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Title: Shavings & Scrapes from many parts

Author: Jules Joubert

Release date: November 4, 2018 [eBook #58230]

Language: English

Credits: Produced by Christian Boissonnas, The Online Distributed
Proofreading Team at (This file was
produced from scans of public domain works at The National
Library of Australia.)


Title page




Jules Joubert

There was a time when meadows, grove, and stream,
The earth, and every common sight, to me did seem
Apparelled in celestial light—
The glory and the freshness of a dream.
It is not now as it has been of yore,
Turn wheresoe’r I may,
By night or day,
The things which I have seen are now no more.
Wordsworth’sRecollections of Early Childhood.”

Princes Street

Dedicated to

The Members of the Savage Club,

Dunedin, N. Z.,



The Author.


A Stray Shot 1
Peep of Day 4
Chip from an Old Log 9
First Lesson in Finance 15
Robinson Crusoe Realised 20
Maoriland 25
Sydney in 1839 32
The Gold Fever 37
Some Bushrangers I Have Known 41
How Money Used to be Made 49
Taking Possession: “Tit for Tat” 53
“He who Fights and Runs Away” 56
Another Narrow Squeak 60
A South Sea Trip 63
A Few Old Identities 69
A Land Speculation 75
A Hard Knock 79
Home, Sweet Home 83
Antipodean Gratitude 88
Grains of Singalese Sand 92
The Paraherra 96
“Hamlet” Under Difficulties 103
An Elephant Hunt 106
A Matrimonial “Scrape” 113
The Tree of Life 131
A Water Party in the Garden of Eden 145
Madras 155
The Ganges 158
Calcutta 162
The Denizens of the Jungle 169
Sanctimonious 173
The Calcutta Exhibition 180
A Tramp Through India 184
Benares—the Sacred City 196
Through the Central Provinces 200
Princely Hospitality 206
Indian Sports 211
Home, “Dear” Home 224

The Christening.

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IN one of the first chapters of Charles Dickens’ “Nicholas Nickleby” he gives a very amusing description of the family conclave held to decide upon the name of the newborn infant.

I am now in the same dilemma.

It is very well to say that “A rose will smell quite as sweet,” &c., &c., and that there is nothing in a name. On this point I must agree to differ.

When I wrote this book I had fixed upon “Ups and Downs”—my publisher tells me that there is already in existence a book under that name. “A Random Shot” met with a similar objection. A score more attempts proved equally fruitless—“Too long,” “Too short,” “Won’t do”—until I made up my mind to translate it into French and call it “Sans nom,” which after all would be most appropriate.

Owing no doubt to perplexity, a homicidal fit came upon me. My fire was being lit: my M.S. laid before me. It struck me that after all it would serve admirably to kindle a flame.

My servant entered with the coal scuttle and some shavings. This saved my paper. “SAVED”!! I cried. I had a name at last: “Shavings and Scrapes”—original, though slightly Barberous. “Shavings” it is, and “Shavings” it shall be.

As you see, the christening was a private affair, settled au coin du feu.

But for this timely assistance the book would have made a blaze, it is true, and my literary effort would have ended in SMOKE.

J. J.

[Pg 1]

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WHAT is life? A perpetual see-saw with fortune—man at one end, the fickle jade at the other.

A feather at times turns the balance. In my case, an ounce of lead has disturbed the equilibrium of the fortunes of many lives.

Descended from men of war, I have become most essentially a man of peace.

Still, when that most popular of all toasts, “The Army and Navy,” is proposed, it stirs up the old leaven which still permeates the blood that came to me with the name I inherited from my sires.

My paternal grandfather had two sons, one a soldier, the younger a sailor. The latter is answerable for my sins—if I have ever committed any.

The vicissitudes of life are strange, bordering at times on fiction. During the war France had to wage against almost every other nation in Europe to defend her soil from the invasion instigated by a fallen monarchy against the Republican element which originated in 1789, an [Pg 2] army, spontaneously raised from her “people,” crossed the Alps, carrying the tricolor flag into Italy, where many hard battles were fought.

These strangely composed, ill clad, badly fed, ragged hordes of French soldiers were led to victory by two young, inexperienced generals—both ambitious, energetic men—the younger, General Bonaparte, in whom the “Directoire” possessed a dangerous enemy of the Republic; the senior, my uncle, whose special mission was to watch the impetuous Corsican and counter-balance the evident sway and influence he was daily gaining over the young army by the daring of his actions and electrifying effect of those short, pithy allocutions he invariably made to the soldiers whom he sometimes so rashly led to death—but always to victory. During the Italian campaign the two young leaders vied with each other in their efforts to drill and train the undisciplined battalions, recruited and enlisted on the Champ de Mars, in Paris, during the terrible period so graphically termed the “Reign of Terror.”

From the victories gained in Italy originated that wonderful army whose glorious deeds have placed France foremost as a military Power.

During one of the most decisive battles on the fields of Novi, after a days’ hard fighting, and when the victory once more had smiled on his flag, my uncle fell, shot through the heart. When his body, carried reverently by his staff, was brought to his tent, a sealed packet was found on the General’s camp-table—a packet containing an official order from the “Directoire” to assume the supreme command of the French army!

[Pg 3]

What changes in the destinies of Europe have resulted from this stray shot! Two men then ruling the armies of France—one a staunch Republican, seeking only the welfare of his country; the other an ambitious parvenu, ever ready to sacrifice the lives of hundreds of thousands to his own aggrandisement. Who can say what might have been the result had Bonaparte fallen instead of his brother officer?

I only refer to this episode in the early history of the family whence I spring because I consider that it very likely had to a great extent a direct influence on my after life, even though it occurred a quarter of a century before I made my first appearance in this wicked world. It gave rise to a jealous feeling in my father’s heart and led him to leave the navy.

Soon after Napoleon became the ruler of the French Empire, my father, like the Roman of old, exchanged the sword for the plough. Instead of making a name in the naval engagements of Aboukir or Trafalgar he devoted his life to a quieter and perhaps better purpose—the drainage of the then pestilential morasses of Medoc, which have since acquired a world-wide fame for the production of some of the best wines in the south of France.

In some of the libraries of my native country some useful works are to be found on the culture of the vine, the drainage of land in the south of France, as well as a treatise on artesian wells, which was one of my father’s hobbies—the first of these useful perforations having been made in Medoc, and ultimately the great artesian well of Grenelle, in Paris.

[Pg 4]



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HAVING so far established the genealogy of the author, it might be as well to bring him to the fore, and to state that on the 31st day of July, 1824, I made my entrée at Angoulême, one of the prettiest towns in France—a town now seldom visited by tourists, owing to its peculiar position on the summit of a sugar-loaf-shaped hill, almost surrounded by the river Charente—too steep for a railway. The engineers who planned the iron road in that locality avoided Angoulême, so that even in this age of progress my native town is, I may say, what it was when I left it many, many years ago—a quiet, unpretentious city, merely known by the paper mills, which afford the principal item of trade of its inhabitants. These mills, in the early part of the present century, belonged to my grandfather; and to this day the water lines on the paper manufactured at Angoulême bear the names “Laroche-Joubert,” the former family having intermarried with ours.

Earlier than it is usual now to put a youth to school, I was sent to Bordeaux, and made to plough up Latin and Greek under a most strict and overbearing taskmaster. In those days the easy hours and lazy system of education now in vogue were unknown. Strict discipline—such, [Pg 5] indeed, as would now cause a mutiny in a penitentiary—was considered the right and proper treatment in the best regulated schools. Even Dickens has been mild in his description of scholastic comforts.

I confess that I little relished the scanty food, the corporeal punishment, and long dreary hours spent at my first school at Bordeaux.

The system of schooling now in vogue may—and I feel sure, does—bring about quite as good a result as far as education is concerned; but I still think that the discipline and hardship of the old system had its beneficial effects. I have still a strong impression of those old days, when the first bell used to wake us at 6 A.M., winter and summer; ten minutes allowed to dress; marched to a trough of iced water, in winter, for ablutions; then into a cold, dreary schoolroom—each boy provided with a tallow dip to lighten the darkness of his desk—where, with fingers benumbed with cold, he had to dive into “Æsop” or “Cornelius Nepos,” translate Homer and Virgil on an empty stomach, and with heavy eye-lids, until 8 o’clock, when a slice of dry bread and very much christened milk of doubtful origin would be handed over on our way to the playground. Thus fortified we had to wait till 11 for a déjeuner à la fourchette, worse than that I have often seen placed before vagrants in the soup kitchens of Sydney or Melbourne. Such treatment, however, was “quite the thing” fifty years ago. It not only sharpened the appetite—it sharpened the “wits” of young “gentlemen.”

Being one of the youngest and smallest of boys in Mons. Worms’ school, I had to submit [Pg 6] to the will of my seniors. The private store of our schoolmaster was in a large room on the upper floor. The skylight of our dormitories enabled us to have access to the roof, and by dint of a clothes line a small boy could readily be lowered through the chimney into this receptacle of jam pots, tinned sardines, and other delicacies.

What my elders (whose education was more advanced) conceived, I had to execute. Being lowered into the store-room to secure “goodies” for my mates seemed quite a heroic achievement. This systematic burglary we carried on for some time, until one fine evening the line snapped. I dropped into the fireplace with a crash which brought in one of the ushers. A trial—when, all attempts to make me disclose the names of my companions having proved fruitless, I was sentenced to expulsion from the school.

This scandalous beginning in the world, and ignominious exit from my first school, though very disgraceful, have not been altogether devoid of good results. I have ever since been fully impressed with several important facts—First, that burglaries in the long run don’t pay; second, that it is safer to get into a room by the door than through the chimney; third, it is always better to lower someone else after “goodies” than to be lowered one’s self; and last, though not least, that it is not safe to trust one’s body to a hemp rope. It may have been the means of keeping me from more mischief—who knows?

I, however, hailed with delight my removal to the College Bourbon in Paris, where, as a day pupil, I could enjoy the comforts of “home” when my day’s college work came to an end.

[Pg 7]

It was there that I became personally acquainted with many whose names have since become famous in French history, having for several years sat on the same form with A. Dumas (fils), Clavel, Leon Say, Phillipeaux Brénier; and, at the annual examinations, the sons of our monarch, Louis Philippe—the Ducs d’Aumale and Montpensier—schoolmates whom I had the good fortune to meet again in Paris in 1878, after many years of a rambling life in the Southern Hemisphere.

My eldest brother took it into his head to start for Australia in 1837. I was much engrossed by the fuss all our friends made with him when he left for what was then considered the confines of the world; his letters describing the voyage, his landing, and the prospects of this new world so preyed on my mind that I at once decided to follow in his tracks.

Communications, however, were not quite as frequent in those days as they are now. Instead of a thirty-five days’ passage on board a floating palace, a trip to Australia meant close imprisonment for eleven or twelve months in a wooden tub of three or four hundred tons, with hard biscuit and salt junk, and perhaps an occasional meal of tinned beef and preserved potatoes, washed down with a draught of putrid water, often doled out in very minute portions. All these were thoroughly put before me to cool down my travelling proclivities. But, on the other hand, most of the visitors at home were old shipmates of my father’s—Dumont-Durville, Laplace, Berard—all eminent French navigators, who had followed Cook and Lapeyrouse’s ships in the Pacific—so that, whilst one ear listened [Pg 8] to the words of caution and “Home, Sweet Home,” sung to me by the female portion of the household, the other, like gentle Desdemona’s, heard our visitors tell

Of moving accidents by flood and field;
Of hair-breadth 'scapes in the imminent, deadly breach;
Of being taken by the insolent foe
And sold to slavery.          .           .           .
And of the cannibals that each other eat—
The Anthropophagi—      .           .           .
In faith ’twas strange, ’twas passing strange.

The more welcome tales of adventures across the sea became prominent in my mind and eventually carried the day. Once my mind was set on going, I left no stone unturned to make a start. At the instigation of our sailor friends, and with their assistance, I obtained from the then Ministre de la Marine, also a friend of my father—Admiral Duperré—a passage on board the corvette Heroine, which was going to make a voyage round the world, and, en passant, to carry to the Bay of Islands some Church ornaments and ecclesiastical garments sent by the Queen of the French—the sainted wife of Louis Phillipe—to Monseigneur Pompallier, Catholic Bishop of New Zealand.

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ON the 1st of May, 1839, before daybreak—having only been a few hours on board the Heroine—an unusual noise and turmoil gave me the first idea of the life of a “passager civil” on board a man-of-war.

My hammock was hung close to the gun-room in the gun-deck, where 32 caronades and 250 Jack-tars shared with me that rather close and murky dormitory, which at a given signal from the boatswain’s whistle had to be cleared of hammocks, washed, holystoned, and mopped—all before 5 A.M.

This, I may say, was an operation commenced on that first morning an hour earlier than usual, owing to the fact that “Saint Philippe” being the patron saint of the King of the French, and the first of May being the birthday of the said saint (a fact I am not prepared to vouch for), the whole of the fleet at anchor in the port of Brest would thunder a royal salute at sunrise, in which our ship could not take part, as in those benighted days it was thought that the firing of 21 guns might cause a deviation of the chronometers.

It appears that an order received during the night—to clear out before daylight—had to be obeyed, so we weighed anchor and put out to sea. It was a rough, miserable day. I had [Pg 10] hardly managed to hurry on my clothes before the Heroine commenced to toss and pitch as only a heavily-gunned frigate can do in a short, heavy sea with half a gale blowing in her teeth.

I shall never forget an eventful night in the Bay of Biscay, when the frigate was rolling heavily from side to side. One of the racks between the caronades gave way under the weight of the eight or ten thirty-two pound shots it held. These cannon balls were of course sent rolling from starboard to port with increased velocity, threatening in their progress to knock the sides of the ship into splinters. The watch was piped down to stop this mischief, but the task was not an easy one. The men had only the dim light of lanterns to see the very lively balls, and stopping them in their mad career was fraught with much danger; indeed, before they were all secured, several poor fellows had to be carried into the hospital with bruised and broken limbs.

I must confess that had it been possible on that and the following few days to have changed places with the only brother I had left comfortably quartered under the paternal roof, these pages would never have been penned in New Zealand, and he, poor fellow, would have escaped the tragical death he met with in the trenches at Sebastopol during the Crimean war, where he fell mortally wounded at the head of his company, the 11th Artillery.

Youth and a healthy constitution soon overcame the effects of the mal de mer. The Heroine was the smartest sailer in the French navy. Our orders were to keep in the wake of an [Pg 11] admiral’s ship—“La Gloire”—sent to Rio de Janeiro to arrange matters in connection with the intended marriage of the Prince de Joinville with the sister of Don Pedro, Emperor of Brazil. Whilst tossing in the Bay of Biscay, and in order to keep at a respectful distance astern of the admiral’s ship, our commander—a knowing old salt, well versed in seamanship—well aware that the best qualities of his frigate were under easy sail, crammed on as much canvas as she could stagger under. This manœuvre brought out a signal from La Gloire to reduce sail and “rendezvous” at the entrance of Rio harbour. This, happening at sunset, was at once acted upon. During the night, under reduced sail, we forged ahead, so that when daylight came the admiral’s ship was almost hull-down astern of the Heroine. A quarter-master came to the skipper saying that the Gloire had hoisted our number, and was signalling fresh orders. “Who told you to look astern, sir?” said the captain. “You deserve to lose a week’s grog for being so officious. Go on the fore-castle and see if there are any breakers ahead; leave it to me to watch the admiral’s signals!” The fact is the old boy wanted to call at the Azores to take in a supply of wine for his and the gun-room table; he knew well that as soon as the heavy pressure of canvas was taken off, the gallant ship would displace less water under her bows, and could give the flag-ship one mile in three.

Thanks to this dodge, we spent a few days at Madeira and Teneriffe, where I received my first idea of semi-tropical climate, vegetation, and manners.

[Pg 12]

By this time, though not much of a sailor, I had got over the nauseous feeling, and got somewhat used to the “hard tack” called food, served twice a day to the midshipmens’ mess, where I was quartered.

Two meals of half a kilogramme of biscuit, as hard as cast-iron and quite as dark in colour; half a pint of haricots or broad beans alternately, which, I should think, were bought at the sale of surplus stores of Noah’s ark after she stranded on Mount Ararat; salt beef or pork, quite as ancient; and oh! such water!—the stench of it made the washing of one’s hands in it a punishment. Yet we had to drink it, together with the Vin de campagne—a bluish mixture which would have been most acceptable to Messrs Day and Martin for the dilution of their celebrated blacking, but certainly rejected with contempt by Cross and Blackwell for pickling purposes.

What a treat it was to land at Funchal and Teneriffe! Shall I ever forget the delicious treat to rush into a cook-shop and “tuck in” a regular “burster” of white bread, fresh meat, and fruit. Of the latter I made, of course, an ample provision—returning on board with baskets of oranges, bananas, &c. Alas! I had to learn that in a man-of-war, in the year A.D. 1839, a passenger was a kind of incubus—looked upon as a nuisance—an object everlastingly in everybody’s way—without a cabin, a locker, a place to resort to, barring the hammock devoted to his use from 8 p.m. till 6 a.m. next day. The consequence was that all my stores of “goodies” were summarily seized by, and devoured in, the [Pg 13] midshipmens’ mess, who, less favoured, had not been allowed even a scamper on shore.

