon's lot in a climate resema bling that of England. It is no very unusual circumstance for a soldier to attempt the life of his officer or his comrade, in the hope of being transported to a country possessing so many features akin to the land of his birth, and even the punishment of death is to some less terrible than the prospect of eternal banishment from “ the home they left with little pain.”
In no other country in the world can the wives and children of European soldiers enjoy the comfort and happiness which await them in India. The lot of the latter is peculiarly fortunate, for they have no reminiscences of another land to poison the blessings of competence and freedom from the pressure of early cares; schools are established in every regiment for the instruction of children of both sexes. The education of persons belonging to their class in society can be carried on as well in India as in England: they are taught to make themselves useful, the boys with a view of becoming non-commissioned officers, regimental clerks, &c., the girls to be made industrious servants, and fitting wives for men in a rank rather superior to that from which they themselves have sprung. The clergy take great delight in the instruction of the youthful members of their respective flocks, and they form the most numerous and the most interesting candidates for confirmation at the visits of the Bishop of Calcutta to the distant scenes of his vast diocese. European ladies gladly take the females into service at an early age, and if they do not retain their situations long, it is because they are eagerly sought in marriage by their fathers' comrades, or by shopkeepers who chance to be located in their vicinity. The daughters of dragoon soldiers sometimes aspire to be belles; they copy the fashions brought out by new arrivals of a higher class, and do great execution at the balls, which upon grand occasions are given by the élite of the non-commissioned officers
of the corps.