ePub 版

to them with a wonderful tenacity; they fade not from the mind, however roughly we may afterwards be tossed about upon the stormy waves of life. Early happy hours are the “green spots on memory's waste;" and on the recollection of such green spots we all delight to dwell. Life is not altogether a vale of tears and sorrow; the Almighty, in his great goodness, has provided largely for our solace and gratification, if we would only use his gifts aright; but there are those who go grumbling through the world, with their eyes closed to all its fair creations. With such I would not wish to travel.

It is not my intention to discuss or dwell much upon the rise of our magnificent eastern empire ; nor upon its progress, since the fortunes of war placed India under the dominion of Great Britain. Celebrated historians have already done justice to this singularly interesting subject; and have laid before the reading public, volumes, teeming with instruction and amusement. As a simple sketcher of common life and every-day scenes in this country, once the land of fable, I will endeavour, as I proceed, to note down the various little peculiarities that struck me as illustrating the character of its inhabitants—a character thought to be but little changed since the death of Nadir Shah, or the destroyer, Timour. The hand of despotism, indeed, now no longer desolates this once oppressed land — robbing a happy, or shedding the blood of a peaceful race, like that of the Hindoo. The Christian banner of England now waves over a large portion of the East Indies. Our protection and assistance were offered, and accepted with a readiness clearly manifesting that the Mohammedan reign of terror was still fresh upon the national memory. As opportunity may offer itself, we will occasionally leave the busy haunts of men, and wander among woods and silent forests ; mark the seasons as they roll along; and take a glance at whatever may be interesting to the naturalist, and to all who love and ponder and commune with Nature in her wildest moods. All the treasures which earth offers to man have, as it is well known, been liberally scattered over the face of this double-harvest-bearing clime; which, in consequence, has excited human ambition, and spurred men on to explore it, in its never-failing resources, even from the snowy heights of the wondrous Himalaya range, down to the spicy shores of Cape. Comorin. I shall take care to avoid the folly so often committed and complained of-the folly of giving too high a colouring to pictures of domestic life in the East; but of the beauty and the magnificence of its landscapes and scenery, I do not think it possible that language can convey an adequate description. Truth has been said to be at times more startling than fiction; and with good old sober Truth for our guide, my readers and I may,

I hope, make our way onwards very agreeably. India is now brought so near us, through the medium of steam, that English readers naturally look for a little more of the minutiæ of Indian life, than they formerly found in the narratives of travellers. It is true, I can hold out no attractive promises of tiger-hunts or daring adventures in the jungle-a species of information which, as I well know, has cast a charm over the works of some writers on Life in India. These subjects, however, having of late entered largely into the descriptive volumes of almost every adventurer who has ever had an opportunity of letting off a percussion-cap in the East, and of startling his friends at home by its effects, have become familiar to the fireside traveller; so leaving the tigers to those who have had the good fortune to meet with so many of them, and who have turned them to such good account, I must candidly confess, strange though it may appear, that I never had the honour of meeting either lion or tiger in my rambles in India, with the exception, indeed, of a stuffed tiger, that occupied a very important position in the bungalow of a kind friend of mine at Colabah, and who glared upon you just as you entered the reception-room. My friend used to stroke down the skin, and to lament, that so noble an animal as the tiger should have become so scarce, as seldom to be met with in western India. I once expressed some little surprise at this remark; for having but just come over to the country, I fancied, that every clump of brushwood sheltered some horrible wild animal of some kind or another, that was always in readiness to pounce upon you unexpectedly. The kind captain, however, informed me that I was about to commence my

griffinage ; and assured me, that I should think very differently before that eventful period should have expired. What a beautiful bungalow, my friend's was! From the road, you looked down a long vista of mogree and scarlet-flowering acacia trees. In front of a large, handsome porch, grew the custard apple and the guava, in clumps, intermingled with the lovely pomegranate, bearing, at one and the same time, the blushing calabash fruit and its wax-like flowers. Shading the dining-room windows was a shrub, about eight feet high, that every morning during the two months of my residence with my friend, was loaded with hundreds of large brilliant yellow blossoms, which attracted around them all the beautiful butterflies in the neighbourhood. The building was octagonal in shape ; so that from whatever quarter a stray breeze might come, you could open the Venetian shutters, and admit it at

But instead of lingering here, we must go back to Fort George, and Bombay; and cast another glance upon its houses and people.

The Fort and Town of Bombay stands principally on a narrow neck of land, at the south-eastern extremity of the island. The fortifications are strong and substantial towards the sea, but are considered weak on the land side. The Mint, Town-Hall, Cathedral, Scotch Church, Dock-Yards, Arsenal, and CustomHouse, are handsome buildings, and, by their style of architecture, give an English character to the place, which rather contradicts your English-formed ideas of


Oriental cities. The houses within the Fort were originally built of wood, with verandahs, and roofs covered in with tiles. But, in 1803, a great fire consumed many of them; and as the population was yearly increasing, a number of dwellings were erected on a salt-ground outside, which had been recovered from the sea, and has since grown up into a large, busy town. Upon my first ramble through the streets of Bombay, the houses struck me as being most uncomfortable places to live in. So far as I could judge, they wanted that life about them, if I may use the expression, which we find in our cheerful English residences. There are no glass windows, but their places are supplied by dusty outside shutters. The walls are all coloured or stuccoed, and the houses being three or four stories high in the Fort, throw gloomy but agreeable shadows over the narrow streets. Some of these buildings, inhabited by Hindoos, give an idea of great antiquity, and are very curious in their architecture. Many have great projecting balconies, roofed over, and supported on elaborately carved wooden pillars, the shafts and capitals of which exhibit various odd and fantastic devices, standing out in bold relief, and evidently taken from the Hindoo mythology. The ends of many of the supporting timbers, that project far out from the walls, are ornamented by grotesque figures, in strange, uncouth attitudes, though often representing very faithfully some of the favourite birds, animals, &c., which are held sacred by the natives; these figures being sup

« 上一頁繼續 »