Prior to embarkation my father’s last words were—“A few months on board one of His Majesty’s ships will give you an idea of the world.” Most truly had he spoken. Barely one month from the parental roof, I had already acquired some experience. I already found out that a sea life was not couleur de rose, as I had painted it in imagination. The petty tyranny of my messmates soon knocked out of me all boyish, nursery, and even college notions of self-importance.

The Peak of Teneriffe was soon lost in the far horizon; the gallant ship, once more under canvas, sped her course through lovely weather, shaping a direct course for the South American coast. Gradually getting accustomed to what at first seemed a hard life, making good friends in the gun-room—more especially with our portly head surgeon and the purser, to whose kindness I was indebted for leave to use the surgery and the clerk’s room, as well as the free run of the ship’s library—time hung less wearily. Besides, we were nearing the Brazilian shores. The land breeze every evening wafted to sea the balmy-scented air of orange groves; all eyes strained throughout the day to follow the varied indentations of distant ranges. We passed daily a number of quaintly rigged vessels and coast boats.

At last we reached our rendezvous with the Gloire, and paid the penalty of our treachery. She was not there, and for five dreary long days we had to tack off and on in view of one of the most lovely harbours in the world, scanning [Pg 14] the blue line of the sky for the pennant of the old admiral. He came at last—his pride in finding the Heroine newly painted, scrubbed, and in every plank, spar, or rigging—a perfect picture of neat, trim beauty—made him overlook the otherwise unpardonable sin of having out-sailed his old boat.

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WE sailed into port together, simultaneously fired our royal salute, and cast anchor among several scores of ships of war of all nationalities, with whom visits of naval etiquette were exchanged for several days, keeping our poor gunners busy from daylight till dark. As I often thought at the time, if our chronometers could not withstand 21 guns on the Saint Philippe’s day two months before, their condition after our firing at Rio must have been sadly affected. But I suppose, like myself, they had by this time got their “sea-legs,” and consequently did not mind a slight jerking.

The captain did me the honour of taking me with him when he made a call on board the Gloire—to my great delight I found that the admiral was a friend of my father’s. I was kept on board to dine with the “great man,” and from that day got my “promotion” amongst my messmates and the gun-room officers of our own ship. Ahem! the friend of the admiral! The sequel was, that wherever our captain went this individual followed—aye, even to that most lovely of all royal palaces, the Emperor’s country house at San Cristopho, where the despatches of the King of the French were delivered to H.I. Majesty Don Pedro—then a fat boy of twenty odd years—who received “Us” most graciously, and introduced us to his two lovely [Pg 16] sisters—one the Duchesse de Joinville in prospective. From that day until our departure from that charming country, every hour of the day—even very, very late at night—was taken up by parties, balls, pic-nics, excursions, visiting—a perfect and endless carnival of gaieties, on shore or on board the ships of the station.

I must not omit two incidents which even now I recall with a certain amount of amusement. It seems but yesterday that in order to seal for ever the truce my friends the middies had granted on my return from the first visit to the admiral, I invited our mess—nine young, hairbrained, jolly fellows—to dine with me on shore at Faroux’s hotel, the crack place in Rio in those days. I had still in my bag a few hundred francs left from the small store of pocket money given to me at the start. This—the largest amount of cash I had ever been blessed with—gave me sufficient aplomb to order a first-rate dinner, a variety of choice wines—even that forbidden luxury to our mess, champagne—liqueurs, coffee, and cigars!

This grand feast was a decided success—until the head waiter placed before me “the Bill,” with a total showing FIVE figures in its first column! If ever a poor boy’s digestion after a good dinner received a disturbing shock, it did on that occasion. I sat in a perfect state of amazement! As the dinner progressed I had gradually risen in the estimation of my guests, until I had with the “pop” of the last bottle of “fizz,” reached the apogee of glory. What could be done? Appeal to my guests to pay for the feast?—there was no other alternative. I put on as bold a front as I could, and went [Pg 17] through with it. My appeal in forma pauperis was received with apparent good grace. It was proposed, seconded and carried that I should order a bedroom to be prepared and a breakfast for say five next morning, when four of the middies would attend, bringing with them the necessary funds to pay all expenses.

Relieved of my first monetary embarrassment, I retired to my solitary chamber to meditate on the extravagance of a fast life. After a long night of mature cogitations—and many grateful mental thanks to my generously-disposed messmates—the four young rascals made their appearance to share the delicate breakfast prepared at their instigation. When coffee was served, the youngest, E. Dubois (now a hoary-headed old professor of mathematics at the Naval School at Toulon) rose, and in—to them—a most amusing speech, gave me to understand that mil reis represented only 2f. 75c. (£0 2s. 3d.), so that the dinner, the bed, and the breakfast we had just despatched with true midshipman’s appetite, only absorbed a portion of my pocket-money (£6)! But, as he said in conclusion, “Dear boy, you can still face the world boldly. Though ignorant of the value of foreign coins—which proves that your mathematical education has been sadly neglected—you can pay all your creditors twenty shillings in the pound; and you have the satisfaction to think that you have treated your mess royally.” This, and the amount of “chaff” I was met with on board, had to be got over. It was soon done in the turmoil of festivities I have already mentioned.

My young madcap friends, however, having [Pg 18] once tasted of the forbidden fruit—a dinner at a swell hotel—decided upon calling a meeting of all the middies in harbour to get up an “International Farewell Dinner.” Alas! my last coin had to be parted with. But had I not to keep up an appearance? If you can imagine a large banquet hall—between sixty-five and seventy young scapegraces, ranging from 14 to 17 years of age, promiscuously sitting around a handsomely decorated table—English, French, Germans, Americans, Dutch, Italians, Spaniards, Greeks, Egyptians—all mixed up together, not two out of the lot able to understand a word of his neighbour’s language on either side of him. For the first half hour it was very much like a Quaker’s meeting. Nothing was heard beyond the clatter of knives and forks, broken by occasional calls from one to another across the board. But what a strange power champagne has on the human intellect! We sat down at 7 sharp; at 8.30 we were all talking to one another; at 11 I was strolling down the Rua del Ovidor arm-in-arm with a Russian on the right and a Dutchman on the left, exchanging ideas on the most knotty points of international naval legislation; and next morning woke up in the swing cot of a Dutch frigate, whilst my Russian friend had somehow got into my hammock on board the Heroine.

We all suffered from intense headaches—owing, no doubt, to the great pressure on the brain caused by the “polyglot” experiment of the previous night.

The two incidents have, however, had a beneficial effect. I have learned the comparative value of the various foreign coins, and have [Pg 19] never since attempted to understand more than one foreign language at one time, even with the assistance of Moet’s champagne.

Our stay in this lovely Brazilian capital at last came to and end. A few days after our international “spree” we were coursing for the Cape of Good Hope, where we made a stay of only three days—just enough to visit the Table Mountain and spend a night at Mr. Cloetê’s celebrated vineyard. From Cape Town to Madagascar we had it about as rough as they make it. I often thought the poor old Heroine would be swallowed up in the trough of the mountainous seas we met with, but the good old boat made pretty good weather of it on the whole.

Madagascar, being the first real “nigger” country I had seen, was a source of great interest to me; and I have often regretted that time did not admit of visiting the interior or hilly portion of that magnificent island. Unfortunately, a man-of-war’s route is mapped out in the offices of the Ministre de la Marine, and when the hour sounded for us to weigh anchor and up with the “jib” there was no “jibbing” against it; and a few days later we sighted the twin islands—Mauritius and Bourbon—and visited both.

Strange to say it struck me even then, and more so on the several visits I have paid to the two countries, the former, which has been a British possession for nearly half-a-century, is to this day more French at heart than the latter. Both charming islands, for scenery and the free-handed hospitality of their inhabitants. I doubt if they can possibly be out-done in any part of the globe.

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ONE of the principal articles of food for the black and mulatto population of these islands being salt fish, which has to be imported at great expense from Europe and Newfoundland—principally the latter—Mons. Jules de Rontaunay, a wealthy planter and shipowner in Bourbon, originated the idea of establishing on two small islands in the Indian Ocean (St. Paul and Amsterdam) a fishing and curing station; and at his instigation the Governor of Bourbon requested our captain to make a thorough hydrographic survey of those islands. We accordingly sailed straight for this small group. My friends, the doctor and purser of the Heroine, and I, being of course of no service whatever for the scientific work, applied for leave to land with a view to explore the island of St. Paul, which, besides being the most accessible of the two, was reputed to abound in wild goats and sea birds, not to mention hot springs and curious volcanic formations.

Duly equipped and provided for a few days’ stay, we landed in a small basin on the lee side, where a rough cabin was in a few hours cleaned and made habitable by the doctor’s man-servant—an able seaman, expert at such work. Having made the place snug and comfortable, we started for a voyage of discovery, which in [Pg 21] my eyes savoured much of that most enticing story of Robinson Crusoe I had so often gloated upon. Like most youngsters, I had become imbued with an ardent wish to experience the delightfully romantic notion of a life on a desert island.

Here, then, was the long-wished-for realisation of my dream. Our first day’s excursion proved most interesting. Whilst Dr. Roland botanised, cracked rocks with his geologist’s hammer, studied to his heart’s content the floral and mineral productions of that unknown spot in mid-ocean, the purser exercised his skill on the wild goats and sea birds; my boyish propensities, assisted by the more mature knowledge of Jean, the doctor’s servant, led me to bird’s-nesting. In a few hours we made such a raid among the crags on the lee shore that we gathered as many eggs as would have fed the ship’s company. At Jean’s suggestion we turned our attention to fishing. There also we had a marked success—Monsr. de Rontaunay’s scheme was evidently based on undeniably correct information. The place abounds with fish of all descriptions and the small bay we had settled on was swarming with them. A spring of warm water trickles into this miniature harbour, which at low tide is closed by a sand-bar. At that particular time the swarms of fish it is filled with rush to the outer bank to escape the palpable change of temperature of the water. It then becomes comparatively an easy matter to haul out as much as one wishes to capture, with even the rudest appliances.

When we all met for dinner we had a stock of provisions which might have afforded a meal [Pg 22] for the whole of our ship’s company. Being also supplied with an ample store of “medical comforts,” and having enjoyed the tough yarns so admirably told by Dr. Roland, we rolled ourselves in our blankets near the fire and slept soundly till daylight. After a bath in the tepid waters of the bay, a hearty breakfast, and a peep at the good old ship laying quietly at anchor a mile or so from the shore, we all started on our varied avocations for the day. The weather in that locality is, however, given to sudden changes. Although everything appeared calm and bright at daybreak, clouds began to rise, and before noon a strong breeze sprang up, heavy rollers broke with a roaring noise on the weather side of the island; pelting rain followed, which drove us back to our quarters. We found our faithful “tar” in a great state of excitement. He informed us that a couple of hours after our departure a gun had been fired from the frigate, a signal hoisted which he could not make out (the doctor having taken with him the spy-glass), and that shortly after the hoisting of the signal the ship had weighed anchor, and was now completely out of sight!

In spite of the encouraging words of my companions, I confess that I did not feel quite happy in my mind—the romance of the desert island seemed to assume too much reality. I would then with great pleasure have exchanged our well-filled larder for the hard biscuit, the mess of beans, and piece of salt junk of the Heroine. The idea which haunted me—that we were left deserted on the island of St. Paul—deprived me of both sleep and appetite. I was up before [Pg 23] daylight scanning the cloudy horizon. Neither the cheering words nor the chaffing of my companions prevailed. They went their way as if nothing had happened—the only thing which seemed to prey on their minds was the short stock of biscuit and small supply of rum left in the bottle. The same climatic influence which had caused the change for the worse in the state of the weather, brought back calm and sunshine.

At about 8 p.m. we heard the distant boom of a thirty-two pounder! Never in this world did a sound produce sweeter music in my ears. Had I been alone I would certainly have left all my belongings to rush to the shore where the pinnace came to rescue us from our solitary picnic grounds—I would have embraced in one fond, grateful “hug,” the midshipman and the twelve brave fellows who came to fetch us back to the dear old ship. It appears that owing to a sudden fall in the barometer, and the threatening aspect of both wind and sea, it had been deemed prudent to stand off and on, rather than ride out the gale at anchor; this was conveyed to us by the signal we had failed to see.

Of course, the qualm I had experienced remained buried in that most sensitive portion of my body, whence it arose. I entertained my messmates with wonderful tales of sport—stretched to the uttermost. When any doubts were evinced as to the veracity of my statements, they were at once dispelled by an appeal to dear old Jean, whom I shall always declare to have been the very best “affidavit Jack” I ever met. Having, ever since Dr. Roland gave me the free run of his surgery, surrendered to Jean my [Pg 24] daily allowance of grog, the dear old fellow would have endorsed on oath that the sun rose in the west and set regularly in the east on the island we had just left behind us in the mist of an October night, if I had ventured upon such an assertion.

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LEAVING These two solitary islands, we had to settle down to the more protracted part of our journey, and I may also add, the most uncomfortable one. We were bound for New Zealand, therefore had to go south of Van Dieman’s Land. A merchant-man would naturally have shaped her course for the latitude of Cape Lewin. Not so, however, a man-of-war, whose sailing directions are based on “bureaucratic” prudence, so that we had to go well into the S.W. wind, and heavy seas of the low south. These instructions we followed most religiously. The poor old frigate had a rough time of it; for seven or eight weeks she rolled most unmercifully under close-reefed courses, until the long-wished-for day came, when we began to steer north, and gradually got into warmer and finer weather.

“Land ho!” That most welcome shout from the fore-gallant-top brought us all to the fore-castle—a speck to leeward gradually emerging from the blue waters—the long-looked-for mountain ranges on the New Zealand coast.

A few days’ coasting brought us safely in to the Bay of Islands. We dropped anchor opposite the small unpretending residence of the Catholic Mission, a short distance from the Flag-staff Hill, since rendered famous by the outbreak of Kawiti [Pg 26] and Honi Heke. The whale boat, which brought on board the Maori pilot, was manned by Natives, all more or less tattooed—my first insight into real savage life. I had heard and read of the Maori race. Now, I, for the first time, had an opportunity to study it from life. Monseigneur Pompallier, the head of the Mission, was well acquainted with my brother in Sydney, who was acting agent and purveyor for the Catholic missionary stations in the Pacific. At his request I became a guest at the Mission, where the Native chiefs—Rewa, Kawiti, and Pomare—were daily visitors, so that I soon became a fast friend of the two former. Pomare, though friendly, was always looked upon as an unreliable neighbour, and tolerated rather than welcomed at the Mission. His pah was situated on the summit of a sugar loaf hill at the bottom of the Bay of Islands, some miles from Kororareka, being a fortified pah, accessible only by a ladder, which, when removed, rendered the stronghold impregnable.

We made up a party to visit the warrior in his fortress. Having sailed up the bay, we ascended the rough approach, and were courteously ushered by Pomare into his residence—a large bee-hive-shaped structure, with only a small, low opening to admit visitors. A huge fire, even at that time of the year, burning in the centre, filled the place with smoke, and rendered the temperature almost tropical. The Chief, his warriors, and wives appeared quite as much taken up with our appearance as we were with theirs. The conversation, as one may well imagine, was not over lively, considering our utter ignorance of each other’s language. Art, [Pg 27] however, came to the rescue of science; one of our officers pulled out of his game bag an album, some pencils, and other drawing materials. He made Pomare understand that he would like to sketch him and his wife as a remembrance of our visit. The Chief, evidently flattered, brought to the centre of the whare a keg upon which he sat in state, holding a carved paddle in one hand, whilst the other rested on the shoulder of a handsome Native female—wife or daughter, I never knew which. The other Natives, following the Chief’s example, formed a group round the fire, each one on a keg of his own.

The sketch was proceeding most satisfactorily, so were our attempts at conversation, until, prompted by curiosity, I endeavoured to elicit from Pomare, who did understand a few words of English, what were the contents of the barrels they were sitting upon.

“Rum?” said I.

“Kahori rum,” said he.





“What then?”

“Boom! Boom!” retorted the Chief.

When he perceived that I failed to understand him, he quietly pulled out the wooden plug which closed the bung-hole; a stream of black, shiny powder ran out, falling within a few inches of the burning embers. Without ever exchanging a word, or a wink even, officers, midshipmen, and sailors made a bold rush on all fours through the aperture of the whare, down the ladder, helter-skelter to the ground below, [Pg 28] much to the amazement of our Native hosts, whose portrait remains unfinished to this day. Had one grain of powder reached the burning coals, I doubt much if Pomare and his pah would have troubled Colonel Despard, or the 99th Regiment, in 1845.

I have had many dealings with Natives of the South Seas, as well as New Zealand, since then, and have often marvelled how they escape gun-powder explosions, considering how careless they are in the handling or storing of that dangerous compound.

Amongst the sealed orders given to the Commander of the Heroine, one was, as I said before, to bring to the French Mission in New Zealand, Church ornaments and ecclesiastical vestments. Here, also, he was to open a sealed despatch, giving him further instructions—which were to proceed to China, and there take orders from the admiral in command. Having been sent for, I was asked whether I would stay on board, and trust to finding in China an Australian bound vessel to reach Sydney. I had heard at the Mission-house that an Australian schooner—the Deborah—was at Hokianga, trading with the Natives for spars. Looking at the map, the distance across did not seem to me to be very great; I therefore decided upon crossing the Island to seek a passage on board the Deborah. The Captain and Bishop Pompallier made vain efforts to dissuade me from undertaking what they considered a most dangerous trip. My friend Rewa—the next door neighbour of the bishop, and senior chief of the locality—offered to place one of his children on board our ship as hostage until a messenger from Hokianga [Pg 29] came back to Kororareka with the news of my safe arrival at Hokianga.

This settled the matter. I started, bag and baggage, never for one moment reflecting that I was trusting my life in the hands of uncivilised cannibals, who were carrying on their shoulders valises full of articles which, in their eyes, were treasures—the appropriation of the fowling-piece I had on my shoulder, or the powder flask slung round my neck, a sufficient inducement to wring that neck, and make a meal of the small mite I then was. The idea of danger never for a minute entered my head. I had spent a couple of weeks amongst them, and had implicit faith in their hospitality and kindness.

To this day I believe firmly that with very, very few exceptions, Natives of this or any other island in the Pacific are to be trusted by those who deal fairly and kindly with them.

At all events, I must speak of the Maoris as I found them, and say that had I been in the hands of my own countrymen, I could not have been treated more kindly. When I became wearied and footsore, they carried me as if I had been an infant, as I really was when compared to those copper-coloured giants, most of them over six feet high.

We usually managed to make for some well-known Native villages at night time. When we got to the Hokianga river, I noticed an animated conversation between my escort and the Natives in whose whare we camped; at almost every alternate word they pointed at me, and often repeating the words “Oui Oui,” which I knew meant “Frenchman.” At last I was given to understand that there was in the neighborhood [Pg 30] a “Rangatira Oui Oui”—a great French chief—and that I certainly should go and pay my respects to him. Accordingly, after our evening meal, and by a glorious moonlight, I started with a numerous escort to interview this great countryman of mine, Baron de Thierry—whose name is, I daresay, still remembered amongst the old residents of the North Island of New Zealand—as true a specimen of the Vieille Noblesse of France as one could find in the aristocratic Faubourg St. Germain. Like many other scions of noble lineage, poor de Thierry had to flee from his beloved country to save his head from the implacable guillotine. I spent the whole night with the Baron, who told me that he was going to be recognised shortly as Sovereign of New Zealand. He strongly advised me to remain with him, when he would, on his ascension to the throne, confer an office of trust upon me.

Poor, dear old gentleman, he was perfectly guileless; he thoroughly believed in all he said, and I am quite sure was quite happy in his demented notions of coming grandeur. I often heard from him since that night, but never again met with him.

On my arrival at Hokianga, I met with a sad disappointment. The Deborah had left for the Bay of Islands, so that I was compelled to turn back. The journey, however, had lost all its novelty, and certainly was anything but a treat. I brought back to the Bay the news of my own safety, and released the hostage, who had enjoyed his stay on board much more than I did my second trip across New Zealand.

A small brig from Sydney—the Martha—having [Pg 31] called at the Bay, I embarked on board after a most affectionate parting from my old messmates, and the dear friends I had made on board the Heroine.

Every thing in this world is judged by comparison. I did certainly find the Government fare furnished to the midshipmen’s mess “hard tack” as compared with my father’s epicurean menus. But there was even a more palpable difference between the Heroine’s ordinary and that of the Martha. The captain (poor fellow, he has since been murdered and eaten by the Natives at Tanna) was perfectly unconscious of the privations of his passengers. He was drunk from the day we left the Bay until we took in the pilot at the Heads of Port Jackson, after 28 days at sea, 20 of which we spent the best way we could on a biscuit and a cup of water a day—fresh pork a discretion, the brig being loaded with the unclean animal. It is now fifty years since I left the Martha, and I have never broken the vow I made in 1839 never again to touch pork. If I “saved my bacon” by eating it during those 28 days, I have given it best ever since, and intend to follow the Mosaic law to the end of my days.

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EVEN amongst Australians the Sydney people are daily “chaffed” for the pride they on all occasions evince about what they call “Our Harbour.” I must say that after Brest, Cork, Rio Janeiro, and the Bay of Islands—even the far-famed Bay of Naples, all of which I have visited, and in turn admired—I did not anticipate any very great surprise at the first glimpse of Port Jackson.

But when, at daybreak, on that beautiful summer morning, I came on the poop of the brig Martha, and, for the first time, saw as we turned round the inner South Head this vast expanse of placid blue water—North Harbour and Manly on the right, Middle Head and Middle Harbour facing us, and Port Jackson on the left, with the Blue Mountains in the distance—all other harbours dwindled down to almost insignificance. As we sailed towards Farm Cove, and each succeeding bay, inlet, or head-land were passed, my admiration increased.

I have spent many years in Sydney; very many days boating; have visited every nook and [Pg 33] corner of that immense bay, and I must confess that the natives of Sydney have every reason to be proud of their “Harbour.”

Sydney in 1839 was, as compared to its present condition, a very small village. It was a quaint, old-fashioned township, principally occupied by Government officials—military and civil—troops and convicts—some already rich and arbitrary, the others still serving their sentence—obedient, even cringing—but holding their rich “pals” in perfect abhorrence.

It was in those days quite a common occurrence to hear of a woman arriving in the Colony as an emigrant, claiming her husband—a convict—as her assigned servant, and vice versa. Couples re-united in this wise have, in many instances, begun the world over again in Australia, and ended their days in affluence and respectability. Officers, public servants, in those days, when the male sex predominated, in many instances married their assigned servants, picked at random at the “factory” in Parramatta.

This may now seem outrageous, nevertheless in most cases the result of what may appear a most objectionable match, has proved quite the reverse from what might have been expected. It would not do even now to search too deeply into the pedigree of some of the Australians; but I will say that some of the most honourable, best educated, and highly refined men of the day, would, if their escutcheon was scratched, show beneath the emblazonments, a trace of the broad arrow on some part of it.

I do not wish, in making this statement, to say anything disparaging of these people—quite [Pg 34] the reverse. The history of New South Wales is quite unparalleled in that of the world. The management of the penal settlements of Australia is one of the most striking instances of the thoroughly admirable system of colonisation on record. With a country like Australia—in view of its distance—the trying and capricious climate—the wretched poverty of the soil—it could never have been colonised by free emigration. It needed the indomitable energy, and the spirit of enterprise of a British Government, and the pluck of the Anglo-Saxon race, to cope with the difficulties of such an enterprise.

See Australia now, a young country joining in friendly rivalry with older and more favoured nations. To fully appreciate the proud position it now occupies, one must need look back a few years. Look at the starting point! Think of that day, barely a century ago, when the first ship anchored in Sydney Cove. Think of the several phases of continuous droughts where the handful of inhabitants were on the eve of starvation from want of flour, and even water, on this immense continent, now a populous, rich nation, teeming with a free and enlightened population, possessing magnificent cities, railways, electric communication, and freedom in the most essential expression of that word.

When I landed in 1839, as I said before, Sydney, and a few—very few—other spots on the New South Wales coast, constituted the whole of the British dominions in the Southern Hemisphere. It was somewhat of a treat to join there my brother, and once more feel that I had a home. But somehow, when one has once taken to roving, it seems difficult to settle [Pg 35] down. I had not been very long in Sydney, when the French corvette—the Aube—called for stores on her way to New Zealand. Captain Lavaud, hearing that I had been there, asked me to accompany him, and act as his interpreter. On our way down to the Bay of Islands I learned that his orders were to take possession of New Zealand for the French Government.

At the Bay of Islands, at a déjeuner given by the Resident Magistrate, Mons. Lavaud indiscreetly mentioned the object of his errand in the presence of the commander of an English man-of-war brig. During the afternoon, whilst we were paying a visit to the French Mission the brig sailed; and when, a few days after we reached Akaroa, we found her at anchor, and the Union Jack flying on shore!!

So much for the diplomacy of Captain Lavaud. The French settlement of the Campagnie, Nanto Bordelaise, which had been originated, had to be carried on; but, like most French colonising schemes, dragged on for a few years, and even under the English flag dwindled down, and in a few years died a miserable death. Having witnessed Captain Lavaud’s fiasco, I returned to Sydney, when, at the death of Mons. Bareilhes, I was appointed Chancelier of the French Consulate, a position I held until the Revolution of 1848.

My sympathies were naturally for monarchy—more especially for the Orleans dynasty—and when the 1848 Revolution broke out, I relinquished the diplomatic career, and proceeded to South Australia, where the discovery of rich copper deposits at the Burra and Kapunda caused a sudden rush to that young colony.

[Pg 36]

The extraordinary and rapid progress of the colony of South Australia in the short space of two years, owing to the rich returns of the Burra Burra mines, is certainly worthy of being recorded. At the first onset the land on which the metal had been discovered was divided between two distinct sets of applicants—one comprising the leading merchants and men of note and social standing, the other principally working men, and the hired servants of the former. When the ground was broken and the mine worked, by a strange freak of fortune the ground held by the last-named portion of speculators turned out to be the best of the two. Shares ran up from £5 to £500! and for a number of years paid dividends at the rate of 200 per cent. on paid up shares! This very naturally upset the equilibrium of the social scale; and in very many instances we saw the servant, now suddenly risen to a millionaire, eclipsing his master in luxurious style; securing the best cabins on board home-bound ships; and, in more than one instance, purchasing baronial residences in Europe out of their dividends. This, I take it, is a fair instance of the ups and downs which have occurred in the Australasian colonies within the last half century.

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THIS copper fever, which in a few months’ time aged South Australia, and brought it from its almost infantile condition to maturity, was, however, very soon eclipsed by the gold discovery in California, almost immediately followed by the fabulous reports from the Turon River in New South Wales, and the break out of the gold fever at Forest Creek, in Victoria, at the end of 1851.

These reports spread like wild-fire throughout the length and breadth of Australia. Adelaide became a deserted city. I had invested my all in city lands, the construction of warehouses, offices, &c., which in a few weeks were all closed, without the remotest likelihood of being again tenanted. The ship was gradually sinking under my feet; to remain in South Australia would have been courting starvation. The only course left was to put away the garb of gentility, don the corduroy pants, the woollen shirt, and with pick and shovel follow the stream of diggers to Mount Alexander.

This was a new life. The landing in Melbourne of streams of humanity from all parts of the world, the lack of accommodation for this sudden rush, the canvas town which sprang up between the Yarra and Sandridge, where now [Pg 38] stands Emerald, Hill, South Melbourne, and Port Melbourne, was a sight to remember, but difficult to depict. The motley group of tents, the camp-fires, the various nationalities, and with it all the orderly behaviour of tens of thousands of adventurers congregated on that spot was inconceivable. Of course the stay at Canvas-town was but a short one, the predominating idea with one and all being to rush to the El Dorado. The run on the daily papers, the avidity with which all news coming from Mount Alexander were devoured by the new arrivals, is beyond description.

Parties were made up, and a start made. From the banks of the Yarrato Forest Creek there was a continuous stream of carts, bullock teams, pack horses, and pedestrians, all bending under the weight of their “swags.” Every night the camp was pitched near creeks and water-holes, converting these chosen spots into large townships. Improvised stores, coffee and sly-grog shops, sprung up along the line of road. The Black Forest was illuminated at night by a thousand camp-fires; the reports of rifle and gun-shots, to warn evildoers, kept that locality alive for months, until the winter of 1852 came, when the track became an impracticable quagmire, and the roads impassable for drays, and even laden horses. In June, 1852, the cost of carriage rose from £10 to £200 per ton. The price of provisions on the diggings rose accordingly; a pound of salt cost half-a-crown, and every other necessary of life in proportion!

Gold digging was not what most of us had anticipated. The precious metal was there, but it did not crop out of the ground. It was hard [Pg 39] work. While gold fetched £3 10s an ounce, it cost, in many instances, £5 to get it.

I was not many weeks on the Mount before I learned that it would be far easier to get the gold from the diggers than out of the ground. It became evident that with a small capital one might do better than by delving into the ground for auriferous sand, and trusting to the cradle and tin-dish to secure the metal.

The setting in of winter rendered it urgent to provide for the housing of the Government staff, hitherto living in tents. Contracts were called for commissioners’ quarters, treasury, escort officers’ barracks, stables, Court House, gaol, hospitals, &c. A civil engineer—Mr. Mather—secured the contract, and entrusted me with the work.

Saw-pits had to be started wherever suitable timber could be found; plans of portable buildings prepared, and last—though not least—tradesmen secured to push on works, which had to be finished within a very short time.

A month after the signing of the contract, I had some two hundred and fifty men, and upwards of forty teams of horses or bullocks at work. In four months we erected buildings sufficient to hold the whole of the staff, police, and gold escort, with out-stations at Forest Creek, Fryer’s Creek, and Bendigo, where the principal diggings then were, as well as at various points on the Melbourne road from that city to Kyneton, through the Black Forest—at Carlsrhue, Sawpit Gully, and half-way from Mount Alexander to Bendigo, at a place then known as the “Porcupine Inn.”

Having to superintend works over something [Pg 40] like 200 miles of country was not an easy matter, more particularly when one takes into consideration that the men I had to manage were mostly Van Demonian sawyers and splitters, the very scum of the convict element from Tasmania. Moreover, I had to ride to Melbourne and back to Mount Alexander once a week for large sums of money, which I had to carry in specie to pay the men at their respective stations, riding through a country infested with bushrangers of the worst description.

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THIS adventurous life, however, had its charm, and I often think that in spite of hardships and privations, I enjoyed it thoroughly.

For eight months I was hardly ever out of the saddle. During that time I experienced many adventures with men who since have either forfeited their life at the hands of the public hangman, or have served long sentences in H.M.’s gaols. Black Douglas, Thunderbolt, Donoghue, Gilbert, Ben Hall, and many other such celebrities, have often been my fellow-travellers. Many a night have I spent at the camp-fire with such noted characters, yet have never been molested or stuck-up by them. I may quote some instances which have left an indelible impression on my mind.

In the early part of 1852 rich discoveries of gold were made at Bendigo. A great rush set in from Forest Creek. Gold buyers and storekeepers flocked to the new diggings. The “Porcupine Inn”—the half-way, and only house, on that line of road—became a place of resort for all travellers. Being the only place within range of Mount Alexander or Bendigo where lucky diggers could have a “spree,” a goodly number of men gathered there daily with well-filled belts. Gold buyers and storekeepers, [Pg 42] with plethoric purses and heavy saddle-bags, also put up at the Porcupine. This fact soon became known to the daring bushrangers who hovered around the diggings in search of unwary travellers.

At Easter-tide, having to go to Bendigo, I joined a party of four and, arriving rather late, put up at this celebrated hostelry, which, owing to holiday times, was fuller than usual. We, however, managed to secure a room. After supper, when I took a run into the stable to see that our horses were duly attended to, an old crippled groom, who had served on one of our out stations, and to whom I had then shown some consideration, beckoned to me to follow him into the yard, where he imparted the information that the landlord and his people were bailed up in a loft above the kitchen, and that a gang of bushrangers were in full possession of the premises, and had been so for the last 24 hours. His parting words were—

“Keep your eyes open, and your revolvers handy.”

When I went back into the house, I found that the grog was being lavishly served by the quondam landlord. All, or nearly all, the men in the place were either stupidly drunk, or bordering upon that wretched condition. I also noted that one of the “waiters” would persist in remaining in our room—the only one in the house where anything approaching sobriety remained. In order to get rid of the troublesome attendant, and to remove his suspicions, I ordered a supply of spirits, hot water, and sugar, and during the few minutes which elapsed, warned my mates, and arranged a plan of [Pg 43] action. When the fellow returned we had all drawn round the table, each man with his revolver and bowie knife before him. This array of arms, and I daresay the determined look of the party, seemed to impress our “waiter” that we were “up and ready.” He left us for about half-an-hour. When he came again (it was near midnight), he had with him two other men, who asked us if we had any further orders to give, and rather roughly desired us to put out the lights and go to bed; which, in the present instance, meant to roll ourselves in our rugs on the floor. We told them that we had important matters to settle, and did not intend to put out the lamp, which, fortunately, held sufficient kerosene to last till daylight. Our hosts did not seem to relish the refusal to comply with their wishes, but, however, left us, and locked us in. In a trice we had the table, sofa, and chairs converted into a barricade against the door; the two windows we kept in view with revolver in hand.

The following five or six hours were the longest I ever remember. Occasional strange noises and a few pistol shots were the only breaks to the long monotonous watch of that eventful night. When daylight at last made its appearance, we replaced the furniture, unscrewed the lock of the door, and most innocently called the waiter, who had evidently taken the sulks, and did not show up. We walked single file, revolver in hand, through the passage to the stable—not a living soul to be seen in any part of the premises we went through. Before our movements could be observed we were in the saddle on our way to Bendigo, without having [Pg 44] had even the honesty to settle our score. We reported the case at the camp. A detachment of mounted troopers were at once despatched to the Porcupine Inn, where a rather hot battle ensued before the new tenants could be dislodged and the landlord re-instated.

I always have had my doubts as to the veracity of the old scoundrel’s statement. My firm belief is that he was a willing party and shareholder in the plunder, which for the four days’ occupation must have amounted to something pretty considerable. Thanks to old Joe’s warning, however, we escaped, literally scot-free.

The next adventure was of another kind. I was returning from Melbourne with a valise in front of my saddle, containing eleven hundred pounds in notes, gold, and silver. I had ridden seventy-three miles since morning, changing horses at Macedon and Carlsrhue. The sun was about setting when I reached the deep gully at the entrance of Fryer’s Creek. My horse being pretty well knocked-up, and feeling the effects of the day’s hard riding, I let the reins hang on the poor fellow’s neck, put my hands in my pockets after lighting my pipe, never for a moment thinking that the spot was quite appropriate for a “sticking-up” business.

About mid-way through the gully, I suddenly heard a shout on my right hand side, and, for the first time, noticed a man sitting on a log with a gun leaning on a stump in front of him. His first call was—

“Stop, you b——! Stop, or I’ll do for you!” Very much like the beggar’s call to Gil Blas; the adjective, of course, adding more persuasion to the command.

[Pg 45]

I confess that my first impulse was to stick spurs into the horse’s flanks, and show the bushranger the colour of my nag’s tail. A second, and more courageous thought, however, prevailed. I used, in those days, when carrying Government money, to have a couple of Colt’s revolvers in my belt. I drew them out and covered my friend with both barrels, when to my great astonishment he threw up both his hands above his head, crying—

“For God’s sake don’t fire!”

Keeping him under cover, I made him come down the hill with his hands still up in the air. Poor fellow! he was the most harmless of all teamsters. His dray was on the top of the range, and he was watching his half-starved cattle browsing on the other side of the ravine. The interjection, which I had attributed to myself, was a “friendly hint” to a brindle steer, which he told me had some rather roving propensities, if not closely looked after.

We adjourned to the dray, and over a pannican of hot tea—with rum in lieu of cream—had a good, hearty laugh over our mutual fright, in which I think that the honours were equally divided.

Having, as I said before, come often in contact with some of the most noted bushrangers, who, in the “fifties,” made a raid over the goldfields of Victoria, I am quite prepared to say that with one or two exceptions, they were highway robbers in every sense of the word, but very, very few of them ever stained their hands in blood. The very few exceptions on record, even, were caused by a spirit of revenge or reprisal, or in self-defence when driven to bay by the police.

[Pg 46]

In one instance I happened to fall in with Black Douglas and two of his mates half-way between the “Bush Inn” and Kyneton. I knew the man, and he also knew who I was, having often seen me at the saw-pits, where these men were, in very many instances, “planted” by their old convict friends whom we employed as splitters and sawyers. The moment I recognised the dreaded bushranger, I made up my mind for a raid on my belongings. Fortunately, I had very little about me on that occasion, having already paid most of the wages. So, putting on a bold front, I rode up to Douglas, calling him by name—

“Well, Douglas, how goes it, old man? How is business?”

He took a long, hard look at me and replied—

“Hallo Frenchy! is that you? Got any Treasury yellow boys in that 'ere valise of yourn?”

“Well,” I said, “I have only about thirty pounds; but, old man, it is not Treasury money now. It is the hard-earned wages of old Sellicks, and some of your pals at Sawpit Gully. Surely you would not take that money! Now, would you?”

“If that’s your game, Frenchy, we’ll ride together to the saw-pits, and the boys will know that old Douglas is not as black as they call him.”

We rode together across country into the sawyer’s camp, had supper and paid the men. Next morning I left Douglas and his friends to carouse and gamble the money I had saved from his clutches by touching his heart in the only soft place, perhaps, it ever had.

[Pg 47]

Before I leave the reminiscences of these extraordinary times, I may recall my again meeting Thunderbolt (Ward) at Cockatoo Island, in New South Wales, some years later, where he was put in for life. Having the honour to be a J.P. in New South Wales, I had to act as visiting Magistrate at the penal settlement during the temporary absence of the Police Magistrate. Amongst the cases to be tried was one for attempting to escape from the island by this man Ward, alias Capt. Thunderbolt. When the case was called my brother Magistrate at once condemned the unfortunate wretch to 21 days in the cells! The cells at Cockatoo were holes scooped out of the solid rock, closed by a huge flag stone on the top—a tomb! It seemed so hard to see a man sentenced to 21 days of such a life, without even allowing him to plead or say one word in defence, that I demurred, and begged my brother Magistrate to allow the case to be gone into. At the moment—and owing, no doubt, to his altered ways and worn looks—I had not recognised the prisoner as Ward (Capt. Thunderbolt), whom I had often seen on the Victorian diggings. I heard the charge, which I must say was plain, and most damning.

As in duty bound, I challenged this unfortunate man to say whether he had anything to state prior to passing the dreaded sentence. Hardened criminal as he was, it was with a sob in his voice that he replied—

“No, your Honour, I have nothing to say. I have tried to get out of this h—l, and I mean to try again. But I thank you all the same for your kindness. I always thought you was a good sort; and although that other cove would [Pg 48] send me to the cells, I know you’d make it easier if you was here alone. God bless you for it, sir!”

Ward kept his word. Within six months he made good his escape, and went to New England, where he stuck up a German band at the Goonoo Goonoo Gap. They pleaded hard to get some of their money back. He made a promise that if he succeeded in bailing up the principal winner at the Tenterfield races—for whom he was on the look-out—he would return them their money; which promise he kept most faithfully by sending to the post-office at Warwick, much to their astonishment, the £20 he had taken from them.

Shortly afterwards, when in a public-house at Uralla, he was surprised by two policemen. Instead of mounting his own horse he jumped on one belonging to a hawker, which turned out a bad one. A chase ensued. One constable’s horse ran away with his rider; the other (Alick Walker), a brave fellow, now a police inspector, rode Thunderbolt down to a water-hole, where a desperate duel ensued, resulting in the death of the bushranger, who had sworn that he would never be taken alive to be sent again to Cockatoo Island.

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OUR contracts were nearly finished, when the contractor—Mr. Mather—failed, leaving us all in the lurch. Unfortunately, I was hit harder than anyone else. After eight months of hard life, I found myself in my slab hut at Sawpit Gully, with a very limited stock of provisions, and—a claim on the estate!

It is not in my nature to despond or stick in the mud long. I called together a meeting of my men, explained to them the position of affairs, left the assets of the estate in their charge, and went to Melbourne to fight it out with the Official Assignee. After some trouble I managed to draw the wages due to the men, but my screw had to be left in abeyance until the assets were realised; meanwhile the Court placed me in charge of the valuable property, scattered over the whole of the district, at a salary.

In such times as those one could ill afford to sit quietly awaiting the slow process of the law.

Sawpit Gully—now Elphinstone—was the dividing point of the various main thoroughfares to Fryer’s Creek, Forest Creek, Bendigo, M’Ivor, and other new diggings. It struck me that, in view of the thousands of people who daily passed through, a store might be a paying game. Unfortunately capital was the first consideration, [Pg 50] and it was then “an absent friend.” Brooding over my empty purse, I mentioned my project to my men over the camp-fire one evening, prior to going to bed. A couple of hours later a deputation entered my hut. The spokesman—old Sellick, an old Tasmanian “lifer”—said—

“Look you here, boss; you have been a good friend to us chaps, and d—n it, we ain’t agoing to see you in a muck. Pick out your spot; we mean to give you a lift. We will put up your shanty; and if you want money—why, you shall have it.”

The offer was too good to be refused. Heartily made, heartily accepted. The next morning the corner of the cross roads was pegged out, and in less than a fortnight a long fifty by twenty-five feet slab building was up—stockyards, oven, stables, and fencing finished—and I was installed as general storekeeper, baker, butcher, &c., thanks to the timely and willing assistance of the good-hearted men I had often bullied and driven. A five-gallon keg of rum was used to celebrate the opening of the Sawpit Gully General Store, where for twelve months I carried on a roaring trade; one of the main advantages being the position—fifteen miles from the nearest store, bakery, or butcher’s shop. The price of the goods was guided by the state of the weather, the roads, and the number of customers. For instance, bread varied from half-a-crown to half-a-guinea—everything else in proportion.

My application for the pre-emptive right of purchase of the quarter-acre of ground the store occupied being granted at the rate of eight [Pg 51] pounds per acre, I secured the title-deeds of it, and made up my mind to sell out, which I had very little difficulty in doing. Storekeeping at Mount Alexander in those days was a very profitable occupation—to wit, the success of Sargood and Sons; and more particularly the “pot” of money realised by Joshua Brothers in a few days only.

One of these young gentlemen, on his way from Melbourne, was overtaken on the road by the heavy rains of June, 1851. He at once took in the position and turned back to the city, where he found that the rate of carriage to the goldfields had risen five hundred per cent. He started straight for the Mount. I was the first storekeeper on the road upon whom he tried his hand. Knowing that he had interests in several stores on the diggings, I did not hesitate to sell him a large quantity of flour, sugar, tea, &c., for which he offered me what I considered a very handsome price. The contract drawn and deposit paid, he rode off at full speed to make similar bargains in every store on his way. When the news reached us that two shillings a pound had to be paid for carriage, we had to deal with Mr. Joshua to cancel the purchase! It was a fair and above-board transaction, but the result was a fine “haul” for that firm, the eldest of whom was hardly out of his teens.

As I remarked previously, all the money made at the diggings was not made by the gold diggers. In those days, before the discovery of quartz-reefing, the work was confined to alluvial working and simple gold-washing. Some large finds occurred—here and there large nuggets, weighing even up to one hundredweight, have [Pg 52] been recorded—but as a rule it was hard work and poor pay. Gold buyers, storekeepers, and more especially sly-grog shops, made the most money. They certainly made it more easily than the poor diggers, who in many instances met in those dens, and under the baneful effects of drink became an easy prey of sharpers, often confederates of the people who kept the sly-grog shanties. The police made occasional raids on these places, when the owners were taken up and the shanty burnt down without judgment. In many cases the flames destroyed, besides the “stock-in-trade,” large sums of money “planted” in the tent or the bark roof of the hut.

When I returned to Melbourne I found the city in a state of transition. From a small country town it had in a couple of years grown into a thoroughly Yankee settlement. Buildings had sprung up, and were being hurriedly put up, in every direction. Canvas-town had become Emerald Hill, Sandridge was a continuation of Melbourne towards Hobson’s Bay, whilst Collingwood, Hotham, Jolimont, and Richmond on either side formed an uninterrupted line of streets with the original metropolitan thoroughfares. Everything was bustle and business. After my stay at the goldfields and rustication at Sawpit Gully, I once more craved for a ramble over the wide world, more particularly for that Dolce far niente which can only be found on board ship and the broad expanse of the ocean.

[Pg 53]

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A FEW weeks after my return to Sydney, private news came to hand that the French Government contemplated taking possession of New Caledonia. Admiral Février Despointes made an appointment with us to meet him at Port St. Vincent at a given date, with a supply of coals, stores, live stock, &c. I chartered the Athenian, an old East Indiaman, and the Pocklington, a Newcastle collier, and sailed for the rendezvous—a fine harbour on the east coast of New Caledonia—where our arrival excited some astonishment amongst the natives, being the first ships they had seen since Captain Cook’s last visit in 1779.

We had to lay there a fortnight before the Catinat—a smart steam corvette—made her appearance with the admiral’s flag at the fore.

We sailed in company for the Isle of Pines—off the southern end of New Caledonia—where the Marists’ Catholic Mission had an established station. On the morning of the 19th of September, 1853, Sir Everard Home arrived at the Isle of Pines on board the Calliope. Visits [Pg 54] were exchanged between the two men-of-war. During his call Sir Everard committed the same blunder which thirty years before caused the loss of New Zealand to France—he mentioned before us that his instructions were to take possession of New Caledonia in the name of Her Majesty’s Government. With the assistance of the French missionaries the chiefs of the island were mustered, a deed drawn up during the day, and at daylight on the 20th we read the proclamation, hoisted the tricolor flag on shore, and saluted it with a salvo of 21 guns from the Catinat.

Poor old Sir Everard never got over the shock. He sailed for Sydney, and died during the passage; while the French admiral steamed for Balade, a port on the N.W. coast of New Caledonia, where he repeated the ceremony enacted at the Isle of Pines, thus securing the whole group from any other Power’s aggression.

During our stay at Balade, and with a view to learn something of the new country, we formed a party to visit the interior, more particularly the extent of the “Giahot”—a broad stream which empties itself into the sea west of Balade Harbour. Duly equipped and well armed we started on our cruise. Eight officers of the French Navy, Captain Case of the Athenian, four natives belonging to the French Mission, and myself. We certainly thought that fourteen men would be a sufficient number to cope with any number of savages, more particularly in a part of the island where the missionaries had been safely established for a couple of years already.

We sailed or pulled up stream for some [Pg 55] twelve or fourteen miles, until snags and shoals rendered the navigation tedious; and, moreover, our orders were not to keep the boat after dark. Having ascertained by observations that owing to the windings of the river we had reached a point distant from Balade six miles by land, the natives assuring us that they would guide us there in a couple of hours, we made up our minds to land, send back the boat, explore the country, and camp when night came.

The scenery was all that could be wished for; wild pigeons in abundance; and for those in the party who were bent on botanising, there was enough to engross their minds for weeks. During our journey we occasionally came across natives, who seemed most ready to assist us in every way, and at last prevailed upon us when night came on to accept the offer of one of their houses to camp in for the night. The New Caledonian dwelling is rather a peculiarly constructed hut, very much like an elongated bee-hive, the only entrance, or, indeed, opening of any kind, being a square hole—measuring about two feet each way. In order to keep away the million of mosquitos which swarm after dark, a fire is kept up all night in these huts, the apex of the roof being the only outlet for the smoke, which the unfortunate natives accept as the only alternative from being stung to death by the puny tormentor. The only way to breathe in the huts is to lie down flat on the floor, where, owing to the draft caused by the low door, about one foot or fifteen inches of space is left free from the choking effect of the smoke.

[Pg 56]



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DURING supper, which we took outside the hut, we were surrounded by a gaping and chattering crowd of natives of both sexes and all ages. The number increasing every moment, we began to feel that even armed as we were, fourteen men would be but a small force as compared to the hundreds around us. However, up to the time when we crept in to our hut the behaviour of the Natives was as friendly as could be. Our barter for spears, shells, necklaces, and other curios was carried on fairly, and evidently to the satisfaction of all concerned.

At about ten o’clock we closed the aperture of the crib, lit our cigars, took a stiff night-cap, and laid down to breathe as we best could in the stifling smoke which filled the place. Sailors will sleep anywhere and anyhow, so will Caledonian natives. In a few minutes the snoring all around convinced me that I was the only watcher. What with mosquitos and smoke I would certainly have kept awake all night, even had I not been aroused as I was by a rustling noise in the straw wall of the hut, and the black hand of a native trying to force his way into our quarters.

As soon as his woolly head appeared, I seized it with one hand, putting a revolver to his ear with the other. I dragged him through, in so [Pg 57] doing waking up my mates. Through the interpretation of one of our Native catechists, we heard the boy’s story—that the Natives on whose ground we were encamped had made up a plot to fire the grass around our hut, and during the confusion into which we would be thrown by their war whoop added to the conflagration, spear or tomahawk us, in order to secure our trade goods and fire-arms, as well as the supply of fresh meat half a score of European bodies would afford them.

There was not much time left us for either reflection or planning an escape. We quickly crept out of the hut one by one, and found that the information was not only correct, but the fires were already being kindled in a large circle, of which we were the centre. The Natives could be easily seen in large numbers on the outer side of the circle of fire, the chief standing amongst a crowd—luckily for us on the land side, leaving the path to the river bank comparatively free from Natives. The chief held in his hand the insignia of office—a long spear with a white shell on the end of it, which was quite descernible by the glare of the blazing grass. We held a consultation as to the best and most likely way to startle the savages, so as to make good our retreat to the river, cross it, and make for Balade as speedily as possible. Captain Case had in his hand a double-barrelled fowling piece, with one rifle barrel. It was suggested that he should fire the first shot in the air in order to draw the natives’ attention, and with the rifle barrel take aim at the shell on the chief’s spear.

On that shot depended the lives of fourteen [Pg 58] men, and I am bound to say our friend’s calm and deliberate aim for that momentous shot denoted a true British tar’s firmness. A crack, followed by a terrific yell, told us that the scheme had succeeded. The natives in a body gathered round their chief to see the wonderful destruction of his talismanic shell, shattered into invisibility by Captain Case’s shot.

Before they could even notice our departure, we were making hasty tracks for the water, following in the wake of our native guides, whose marvellous instinct and thorough knowledge of the locality proved quite as useful as our friend’s skill at a target. They found not only the shortest path to the Giahot, but amongst the high reeds on the banks of that stream several canoes, which we annexed to convey our party across, and cut off communication with the wretches who had so treacherously attempted to give us a warmer reception than we had contemplated. When on the top of the range dividing the river from Balade, we saw the glare of our own pyre, and heard the chattering and yells of the fiends—caused, no doubt, by the discovery of the loss of their canoes, and doubtless also that of the anticipated supper or breakfast they had purposed having at our expense.

We reached the Mission at daybreak, and the same day fifty men, under command of one of the lieutenants and one of our party, went back and gave the Kanakas a lesson they have not forgotten to this day. The boy who saved our lives was a lad of twelve or fourteen, intelligent and bright. He gave a thorough explanation of the whole plot to the Rev. Father Montrouzier, [Pg 59] who, fearing that the boy’s life might be endangered if he stayed on the island, induced me to take him away, for a time, at all events, with the youngster’s sanction; and having christened him “Joachim,” which he at once pronounced “Sokymy,” I enlisted him in my service. A better, more useful servant, and more faithful follower, I never had, for the seven years he lived with me. Poor boy, like most of the South Sea Islanders, he died of pleurisy, accelerated by exposure.

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HAVING discharged cargo, and parted from the Athenian and our gallant friend, Captain Case, I removed my belongings to the Pocklington and sailed for Sydney, intending to shorten the sail by trying a short cut through a group of islands at the north-west end of New Caledonia. Captain Oliver, who had often traded for sandal-wood in this part of the world, assured me that this route was quite safe, and that he had often sailed through the channel with vessels of deeper draught. Our first two days’ navigation were glorious—smooth sea, fine weather—sailing during the day amongst lovely islands, and anchoring at night with every appearance of safety so long as a good watch was kept on the natives’ canoes, which never failed to come alongside as soon as the anchor was dropped.

My new valet, “Sokymy,” even at that early stage proved most useful to us. Though he could not speak to us he knew well what the natives said, and could easily enough make us understand that they had better be kept at a distance.

On the second night the barometer fell considerably, and before morning the wind chopped suddenly from S.E. to N.W., blowing hard until it became almost a gale. The poor old brig [Pg 61] began to drag towards the shore. We let go another anchor, but still at every successive wave which struck our bows we felt that sudden jerk and grating noise which indicates the dragging of the anchor. The distance between the stern of the Pocklington and the shore was visibly decreasing—a fact which evidently became quite as apparent to the natives on shore as it did to us on board, who felt by no means reassured when we noticed the exulting jubilation of the cannibals—evidently reckoning on immediate plunder and feasting! The position was critical, the danger imminent, the prospect anything but cheering.

Captain Oliver, like my friend Captain Case of the Athenian, was cast in the mould which has produced so many heroes in the British Navy—men in whom sterling worth only comes to light in moments of danger. The critical position of the brig demanded immediate action. Our crew consisted of a dozen Tanna natives, with only three Europeans on board besides the skipper, the mate, the cook, the steward, and myself. We were barely fifty yards from the beach, where hundreds of natives, already up to their waist in water, were throwing spears at any one whose head appeared above the taffrail.

Captain Oliver got us to bring up a hawser on to the deck. This was made fast round the foot of the main-mast; a freshly-ground axe was placed in my hands; orders given to get the jib and spanker ready for hoisting and sheeting home; the hawser made fast to the chain of one anchor, whilst the other was cast adrift. This hawser being amidships, the brig at once swung round; the spanker being sheeted tight gave the [Pg 62] craft some headway; the jib being hoisted she got under way, and the order was given to chop the hawser.

Had my blow at this piece of hemp failed to sever it through, this book would never have been written. As it was, the poor old brig and its living freight had a very narrow shave. As we paid off slightly to get more way on her she grazed the coral reef on the lee side, but, however, got clear, and a few moments later we had the gratification to feel that we were in deep water, under close-reefed topsails, making headway towards Australia. We reached Sydney in a week, none the worse for having on two occasions disappointed the natives of New Caledonia, and deprived them of what might have been a three-course dinner. In both instances they would have had French, English, and native dishes—quite a recherche menu for a cannibal’s feast.

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A ROLLING stone gathers no moss.” I am afraid I have proved the truth of the old adage. A fortnight in Sydney proved quite as much as I could stand. I always had a great desire to see Torres Straits and the islands on the northern side of it. There happened to be in Port Jackson a small French barque—Le Juste, from Havre—the captain being the owner of the vessel. I made an offer to him of a charter by the month for six months, giving him a share of the venture, my route being Torres Straits, New Guinea, Borneo, the Malay Archipelago, Mauritius, Bourbon, Madagascar, and back to Sydney. Being nearly as mad as I was, Captain Leneveu accepted my offer. We at once set to work, put on board a few brass swivel guns, some muskets and small arms, articles of South Sea Island trade; and, as was then the custom for a trip through the Straits, waited a few days until other ships bent on the same dangerous errand were ready to start.

On the 28th of June, everything being ready, we started northwards—the Scotia, one of Dunbar’s old East India ships—leading the van, followed by our barque, and two smaller craft bound for the Strait Settlements. Fine weather and smooth water brought us in eleven days to [Pg 64] the Great Barrier Reef, which we passed safely, anchoring at night off Bird’s Island.

Captain Strickland, as commodore, entertained us gloriously on board the Scotia to commemorate our safe passage through the Barrier and bid us farewell—our course being north for the coast of New Guinea at daybreak next morning.

Navigating on the west side of the Barrier Reef is quite a pleasure trip as far as sea or weather are concerned; the only trouble, at least in the “fifties,” was the very imperfect hydrography of the locality, and the great caution sailors had to resort to in order to avoid the innumerable coral reefs and submarine dangers, which can only be avoided by a very careful watch from the foretop, where a man had constantly to be on the look-out.

Our first land was at Darnley Island, where we met the first Papus, some having a smattering of pigeon English. We engaged one of them to pilot us to the mouth of the Fly river, which we made out easily without ever having recourse to our sable friend, who seemed quite happy on board so long as he could keep within range of the galley and have the lion’s share of every meal going, whether cuddy or fore-castle. The fellow seemed to have the most capacious appetite, was an inveterate smoker, and certainly anything but a total abstainer. It is a marvellous thing how all natives take naturally and kindly to smoking tobacco and drinking ardent spirits.

Anchoring close to Kiwai Island, we were at once boarded by scores of natives, and did a fair amount of trading for curios, shells, and arms, [Pg 65] but nothing of any commercial value. Some of the clubs had specs of yellow metal inlaid in the handles; treatment with aqua fortisproved this metal to be gold. From inquiries made through the very imperfect interpretation of our pilot and my New Caledonian, Sokymy, we gathered that this gold was found a long way up the Fly river. All my entreaties with Captain Leneveu to sail up the river in one of the boats could not prevail upon him to concede the favour. As he very justly said, it would be unsafe both for him or I to take away one half of the crew to man the boat, leaving the other on board with only a few hands—there being always, and in spite of us, some scores of natives on our decks, besides hundreds hovering round in canoes. We had a few runs on shore, but did not dare to lose sight of the boats.

After a couple of days wasted at this anchorage, we dropped our Papu friend and steered west, coasting New Guinea as closely as the skipper deemed it prudent to do, and dropping anchor every afternoon when the sun prevented our look-out man from seeing the colour of the water ahead of the ship. We called at the Arrow Islands with about the same success, all trading being confined to curios and some tortoise-shell. So far our trip, though a most enjoyable one, was rather unprofitable. I therefore made up my mind that we should make a direct course for Timor.

Continuing our pleasurable sail—more like yachting on a lake than a sea voyage—we reached the pretty Dutch settlement at Koepang. I had some letters of credit for Messrs. Hansen, Bonliang & Co., a firm half Dutch, half Chinese; [Pg 66] and also a letter to the Resident or Governor of the place. In 1854, Koepang was not often visited by traders. The Juste was a very smart little ship; we had a very nice cabin, a good cook, fair wines, and the captain a bon vivant, so that ere we had been in Timor many days we had managed to gain a very fair footing with the inhabitants of Koepang.

Our boats, provided with awnings, were kept constantly plying to and from the shore, laden with visitors of all ranks and both sexes. Shooting and fishing parties were organised, pic-nics and dinner parties without end were given in our honour. But the most enjoyable were riding-parties by moonlight, on those wonderfully active ponies for which this island is justly famous.

We purchased here some tons of bees-wax, some very fair coffee, maize, and a large quantity of lime, which proved a very good investment for Mauritius. My intention, however, being to take a cargo of ponies, we took an interpreter (or broker) on board and sailed for Roti, Sandalwood, and the other small islands of the group, to trade for ponies—Koepang having already been pretty well skinned of anything good in that line. Even in the other islands I found it very hard to pick up more than eighty of average size, quality, or colour—the piebald or skewbald being in any quantity, but black, bays, chestnuts, and more particularly greys, were very scarce. The latter are the most valued, either to buy or sell. It took us three weeks to make up our number, but the days were enjoyably spent in hunting with the natives after the herd, and buying as we went along.

Horse-dealing, whether in Europe or the [Pg 67] Malay islands is synonymous with roguery and deceit. Every morning as soon as we landed we were besieged by natives who had ponies for sale. Knowing our aversion for piebalds, they never offered anything but blacks, bays, or chestnuts; but, unfortunately, few if any of those offered could stand the first scrubbing with hot water and soap—the dye would not stand the test. As to filing teeth and burning age-marks, I’ll back a Malay against the best and most accomplished horse-dealer in Yorkshire.

Our cargo, put on board with fodder and water for fifty days, averaged £4 a-head. They were all good, healthy young ponies, some of them rather cranky-tempered, but all well up to the mark. Having returned to Koepang to land our broker, and after a most affectionate greeting from all our friends, we made sail for Port Louis. Another fine weather and smooth sea trip, when we never once lowered a stan’-sail except to reeve a fresh halyard to prevent its breaking from constant friction in the one place, against the sheave of the block at the yard-arm.

This is not a work intended to describe localities which, more particularly since my day, have been visited by almost every man, woman, or child who has come from or gone for a trip to Europe. I will therefore abstain from descanting on the beauty or picturesqueness of Mauritius. Still, to those who have only known the Isle of France of late years, I must say that it materially differs from what it was thirty-five years ago, and that even then it had very much lost of its originality as I had seen it ten years earlier. For all that, it is a most charming [Pg 68] place; and were it not that its old, proverbially healthy condition has gone for ever—were it not for cholera, smallpox, and other such dreadful but periodical visitations—that island would still be a most charming country to visit or reside in. We spent six weeks in Port Louis, did remarkably well with our cargo, bought a cargo of sugar, and once more steered for old Australia.

But alas! not with smooth weather and fair winds. The poor old barque, so buoyant and brisk when in yachting trim, smooth water, and under every inch of canvas spread to the trade winds—became a tub when filled with sugar to the very deck-level, in heavy seas, S.W. gales, and close-reefed topsails.

Shall I ever forget the fifty-four days cooped up in my cabin, water rushing from stem to stern day and night, not a stitch of dry clothing to change! What a welcome sight the Sydney Heads were, and how glad I was to set foot once more on terra firma.

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[Pg 69]

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THIS last trip had given me a surfeit of the sea, and I made up my mind to settle down. In order to do so I looked about for some land having a prospective value, and at last fixed on a spot on one of the estuaries of Port Jackson, between the Parramatta and the Lane Cove rivers, a narrow peninsula known as Hunter’s Hill.

A good deal of this land had been mixed up in some of the early “land booms.” The principal portion belonged to Mrs. Reiby, better known in olden times as “Margaret Catchpole.” Some blocks had been mortgaged by Terry Hughes to the Bank of Australia—a bank that failed in the crisis of 1842. Owing to these intricacies, and doubtful titles, the purchase was made on advantageous terms. The work of securing a sound title was in itself an incentive to purchase the property, which I did in spite of all the forebodings and croakings of my friends.

I must confess that the locality did not enjoy a very wholesome reputation. The Lane Cove river is bounded on one side by the Field of [Pg 70] Mars common—some 6800 acres of land which was, and had been, “jumped” by some very rough people—old convicts, runaway sailors, and jail-birds—who eked out a living by stealing timber and boating firewood to Sydney.

One of the landmarks in the river—the “Butcher’s Block”—owed its name to a foul murder. “Murdering Bay,” and “Tambourine Bay,” also had a blood-stained chronicle. On Hunter’s Hill proper there were also some reminiscences of the old felonry of New South Wales—one of the grants having been the property of the Quaker, Towel, who suffered the highest penalty of the law at Newgate for the murder of his servant-maid.

Had I the pen of a romancer I could here depict some thrilling stories, and record bloodcurdling anecdotes.

The “old hands” then living on the Lane Cove river in 1854 have now joined the great majority. Dear old Mrs. Reiby, as worthy and beloved an old lady as ever lived, often related to me the scenes so ably related by the Rev. Archbold Cobbold in his “History of Margaret Catchpole.” Hers is one of the many instances of the random justice dispensed in England in the early days of the present century, when people were sent out to Botany Bay for crimes which now would barely go beyond the jurisdiction of a Police Court bench.

“Black Charley,” “Billy the Bull,” and sundry other old identities, like the Quaker “Towel,” were, however, characters of a different type; and though they had more luck than the latter, and escaped the rope, their career in New South Wales was not altogether free from occasional [Pg 71] encounters with the “beak.” The body of a Jamaica black-fellow—one of the firewood dealers of the Field of Mars—was one day found on a projecting rock, the head almost severed from the trunk; hence the name “Butcher’s Block.” The perpetrators of the deed were never traced, but I have strong suspicions that the murderers did not live very far from the spot.

Tambourine Bay, close at hand, took its name from a well-known person, whose “shanty” was built close by. This “lady” had musical proclivities, and a particular talent for the instrument generally played now-a-days by the corner man of a minstrel show. “Tambourine Sal,” however, did not end her days in that locality. Whether her beauty or her musical talent availed her, I cannot say; but she rose out of her abject position, got married, and—romantic though it may sound—one of her grand-children has since figured among the “highest in the land”—another of the many instances of the “progress of New South Wales.”

There are two more old identities of the Lane Cove river which I think are worthy of notice in this narrative. The first might be remembered by old colonists, who may have seen old “French Louis” paddling his small canoe across Darling harbour two or three times a week, or heard his rather rough language as he wended his unsteady steps back to his boat. This almost centenarian was French by birth, and had run away from a whaler at the beginning of the century. In the time when land could be easily acquired he had purchased a water frontage at Miller’s Point, where he resided in a bark hut, working on the wharves [Pg 72] and on board ships in the harbour. During a drunken spree he sold his property for a bottle of rum and a “dump” (the centre part of a crown punched out, which, to multiply coinage, had then a value equal to the rim of the five-shilling piece.) When sober, he vainly endeavoured to regain possession of his grant papers. Failing in this, he gave himself up to drink, and so impaired his intellect that he was driven out of the city, and took refuge under a rock at the entrance of the Lane Cove river, eking out a living by the sale of oysters, which he took over to Sydney in an outrigger—s.s. Island Canoe—and, I am sorry to say, seldom returned sober, until I chanced to come across him, and by dint of patient and close examination elicited his past history.

It was rather a difficult matter to redeem this unfortunate old man. However, by gradually gaining his confidence, I succeeded in removing him to the French Consulate, housing him comfortably in one of the out-buildings, where the poor old chap spent the last year of his life in comfort and sobriety. He died in peace, and, strange to say, on the very spot which he had bartered for a paltry coin and a bottle of the diabolical mixture which deprived him of both his reason and a fortune.

During one of my first excursions in this ill-famed district I landed in one of the bays to make inquiries as to the ownership of a piece of adjoining land. In a very dilapidated hut, devoid of furniture of every kind—indeed, without any apparent signs of even food—I found an old man, barely covered with tattered garments, haggard-looking, emaciated, almost a living [Pg 73] skeleton; and, worse still, stone blind! Despite the wretched condition he was in, one could detect in the looks, and more particularly in the address of this unfortunate creature, an undeniable stamp of gentility. A few moments’ conversation sufficed to convince me that my first impression was a correct one. This poor creature, formerly a Civil Servant attached to the staff of Sir Ralph Darling, Governor of New South Wales, like many unfortunate beings, had by his early folly lost his situation, and found great difficulty in getting other employment. Sickness, and at last the gradual loss of his sight, caused him to reach that degree of poverty which is a hundred-fold worse to a man brought up in luxury.

Having had to part gradually with even his garments, he was at last driven to live amongst the waifs of the city. When I found the unfortunate wretch, he was living on the very scant charity of the wood-cutters in the locality—sometimes days without food, and barely covering enough for his shivering body.

On inquiry I found that the sad tale was true, in every word, and I lost no time in altering the deplorable state of his affairs. With the help of a few friends a fund was raised, the hut repaired and furnished, and every comfort provided for the poor fellow. We imported books for the blind, which he very soon taught himself to read. Eventually I built my own house close to the spot, and for fourteen years seldom allowed a day to pass without spending a few moments with my protégé—a man of highly cultured education, with a wonderful memory, and truly a most entertaining companion.

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During the stay of the Galatea in Sydney, in 1870, H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh, to whom I related the man’s history, became very much interested in the sad case; and although it has often been said that the sailor Prince lacked in kindness of heart or liberality, I feel great pleasure in stating that even the dreadful shock he sustained when he was foully shot at by O’Farrell at Clontarf, did not make him forget old Mr. Viret. When the Galatea was about leaving the port, I was summoned to Government House. The Duke was in the midst of his packing up prior to leaving. He met me most cordially, saying—

“I have not forgotten your blind friend, Mr. Joubert. Please send me the name and address of his friends in London. I shall send for them and see if I cannot prevail on them to make him an allowance. Meanwhile I wish you to give him my best wishes, together with this small present,”—which consisted of a five-pound note. The message, I must say, caused the poor old fellow even greater pleasure than the munificent donation, which, nevertheless, proved very acceptable. The poor man died whilst I was away from the colony, but to the last he was carefully looked after by the members of my family, and the circle of friends who had rallied round him since he had been enabled to resume the outer appearance of gentility, and been honoured by a Royal Duke. Such is life!

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ALL All these, and many other stories of the kind, certainly did not improve the market value of this land for suburban villa sites. It had, however, the effect of keeping the price low—there laid the speculation. I bought the place with a perfect and thorough knowledge of its foul reputation, and set to work in real good earnest to redeem it—the position being good, the proximity to town an advantage, and above all the fact that this peninsula, with a main thoroughfare on the top of the hill, running from Ryde to Onion’s Point, admitted of sub-divisions giving deep water frontages to every allotment. All that was needed was some easy mode of access to and from the city, and, if possible, the closing up of the Field of Mars common, which, besides being a harbour for questionable characters, cut off the settlement from Ryde, Pennant Hills, and Parramatta.

The only road to Sydney was a circuitous one involving a crossing of the Parramatta river by means of an antiquated punt ferry at Tarban—a distance of eleven miles; as the crow flies the actual distance from Hunter’s Hill to the Sydney Post Office is barely four and a-half miles.

But in order to carry the bee-line from the one point to the other it was necessary to cross the water twice—first from Pyrmont to Balmain, [Pg 76] then again from Five Dock to the northern side of the Parramatta River, near the Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum. These two bridges, and the formation of the road, I estimated at £60,000. To raise that amount I proposed that the Government should re-assume the Field of Mars common; issue debentures bearing 5 per cent. interest, payable in 20 years; build the bridges, and, when the thoroughfare was open, survey and cut up the common, which I felt convinced would, besides benefiting all parties concerned, leave a fair margin of profit, and open up a large area of Government land now entirely locked up owing to want of access.

The first meeting to discuss this scheme I called at the end of 1853. Like all such matters, it met with most violent opposition—first of all from John Bull and his rights. The common had been given to the people—what right had the Government to take it back? Then every man wanted the bridge at his own door. The thousand and one difficulties raised against the scheme—the dead-set opposition, in and out of Parliament—far from deterring me from my object, acted as a stimulant. The fight was a long and bitter one to the very end, but the end came at last.

Thirty-three years, almost to a day, after the first meeting held in No. 227 George street, in 1853, the bridges were finished and opened for public traffic; and since that day several sales of land have been held in the Field of Mars common—the results showing that my first estimate of the value of that land was under-rated.

During the thirty years’ war for the bridges, other means had to be resorted to to bring [Pg 77] population to Hunter’s Hill. The Parramatta river trade was a monopoly. Steamers, calling at unsuitable hours, charged an exorbitant rate. The company was an old-established and powerful one, and all attempts to run an opposition had failed. So did all endeavours to get anything approaching unanimity amongst the few people interested in the locality. Messrs. P. N. Russell and Co. had on hand a small screw steamer which they were anxious to sell. I looked at her, and after some haggling, chartered her at a low monthly figure for six months, with right of purchase. On the first of the following month the “Isabel” made her appearance at the wharf, and in lieu of 2s. 6d. single, carried passengers to and from Sydney at 1s. return. The first week or two proved rather uphill work, but when the first month came to an end the number of passengers increased materially, and it soon became evident that a larger boat would be required.

The neck of the monopoly was broken. Overtures were made for a compromise, fares were lowered, accommodation increased; but all of no avail. I made up my mind that we should remain independent, and from that day to this we have remained so. The fleet of handsome, swift boats belonging to Hunter’s Hill have all originated from the little unpretending “Isabel,” which all the jeering, ridicule, and bitter jealousy of its powerful opponents could not put down. She was nick-named the “Jezebel” and the “Puffing Billy,” and her safety was cried down. But she kept up her course in spite of it all, and with all her insignificance proved to be the originator of a new line which has tended to [Pg 78] bring up the value of land from £5 an acre to £5 a foot!! The opening of the direct communication over the bridges has also, as it was natural to expect, brought on railways and trams from the city, and further increased the value of the land, which has now reached £10 and £15 a foot, and converted the locality into one of the most populous, thriving suburbs of Sydney.

Building having always been a favourite hobby of mine, led me to put up a good many houses at Hunter’s Hill. In order to carry out my building scheme, and to do so profitably, I sent home to Lombardy for some artisans under special contract. This, as might be expected, gave rise to a good deal of discontent amongst the working class. However, I had made a very binding agreement with my men, and held them more particularly by the fact that they had no knowledge of English. Besides, on the first attempt made to turn them off their engagements, I at once met the difficulty by a system of piece-work, which enabled them to work long hours, and actually make wages far beyond their expectations. When my operations at Hunter’s Hill came to an end, the assistance of these seventy odd tradesmen enabled me to take contracts in and around Sydney for large buildings, wharves, &c., which we carried out on the co-operative system most profitably, in spite of trades and trades’ unions.

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HAD I kept at such works, and left mercantile pursuits to those who were better able to cope with such risky ventures, things might have prospered better; but, however, fate would have its way, and the consequence, hastened by the failure of the Agra Bank, led me into a loss of £54,000, which swallowed up all my hard-earned savings, properties, &c. Once more I had the world before me.

It is not in my nature to throw up the sponge, nor am I given to moping over pecuniary losses. My creditors proved their appreciation of the manner of working out the estate by presenting me with the deeds of the place I had built for myself on the banks of the Lane Cove river. There I stayed, looking around for a new field.

The Agricultural Society of New South Wales, of which I was a member, held a meeting in February, 1867, when a very unsatisfactory balance-sheet, showing a debit balance, was produced. A resolution proposed to wind up and close that institution, was seconded, and would have been carried, had I not moved as an amendment, “That, instead of winding up this useful institution, it be re-constructed on a broader basis, a new council appointed, the seat of the society removed from Parramatta to Sydney, [Pg 80] and a show advertised in the course of six months from date, offering £800 in prize-money, and certificates for horses, cattle, sheep, poultry, pigs, wool, wine, farm and dairy produce, as well as implements, machinery, and manufactures.” The meeting was rather taken aback by the bold proposal, but there were amongst the members of the moribund society a few men such as Sir E. Deas Thomson, Sir W. MacArthur, John Oxley, John Wyndham, Howard Reid—now, I am sorry to say, all gone to join the great majority. These were the men to help any country or society out of difficulties. I had very little trouble, with the co-operation of such help-mates, in reconstructing the society on a new and firm basis. I gladly entered into my new honorary functions.

The Cleveland Paddock (now the Prince Alfred Park) was then a quagmire with a filthy drain running across it—a plague spot. This I at once selected for our new show-grounds. Draining, fencing in, and levelling, were easy works, soon accomplished. Having obtained the free use of the newly-erected Cleveland School, for fine art, manufacturers’, and horticultural exhibits, I built sheds, pens, &c., all over the paddock. Entries came in far in excess of our most sanguine expectations. The great day was approaching.

The 26th of August came, but with it one of those downpours which are only met with in tropical and semi-tropical countries. Our poor show certainly looked very dismal. The first day was something disastrous. On the night of the 26th, however, stars came out—mine must have been among them. On the 27th the gate [Pg 81] returns gave £l,100! This kept up well throughout the four days; but what crowned all our efforts was the high price realised for all the blood stock offered at auction.

It had been a bold enterprise, but the great success achieved amply rewarded us for our hard work.

As the old adage has it, “Nothing succeeds like success.” Before the end of the year our members’ roll had increased from 63 to 2000. The society was fairly on its legs, with a substantial credit balance, central offices, a library, laboratory, &c., &c., and last, though not least, a monthly journal. The gratitude of the stock-breeders, as well as that of the citizens of Sydney, for having brought about such a result, assumed a very tangible form. A service of silver plate and a heavy purse of sovereigns was presented to me at the annual general meeting, when I was asked to assume the management of the concern.

This is the origin of the exhibitions which for many years have been held annually in Sydney and other cities in Australia.

The success of this first attempt, however, showed the necessity to have permanent buildings, and at the suggestion of the Council of the Agricultural Society, the Corporation of the city of Sydney obtained parliamentary sanction to appropriate the Cleveland Paddock, endow it, and erect the building which stands there still, and has proved of so much use to the city for exhibitions and other great public gatherings.

Following in the footsteps of the Agricultural Society of New South Wales, similar institutions have been started in other parts of the colony, [Pg 82] in Victoria, Queensland, and South Australia. The great improvement in the breed of stock, as well as the development of many of the resources of the Australian colonies, are in a great measure due to the efforts of the indefatigable members of the council of that useful institution, which, I am sorry to say has, I am told, come to an untimely end owing to mismanagement and the jealous element of the various branches.

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IT was during my secretaryship of the Agricultural Society of New South Wales that we originated the notion of holding an International Exhibition in Sydney and Melbourne, as a sequel to the Exposition Universelle of 1878 (Paris). In order to work up this scheme I was deputed to go to France, and whilst there acted as secretary to the New South Wales Commission.

This trip to Europe, after an absence of forty years, I look upon as one of the brightest events in my long career. I had never felt home-sick, but still, as I came nearer and nearer to my native home, all the old love came back for the dear spot. I can hardly convey the feeling of delight I experienced when the train approached the great city, and in the hazy distance I once again recognised the outline of the familiar, and, to all French-born, beloved Paris!!

My almost childish love for Paris had helped me from afar to follow all its vicissitudes. I had read with heart-breaking feelings the sad events of the several revolutions, the Franco-German war, the siege; and, worse than all, the Commune. I had read in all their heartrending details the destruction and desecration of that marvellous city, and I must confess was amazed to find it more marvellous, handsomer, more enchanting [Pg 84] than ever! With the exception of the Tuileries and the Palace of St. Cloud, not a vestige of the vandalism of the Commune, not a trace of the barbaric invasion of the Germans were left. Like the Phœnix of the fable, Paris had risen from its ashes brighter and more attractive than ever.

Forty years is a long time to be away from one’s native land, yet as soon as I landed I found myself quite at home. I delighted in long rambles in the old familiar haunts. The morning after my arrival I threw open the window of my bedroom, at the Hotel du Nouvel Opera, in the Chaussée d’Antin, recognised the Rue Joubert opposite, and at once remembered that this well-known and familiar street (named after my uncle) led straight to the gates of the College Bourbon, where I had spent so many of my school days. The temptation was irresistible. I ran downstairs straight for the old spot, and without any hesitation through the courtyard into the class-room, to the precise form where so many years ago I had sat.

Lost in thought, I did not notice the entrance of the old portière, who querulously called upon me to explain such an untimely visit. My attempt at an explanation evidently confirmed her suspicions of the insanity she very naturally attributed to me. It took some persuasion, weighted by the irresistible gift of a five-franc piece, to make her believe that I was in reality one of the old pupils. A further explanation brought out the fact that her husband was the “drummer boy” of my school days. A few moments’ chat with the “boy,” now advanced in years, made matters easy, and from him I ascertained [Pg 85] that of all the old masters only one remained—Mons. Chapuizy—living on a small pension, in the Rue St. Fiacre. Having ordered a cab, I drove down to that address, ascertained that the dear old professor had rooms on the fifth flat, where I readily found the venerable gentleman—just out of bed—wrapped up in a tattered old morning gown. His reception, like that of the portière, was at first rather stiff; the name on my card did not avail to wake up his memory.

It was only after many reminiscences brought to his mind that he resolved on offering me a chair. His first questions were rather amusing. He had evidently more knowledge of classics than of geography. New South Wales, Sydney, even Australia itself, seemed quite unknown to him. From the abject surroundings of the apartment, I guessed the penury of the occupant; and in order to loosen effectually the tongue of Mons. Chapuizy, I suggested that he should dress and accept a déjeuner at the nearest best restaurant, where, within half-an-hour, we sat in a private room. A couple of bottles of wine, and a breakfast such as I am sure the old gentleman had not seen for many days, quite melted his heart, and brushed off the cobwebs which evidently clouded his memory.

From him I ascertained the whereabouts of some eight or ten of my old schoolmates, whom I at once wrote to, and within a few days got up a meeting, which, during the whole of my stay in France, was adjourned from week to week, and any new schoolmate hunted up in the interim was summoned to attend. Had it been possible to have had a résumé taken of these [Pg 86] meetings, it would indeed have made up a most interesting volume.

As each member was brought he had to give a history of the last forty years. Coming from the antipodes I, of course, had the honour of being “the lion.” Still, some of the others had some interesting incidents to relate. Several had been in the army, some in the Civil Service; one—Leon Say—was then Minister of Finance, a post he had held during the Provisional Government after the Commune, when France, emerging from the sad trials of the war, lay bleeding and prostrate.

During that sad period the southern provinces had suffered from a most disastrous flood. Subscriptions had to be made for the victims of this new disaster. The Government cabled to Australia to get the Consul in Sydney to obtain contributions from New Caledonia to the fund. Knowing the poverty of that French colony, an idea came into my head that if the matter was promptly handled I could raise in Sydney some substantial assistance.

I accordingly asked the Premier (Sir John Robertson) for leave to get the use of the cable to Versailles, and from the manager of the Bank of Australasia leave to remit by cable whatever money I could collect up to 10 p.m. that day. Having made these preliminary arrangements, I started a door to door subscription; and such is the kind-hearted liberality of Australians that I was able to remit £800 that same night, and £400 more on the following day. 30,000 francs remitted from the antipodes, actually reaching Versailles within a week after the occurrence of the calamity—before Paris even had had time to [Pg 87] organise a general subscription—seemed rather startling to the French Government. When Leon Say met me at our weekly gathering, and found out that I was the originator of this timely offering, he insisted on bringing the matter before the President of the Republic—old Marshal McMahon—who conferred upon me the Legion of Honour, together with his and the Duchess’ portrait, accompanied with an autograph letter, which I prize above all other rewards.

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DURING the period of the Exhibition, and owing to my having to deal officially on behalf of the colonies for the international shows to be held in Sydney and Melbourne in the following year, I had naturally to come in close contact with many of the leading men of that period. For a time it was very doubtful whether we could get the assistance of the European Powers. They all kept aloof; and, in spite of the willingness of my friend, Leon Say, the Parliament positively vetoed the proposal made to vote money and send a French transport with the exhibits. Our opponent was the all-powerful Gambetta, leader of the Opposition and Chairman of the Budget. He was the sole arbiter of the destiny of our Exhibitions, and, they said, could not be moved.

We were in despair, when a vote of 5,000,000 francs was proposed for a cable from Noumea to Cape Sandy. The discussion on that matter was a long and bitter one; I happened to be in the House at the time. Gambetta fought hard against the vote. The discussion having been adjourned, I sought an interview with the great man, and complimenting him on his brilliant speech and on his evident omniscience, I pointed out to him that owing to the position of the Middleton Shoal lying in the way of the proposed [Pg 89] cable, its being placed there was a practical impossibility. Gambetta at once sent for charts of New Caledonia and the eastern coast of Australia, saw the truth of my statement, grasped my hand, and acknowledged that I had furnished him with an irrefutable argument to win his case.

On the spur of the moment he asked me what he could do in return. The Exhibition vote, of course, was my object. Gambetta went carefully and minutely into the matter—inquired into the trade, past, present, and future, between Australia and France—and being fully aware of the importance of a thorough representation, gave me a short note for the Minister of Commerce, asking him to move to have the £10,000 credit put again on the Budget. It was one of M. Gambetta’s best speeches when he recanted all he had said on a previous occasion against the project, carried the vote, the granting of a transport, and the appointment of a Commission; and, since then, the subsidy of the Messageries and the establishment of branches of the Comptoir d’Escompte in Melbourne and Sydney. To this small matter great results are due—another instance of the truth of the old fable of the mouse and the caged lion.

I cannot say that on my return to Australia I found much gratitude for “services rendered.” During my passage back some good friends (?) had managed to throw cold water down my back, and on my arrival in Sydney I found all the offices in connection with the Exhibition filled.

Even the secretaryship of the Agricultural Society was taken from me. After seventeen years of hard work to make it what it was, I was [Pg 90] politely requested to resign. I had to accept the commissionership of New Caledonia to secure an official entrée to an Exhibition which I conceived from the first, and, without boast can say, carried out in all its details up to its—failure!—for, after all, it was a great financial failure, like all such undertakings when carried out by Government, tied up in red tape, and bungled by committees.

What I say of the Sydney I repeat as regards the Melbourne show. Ten years have made Victoria older, but not wiser. The issue of the Centennial bears out my statement.

To say that I did not feel keenly the ingratitude of New South Wales would be an untruth. I did feel it most bitterly; and although I had looked upon that colony as my home, so bitterly did I feel the treatment that I made up my mind for evermore to leave it. But in so doing I also resolved that, cost what it might, I would prove practically the statement I had made, that Exhibitions well managed could not possibly show a loss. I accordingly waited until the close of the Melbourne Exhibition to start one in Adelaide, Perth, Christchurch, and at last one on a gigantic scale in Calcutta—larger than even that of Sydney or Melbourne.

I will quote Lord Ripon’s words at the closing ceremony of that great Indian Exhibition:—

“We cannot allow this day to pass without recording publicly the great obligations that are due to Mr. Joubert for the success of this Exhibition. I confess that when he first intimated his intention to hold an Exhibition in the [Pg 91] capital city of India I looked upon it as an impracticable scheme. Mr. Rivers Thompson, however, held a different opinion, and I am happy to-day to acknowledge that Mr. Joubert has most nobly redeemed all his promises, fulfilled most honourably all his engagements, and deserves the thanks, not only of the Government of India, but of the whole population of this empire.”

Such words are an ample reward for all my trouble and labour. They have acted soothingly on the sore points which New South Wales had raised.

My stay in India was a long holiday, in spite of the hard work the Exhibition entailed; and before I leave the subject I might jot down a few of the reminiscences of my life and adventures in the East.

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I HAD to make two voyages to India before I took up my quarters there. In each of these, owing to the exchange of boats at Ceylon, I had to stay in that delightful island a fortnight on each trip. This delay anywhere else would be an abominable nuisance, but there is so much to see in Ceylon, and the people there are so graciously hospitable, that one does not mind the delay—at least, I did not; far from it.

My first visit was on my way to the Paris Exhibition in 1878. At that time Galle was the stopping-place, and the delay did not extend over a couple of days—just time enough to visit Wak-wallah and the surrounding district; long enough, however, to wish for a more extended stay in so delightful an earthly paradise.

Like all fresh arrivals in Ceylon we were rather perplexed as to the sex of its inhabitants. The weather being rather more than tropical, we proposed, prior to dinner, an adjournment to the various bath-rooms of the hotel, and gave [Pg 93] orders accordingly. When I entered my bath-room I was rather startled to find there what I considered a rather prepossessing “young person,” who offered to assist in the operation contemplated to cool my body after the exertions of the day. In view of the petticoats, long black hair, high pole-comb, and effeminate appearance of my bath attendant, I felt inclined to resent the intrusion, until perfectly satisfied that this individual belonged to that portion of humanity upon whom the Queen is allowed to confer the companionship of that distinguished order—the Bath.

On my return to Ceylon in 1882 the port of call for nearly all mail steamers had been removed to Colombo—a great improvement on Galle, inasmuch as the city is in every sense superior, while the harbour accommodation is excellent in every respect.

Considering that a trip from Australia barely occupies more than a fortnight, I am surprised that during the winter months there are so few who avail themselves of the facilities afforded almost weekly to spend a month or more in so charming an island. The means of communication on board the P. & O. and Orient steamers is in itself attractive, and at the end an earthly paradise—scenery almost beyond description, a most interesting people to study, and a thorough change of everything in every sense of the word.

Of all countries I ever visited, Ceylon is one I shall always return to with pleasure.

On my second stay at Colombo on my way to Calcutta, I was present at the landing of Arabi Pacha, the Egyptian patriot, whom I often [Pg 94] met, and from whom I elicited many interesting details of the events which culminated in his exile. Poor Arabi! I often think of him, and of the harsh cruelty with which he has been treated, not by England, but by his own people. Had it not been for the countenance he got from the British Government—and more particularly the talented, warm-hearted men who undertook and managed his defence—his blood, not his liberty, would have been the price of his patriotic devotion to his country. In selecting Ceylon for his exile, England showed her appreciation of the man’s worth. Besides its loveliness, Ceylon is inhabited by people of the same faith. But all the gilding one may lay on to the cage fails to hide the bars. While Arabi moves in apparent freedom in Colombo, his movements are those of the caged lion.

One cannot be in Colombo many days without feeling an inclination to see Kandy—a trip which can be accomplished without much inconvenience or heavy tax on one’s exchequer. In this instance, however, matters were made even easier. The Colonial Secretary, Mr. (now Sir) J. Douglas had been requested by His Excellency Sir James Langden, the Governor, to invite me to pay him a visit in the hills, so that I only required to pack up my portmanteau and drive to the railway station, where I met my chaperon.

From the very start to the landing at the station in Kandy the scenery is without any exception most charming. Every single thing on the line of road has its charm—the vegetation, the quaint villages, the scenery, baffles description. I did not go there a novice—I had already [Pg 95] visited nearly every part of the globe—but I humbly confess the trip to Kandy fairly put the extinguisher on all I had seen until I visited the Himalayas; and even then I have not yet made up my mind whether I prefer the latter; they may be grander, but I doubt if they are better.

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WHILST at Kandy I had an opportunity to witness the Parraherra, which is the greatest Buddhist religious ceremony.

One of the greatest “lions” of Kandy is the great Buddhist temple, Delada Maligawa, where the great relics of the god are kept, enshrined in a richly-jewelled casket, and are made an object of special veneration by the votaries of Buddha. This festival is the more attractive by reason of its being made the occasion of a large traffic in precious stones, with which the island of Ceylon abounds. In this way the faithful manage to combine “biz” with devotion.

As the day dawned, vehicles of every conceivable form, size, and shape, streamed into the city. The town became a living hive. All vestiges of filth and wretchedness in the narrow lanes and round the bazaars were hidden beneath long strips of white or coloured linen, garlands of cocoa-nut leaves and flowers, hung around by bands of bright red cloth. Piles of tempting wares were there; beads, bangles, and scarfs to decorate; rice, jaggery, and sweetmeats, to eat; and innumerable liquors to drink, were placed in profusion on every side. The streets and lanes poured forth long strings of humanity, heated with the sun, flushed with drink, bedizened with tawdry jewellery and mock finery; [Pg 97] poor tillers of the soil, beggarly fishermen, mendicant devotees, half-starved coolies; lean, sickly women, and poor, ill-fed children—passed onward in the motley throng, burying their everyday misery beneath the wild mirth of a night or two at this great feast of the Paraherra.

Following this living stream of dusky humanity as closely as the heat, the dust, and their strange perfume would allow me, I arrived near the great temple—a grand pile, as it shows half-concealed beneath the luxuriant foliage of cocoa-nut topes, arekas, plantains, and banyan trees. An ocean of human heads filled up the space round the building, from which proceeded the well-known sounds of the reeds and the tom-tom. Gay flags fluttered from the four corners and the lofty pinnacle of the temple; wreaths of flowers, plaited leaves, and ribbons of many colours waved jauntily from roof to door; whilst round the pillars of the walls and the door-posts clustered rich bunches of most tempting fruit.

Close to this busy scene, under a vast shed which acts as a sort of caravanserai, near the temple, other groups were clustered, as closely as they could well stand.

Forcing my way through the crowd, I found that the attraction consisted of a company of Indian jugglers, consisting of two men, a girl, and a child of about three years.

The men were clad in strange, uncouth dresses, with large strings of heavy beads round their necks; the girl was simply and neatly dressed in white, with silver bangles and anklets, and a glittering necklace. It would be impossible to detail all their extraordinary performances, which, however, surpassed anything I had ever [Pg 98] seen in that art. The quantity of iron and brass-ware which they contrived to swallow was truly marvellous; tenpenny nails, clasp-knives, and other such like articles were to these natives as so many pieces of pastry or confectionery; and I could readily imagine what havoc they could commit in an ironmongery shop.

Tying up the girl hand and foot with a stout piece of cord, putting her in a close-meshed net; then thrusting her into a wicker basket, and poking the basket through and through with a sharp-pointed sword; then, after a few cabalistic words from the magician, an arm protruded from under the lid of the basket, handing first the net and then the cords; a shrill call from the girl, the basket was opened and found empty!

Such tricks, performed in the midst of a crowd without any apparent appliances, are simply astonishing.

Near the temple all was noise and confusion. It was with great difficulty that I forced my way through the dense crowd, and reached the steps of the sacred shrine. The priest stationed at the entrance made room for me as well as he could, but the pressure inside was intense. Hundreds of men and women pressed eagerly forward to reach the flight of rather steep stone steps which led up to the sacred repository. The progress was so slow that I had ample time to examine and admire the fine antique carved work on the pillars and ceiling of the entrance hall, as well as the pilasters which lined the wide staircase. There is a beauty and finish in these carvings which could not be attained in Ceylon in the present day.

Arrived at length at the inner temple or [Pg 99] sacred shrine above, I passed with the crowd between a richly-brocaded curtain, which hung in heavy folds across the entrance at the top of the stairs, and stood before the framed relic of Buddha—or, rather, the jewelled casket which contained it.

Being rather sceptical on the subject of relics, I ascertained that this casket contained a tooth of Buddha! A small donation readily obtained for me a closer examination of the article, and I am now quite prepared to take an affidavit that what I saw had every appearance of a full-grown, sound molar; but at the same time I must beg leave to add that the great eastern prophet must have had a spare set or two at his disposal, inasmuch as, to my certain knowledge, there are several scores of Buddha’s teeth being shown in various parts of the East or China, and history does not mention, that I am aware of, that men—even of the calibre of Buddha—were blessed with more than thirty-two. Archæologists, even, do not tell us that dentistry was amongst the learned professions of the ante-Christian era, otherwise it might readily be inferred that this sainted individual had at a moderate outlay been able to distribute “relics” amongst the faithful.

Should I ever have the felicity of being canonized, a relic of your humble servant—similar to that of Buddha—may some day be exhibiting in Ceylon. It happened in this wise. On the day of my departure from the island, wishing to get rid of the Indian coins I had left in my purse, I was bargaining with a hawker for some ebony carvings. His demand was some six or seven rupees in excess of my change. We [Pg 100] were both anxious to deal, but I was firmly determined not to part with any more gold. My dressing-case lay open on the table, and in it was—a front TOOTH, set in gold, which I had long discarded as a misfit! The metal attracted the native’s keen eye, and he said—“Give me this; you can have another ‘elephant’ with what you have already selected.” The bargain was struck, and, as I said, who knows what that tooth of mine might be turned into? There are many temples of Buddha that may want a relic. Here, as it is elsewhere, C’est la foi qui sauve.

I felt disappointed at the spectacle here, arising, perhaps, from my taking no interest in the religious ceremony I did not understand, and looking at it merely as an empty show.

The strong glare of hundreds of lamps; the heat, and crowding of so many in so small a place; the sickly perfume of the piles of Buddha flowers heaped before the shrine by the pilgrims; the deafening, discordant din of a score of tom-toms and vile, screeching pipes—made me glad enough to descend the stairs, and, giving a rupee to the priest at the door, to escape once more into the glorious fresh air outside.

Being bent on a thoroughly religious pilgrimage, I left the votaries of Saman, and, following another crowd of a slightly darker colour, I made my way into the Hindoo temple, another gaily decorated and over-crowded building.

Here, to the sound of much music, and by the light of many flaring lamps, a group of young dancing girls were delighting the motley crowd. There were three of them—one a finely-made creature, with graceful movements; the others younger, stouter, but far less pleasing. A great [Pg 101] deal of pains and expense had evidently been taken with their dress, which, in embroidery of gold and jewels was, I am credibly informed, worth some hundreds of pounds! The graceful little jacket of one of these dancers sparkled and glittered with an article, to me, quite new in the way of ornament. Along the edge of a pure white garment shone a whole row of “fire-flies,” which by some ingenious contrivance had been inserted in the hem of the dress, and gave a strange but pleasing novelty to the appearance of her attire as the girl swept gracefully round in slow and measured steps. The music to which these people dance is anything but pleasing to an European ear—indeed, there is scarcely any sign of a tune in it—yet they contrive to measure their mazy and intricate dance by its notes with admirable precision, singing whilst they dance a monotonous nasal song, the words being extemporised by the dancer. In this instance, whilst the girl was twisting and turning before me, a Singalese gentleman informed me the theme of her song was a welcome to the white-faced stranger—a compliment which, even in Kandy, implies a “backsheesh” for the Nautch girl as well as the musicians.

Leaving the dancers and priests, I strolled towards the adjoining lake and the broad drive which winds round it. It was one of those lovely moonlight nights of the tropics which baffle description; the palm-shaded banks of the placid sheet of water stood out in the sweetest contrast to the noisy revelry I had just left. The moon was near the full, and rising above the many rich green topes and drooping plantains, [Pg 102] lit up the peaceful scene with marvellous radiance. The master-hand of our finest painter might attempt to draw such a picture, but his attempt would be a signal failure.

The next day the bazaars were crowded with dealers in, and buyers of, precious stones. Thousands of Moormen, Chetties, Arabs, Parsees, and Singalese were busily employed in the barter, and a more noisy crowd I never met with—not even at the Paris Bourse, which I always looked upon as the nearest approach to what I imagine Pandemonium must be like.

In this crowd I for the first time saw some Hindoo fakirs, most repulsive objects, depending for subsistence on the alms of the faithful. One of these wretched creatures, in the fulfilment of a vow, or as an act of atonement and righteousness, had held his left arm for so many years erect above his head, that it could not now be moved, and grew transfixed, emaciated, and bony. It looked more like a dry, withered stick, tied to the body, than a part of the body itself.

Another fakir had closed one of his hands for so long that the finger nails had cut through the palm. These miserable objects appeared to do a good trade to judge from the number of pilgrims who contributed alms in response to their importunate begging.

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ON the following day, at the table d’hôte of the Queen’s Hotel, I was not a little surprised to meet Herr Bandman and Miss Beaudet. My surprise became still greater when he informed me that he had come expressly to Kandy to give the good people of that city a “Shakespearian treat”—Hamlet!!—in the large room of the Town Hall, under the most distinguished patronage of His Excellency the Governor, and the noble guests of His Excellency, who were His Highness the Duke of Mecklemburgh, his Grace the Duke of Portland, and——your humble servant!

When I enquired from Bandman whom he had to assist him in his play, he coolly replied—

“Well, you see, I cannot travel with a company; it would not pay. I trust to what I can pick up on my way. Of course, MY Hamlet is unsurpassed, and Miss Beaudet is THE Ophelia par excellence.”

This, I must say, did not prepossess me for the great Shakespearian treat promised. However, the Governor having purposely advanced his usual dinner hour, we proceeded with all vice-regal pomp and escort to the Town Hall, which, of course, in accordance with the liberal amount of billing the wily tragedian made of the distinguished patronage, was crammed to suffocation, [Pg 104] though the seats were £1 1s and 10s 6d.

Shall I ever forget that night? The proscenium, a raised platform at the end of the hall; the curtain, several strips of sacking rudely sewn together; the orchestra, a poor, invalided piano, evidently suffering from some dreadful inner complaint, and even in that sad condition tortured by a most indifferent amateur. When the curtain rose—I might say when “the rag was hoisted up”—the scene displayed a further supply of the same material, which some native artist had very late that day attempted to distemper with some very doubtful colouring.

Herr Bandman, gorgeously dressed in black velvet covered with shiny jet ornaments, and most irreproachably got up to represent the demented Prince of Denmark, came to the few smoky lamps intended as footlights and made an apologetic speech, conveying to the audience that owing to disappointments and difficulties he was placed in a most awkward predicament. In fact, as he said, “he had heard how very difficult it had proved for former theatrical managers to play ‘Hamlet’ without the Prince of Denmark, but in this instance he could and would give us the Prince of Denmark, but was unable to produce any other characters of ‘Hamlet’ except Ophelia; and that if we would be content with an hour’s ‘scraps’ from ‘Hamlet,’ he and Miss Beaudet would endeavour to fill the gap by the substitution of a screaming farce—‘The Happy Pair’—in which only two characters were needed.” I must confess that after all we had no reason to complain. The rendering of the two Shakespearian parts were admirably done, [Pg 105] and “The Happy Pair” well worthy of a more appreciative audience, considering that except in our party, I doubt if one in ten could follow the dialogue. I need not say that Herr Bandman did not attempt a second representation. He made a good haul on that night. The following morning he discovered that the tropical temperature did not agree with him, and that he had made tracks for some other locality, better provided with Shakespearian performers.

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[Pg 106]



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IN order to give his distinguished guests a taste of the sports of Ceylon, the Governor ordered that preparations be made for an elephant hunt. When the fact became known the whole district became alive with excitement. Nothing was talked of except the approaching kraal; half the town would be there. All arrangements having been made, a large number of servants, gaily dressed and turbanned, accompanied by a swarm of coolies bearing provisions, bedding, tents, and other comforts, were sent ahead the day before; and at daylight on the following morning we made a start. The whole day we travelled first by rail, then on horseback, and late at night halted at a native village near the scene of the sport. When we left the village we needed no pilot to guide us to the locality, for the narrow road was crowded with travellers hastening in the one direction—every description of vehicle, from His Highness’s light tandem to the native bullock hackery with its ungreased, squeaking wheels.

The scene at the village was singularly strange and exciting. It was close to the banks of a river, the name of which I cannot now recall to my mind; it was, however, a stream of some size and rapidity. Along the palm-shaded shore were moored numberless boats—many of [Pg 107] them large, flat, up-country barges, or padé boats, containing whole families, who evidently lived in the hut built on the deck of these barges. The best of the village huts had been taken up, whitewashed, and made comfortable for the “distinguished visitors”; the doors were decorated with strips of red and white cloth, flowers, and pale green leaves of the cocoa palm. When lighted up for the evening they looked extremely picturesque; and, thanks to the excellent management of the servants sent ahead, our quarters—and more particularly the commissariat—were excellent in every respect. Nothing had been neglected, even to an ample supply of ice.

It took quite another day to complete the preparations for the “kraal,” which, literally translated, means a trap—the elephants being caught by partly driving, partly enticing them within a large enclosure or trap. This is, of course, a much safer sport than elephant stalking or shooting—a risk which His Excellency did not wish the two young gentlemen under his charge to run.

Day had barely broken next morning when we were afoot, and having despatched a hurried “chota hazery,” as the first meal is called in all parts of India, we started to explore the wonders of the kraal, followed, of course, by a bevy of servants with guns, ammunition, baskets, boxes, hampers, and innumerable articles of comfort which accompany all white men, even in the densest jungle, throughout the East.

The neighbourhood in which the kraal was formed consisted of rugged, undulating ground, pretty thickly covered with heavy jungle. Low [Pg 108] forest trees studded the stony land, interwoven with thorny brambles, cacti, bamboos, and a species of gigantic creeping plant, appropriately called jungle-rope, for it is strong enough to stop the progress of a buffalo. A number of narrow paths had been cut by the coolies leading from the village to the kraal.

About an hour brought us to a halt; we were at the kraal. I looked carefully round, but the only indications of the industry of man I could trace in that wild spot were sundry covered platforms raised amongst the leafy branches of trees some twelve or fifteen feet from the ground. These places were provided with seats, and on some I noticed visitors had already secured a safe and snug place where they could patiently wait for the game and, as they felt inclined, watch the poor brutes fall into the trap, or take a safe shot at their vulnerable points. Neither of these do I call sport. If it be necessary to secure this noble, intelligent, useful animal, let him be trapped; but I certainly fail to see much fun or sport in sitting on a platform, up a tree, and, in cold blood, riddling an inoffensive, unsuspecting animal with bullets. In the open jungle, where he has his chance of escape, or even of revenge, it is a different matter.

However, I am not a sportsman. I hate fire-arms, abhor powder, and shudder at dynamite. I came to this hunt, and, being in it, had better bottle up my sentiments and look on.

The novelty of the situation, the wild solitude of the jungle around us, the picturesque appearance of the many groups of natives within and about the kraal, and the sundry references to the baskets and hampers, all helped to make [Pg 109] the day pass away quickly and pleasantly. Evening, however, brought with it a general debate as to what should be done, for there was still no sign of game being near, and very few of us desired to spend the night in that open spot, which, with the setting of the sun, lost a good deal of its attractiveness. The discussion ended by an adjournment to the village and padé boats, where we spent another night and slept soundly.

The following day was spent pretty much as had been the first. Some of our party gave strong signs of impatience. I was getting thoroughly disgusted. Lord Portland proposed that we should “move on” and, as he termed it, “shoot the beggars” if we fell in with them. There were evident and unmistakable signs of a mutiny when, towards evening, scouts arrived from the driving posts with injunctions to hold everything in readiness, for the herd were coming on. The torches, which had been already lit up to dispel the growing gloom, were put out. The moon was rising; every tongue was hushed, eyes were eagerly strained towards the opening through which the elephants were expected to rush; every ear was stretched to catch the most remote sounds in that direction. One might have fancied, from the death-like silence that prevailed, that we were awaiting our own fate instead of that of the elephants.

We did not wait long in suspense. A distant shouting burst suddenly upon our startled ears; it drew rapidly nearer, and soon we could discern the violent cracking and snapping of branches of trees and low jungle; then we heard the quick tramp of many huge and ponderous [Pg 110] feet. There was no doubt but that the poor animals were close upon us, for torches were now visible in the distance and in the direction from which they were coming. Indeed, the distant jungle appeared to be alive with lights.

Every man looked to his arms, such as they were; and I verily believe that some of our party joined mutually with me in the wish that the “thing” was over. It was, however, too late for reflection. It was quite evident that we were getting into the “gravy of it” now. Our eyes were fixed upon the moving and rapidly-approaching lights. They appeared to burn up brightly as they came nearer; then some disappeared, and soon the whole were extinguished—all was in darkness. Still on came the now furious monsters. Bamboos crashed; the thick jungle flew about in splinters; a heavy tramping and tearing and snapping of branches, and they were safely within the kraal. Then arose from the natives a shout as if heaven and earth were about to meet. I leant forward from my perch to catch a peep at the enemy; torches were again lighted to enable us to witness the proceedings, when a volley of loud imprecations and some hard knocks, freely distributed amongst the hapless and half-dead coolies, added to a renewal of the heavy tramping, growing fainter every moment, showed us that the elephants had proved too cunning or too strong for their captors. They had burst through the enclosure, and were now making their way back to their haunts in the jungle.

I had quite enough of elephant catching. My noble companions, being bent on sport, left me to enjoy a days’ dolce far niente in the [Pg 111] village, whilst they, under proper escort, followed on the trail. They afterwards related to me that on the evening of the following day they picked up the herd in an open prairie, where, no doubt, they were enjoying a rest after the hard drive of the previous days. A freshly-cut elephant’s tail, to be carried home as a trophy, seemed to satisfy his lordship for the days’ hard travelling. The victim of this cruel sport, unfortunately for “the conquering hero,” had no tusks to bequeath to his slayer.

Later on I shall have to relate Indian sports, but I cannot refrain from again saying that I think it is almost unwarrantable to destroy useful, inoffensive animal life for mere sport; and whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the trip, the wholesale picnic, of this elephant hunt, I would have been much more pleased had it ended at the bursting of the kraal; but I suppose it would not have satisfied my companions’ chacun à son gôut. The noble lord carried home his tail—I carried back mine, which I give you for what it is worth. Spell it as you like.

I am dwelling a long while on my reminiscences of Ceylon. But I told you before, Ceylon is my pet country, and this was my first long stay there.

Through the very great hospitality and kindness of my friend Mr. Ferguson, and the guidance of his brother (the late Mr. William Ferguson), I had many opportunities of seeing a good deal of “life in Ceylon,” and to study the quaint yet homely ways of the people. Amongst other “home scenes” which Mr. William Ferguson enabled me to be present at, one is well worthy of a place in these pages. It was the [Pg 112] wedding party of his head cook. This narrative, with two or three others, have been already published; but I think they should find a place in this little volume, and I therefore throw them in amongst my “Shavings,” as they form part and parcel of my recollections of bygone days.

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IN some parts of the East, and especially in the island of Ceylon, there are many old customs which the progress of civilisation has not as yet effaced; and happily so, for they serve to keep up a kind of friendly feeling between the different classes and races of the country. One of these time-honoured customs is the presence of European or burgher employers at the weddings or family festivals of their native servants, who seldom omit inviting their masters and families on such occasions. Being the guest of an old resident of Colombo, I received an invitation to be present at the nuptials of his head cook, a Singalese of good ancestry, who, it appeared, was to be united to the ayah or waiting-maid of a neighbour. They were both Catholics, and, as such, were to be married at one of the churches with which the native section of the town abounds. From some cause, my host could not attend on the eventful day. I was, therefore, left to make my way alone to the happy scene, which I learnt lay at some distance from his bungalow, at the further end of the long, straggling outskirts.

Noon was the appointed time, the Church of Saint Nicholas the place; and in order that I might examine the locality I was about to visit, and which was entirely new to me, I left my [Pg 114] quarters soon after our breakfast of rice and curry. It was a truly tropical day; the sea-breeze had not commenced to blow, and the cool land-wind had been fairly done up an hour since. In mercy to the horse and the runner by his side, I ordered the man to drive slowly. The sky seemed hot and coppery—too warm to look blue; and the great orb of light and heat had a sort of lacquered hue that was oppressive in the extreme. Round the great lake, past the dry, stagnant, putrid fort-ditch, to that part of the Black Town known as Sea street. How different from the quiet, broad Dutch streets, or the cool, shady lanes, and their fine old burgher mansions! Here all was dust, and dirt, and heat. A dense crowd of people, of many of the nations of the East, was passing to and fro, not, as with us, along the pavement—for there was no foot-way—but horses, bullocks, carriages, donkeys, and human beings, all hurried along pell-mell: Arabs, Moormen, Chinese, Parawas, Singalese, Kandyans, Malays, Chitties, Parsees, and Bengalis, were jostling each other in strange confusion. I shuddered as I beheld a brace of over-heated bullocks in an empty cart rush madly past me into the midst of a whole host of men, women, and children; but, strange to tell, no one seemed any the worse. There was, to be sure, a little rubbing of shins, and a good deal of Oriental swearing on the occasion, but no more. A vicious horse broke away from his Arab leader, dashed across a narrow street, and down a narrow turning, where women and children seemed to be literally paving the way; the furious animal bounded over and amongst the living pavement, knocking down children of [Pg 115] tender years, and scattering elderly females right and left, but still harmlessly. I felt puzzled at this, and concluded that they were “used to it.”

The thronged street, along which I was slowly travelling, appeared to be the only thoroughfare of any length, shape, or breadth. From it diverged, on all sides, hundreds of dwarf carriage-ways—turnings that had been lanes in their younger days. They were like the Maze at Hampton Court—done in mud and masonry. I have often heard of crack skaters cutting out their names upon the frozen Serpentine; and, as I peeped up some of these curious, zigzag places, it seemed as though the builders had been actuated by a similar desire, and had managed to work their names and pedigrees in huts, and verandahs, and dwarf-walls. Into these strange quarters few, if any, Europeans ever care to venture; the sights and the effluvia are such as they prefer avoiding, with the thermometer standing at boiling-point in the sun. Curiosity, however, got the better of my caution; and, descending from my vehicle, I leisurely strolled up one of these densely-packed neighbourhoods, much to the annoyance of my horsekeeper, who tried hard in broken English to dissuade me from the excursion. Whether it be that the native families multiply here more rapidly, in dark and foul places, I know not; but never had I seen so many thrown together in so small a space. Boys and girls abounded in every corner. As I passed up this hot, dusty, crooked lane of huts, the first burst of the cool sea-breeze came up from the beach, glowing with health and life. I looked to see how many doors [Pg 116] and windows would be gladly flung open to catch the first of the westerly wind, and chase away the hot, damp, sickly air within; but I looked in vain. Not a door creaked on its rusty hinges, not a window relaxed its close hold of the frame; the glorious light of day was not to be permitted to shine upon the foul walls and floors of those wretched hovels.

There was business, however, going on here and there. The fisher and his boy were patching up an old worm-eaten canoe, ready for the morrow’s toil; another son was hard at work upon the net that lay piled up in the little dirty verandah. Next door was a very small shoe-maker, sharing the little front courtyard with a cooper, who did not appear to be working at anything in particular, but was rather disposed to soliloquise upon buckets and tubs in general, and to envy the hearty meal which a couple of crows were making of a dead rat in the street. Farther on was a larger building, but clearly on its last legs, for it was held up by numberless crutches. It was not considered safe to hold merchandise of any description; and, as the owner did not desire the trouble and expense of pulling it down, he had let it out to a Malay, who allowed strangers to sleep in it on payment of a small nightly fee. As I passed by, a crowd of poor Malabars, just arrived from the opposite coast of India, were haggling for terms for a night’s lodging for the party, and not without sundry misgivings, for some looked wistfully at the tottering walls, and pointed with violent gestures to the many props.

Wending my slow way back towards the main street, I came upon a busy carpenter’s [Pg 117] shop—a perfect model of its kind. In this country some carpenters are also carriage-builders, and the place I then stopped to examine was the home of one of these. It was a long, low, rambling shed, such as we might consider good enough to hold cinders or firewood. The leaf-thatched roof had been patched in many places with tattered matting; the crazy posts were undermined by the pigs in the next yard, where they share the dirt and the sun with a heap of wretched children, and a score of starving dogs. Every kind of conveyance that had been invented since the Flood appeared to have a damaged representative in that strange place. Children’s shattered donkey-carriages, spavined old breaks, and rickety tricycles of the Portuguese period; hackeries of the early Malabar dynasty, palanquins of Singalese descent, Dutch governors’ carriages, English gigs—were all pent up, with irrecoverable cart-wheels, distorted carriage-poles, and consumptive springs. Had I possessed any antiquarian experience, I doubt not I should have discovered amongst the mass an Assyrian chariot or two, with a few Delhi howdahs. The master-mind of this coach-factory was a genuine Singalese who, in company with a slender youth, was seated on his haunches upon the ground, chisel in hand, contemplating, but not working at, a felloe for some embryo vehicle. After one or two chips at the round block of wood between his feet, Jusey Appoo paused, arranged the circular comb in his hair, and took another mouthful of betel; then another chip at the wood; and then he rose, sauntered to the door, and looked very hard up the little lane and down it, as though he momentarily expected [Pg 118] some dreadful accident to happen to somebody’s carriage in the next street.

Once more in my vehicle, I threaded the entire length of Sea street, with its little dirty shops; the sickly-smelling arrack-taverns; the quaint old Hindu temple, bedecked with flowers and flags inside, and with dirt outside; and the whitewashed Catholic churches. Little bells were tinkling at these churches; huge gongs were booming forth their brazen thunder from the heathen temples; there was a devil-dance in one house to charm away some sickness, and a Jesuit in the next hovel confessing a dying man. There was a chorus of many tiny lungs at a Tamil school, chanting out their daily lessons in dreary verse; and a wilder, older chorus at the arrack-shop just over the way, without any pretence to time or tune. The screams of bullock-drivers; the shouts of horse-keepers; the vociferations of loaded coolies; the screeching of rusty cart-wheels begging to be greased; the din of the discordant checkoo or oil-mill—all blended in one violent storm of sound—made me glad to hasten on my way, and leave the maddening chorus far behind. The open beach, with its tall fringe of graceful cocoa-palms, and its cool breeze, was doubly welcome. I was sorry when we left it, and drove slowly up a steep hill, on the summit of which stood the Church of St. Nicholas—my destination.

A busy scene was there. Long strings of curious-looking vehicles were ranged outside the tall white church—so white and shiny in the sun that the bullocks in the hackeries dared not look up at it. I felt quite strange amongst all the motley throng; and when I stared about and [Pg 119] beheld those many carts, and palanquins, and hackeries, I fancied myself back again in Jusey Appoo’s coach-factory. But then these were all gaily painted, and some were actually varnished, and had red staring curtains, and clean white cushions, and radiant little lamps. Nearer the church were some half-a-dozen carriages with horses—poor enough of their kind, but still horses with real tails. I glided in amongst the crowd, unnoticed, as I too fondly believed; and was about to take up a very humble position just inside one of the great folding-doors, when I was accosted by a lofty Singalese in gold buttons and flowing robes, with a gigantic comb in his hair, and politely led away captive, I knew not whither. Down one side-aisle, and across a number of seats, and then up another long aisle; and to my utter discomfiture I found myself installed, on the spot, in the unenviable position of the “lion” of the day’s proceedings. To a person of modest temperament this was a most trying ordeal. There was not another white face there. Cookey had been disappointed, it seemed, in his other patrons, and knowing of my intended visit, had waited for my appearance to capture me, and thus add to the brilliancy of the scene.

I bowed to the bride with as little appearance of uneasiness as I could manage; but when I turned to the bridegroom, I had nearly forgotten my mortification in a burst of laughter. The tall, uncouth fellow had exchanged his wonted not ungraceful drapery for a sort of long frock-coat of blue cloth, thickly bedecked with gay gilt buttons, and sham gold-lace; some kind of a broad belt of a gaudy colour hung across [Pg 120] his shoulders; he wore boots, evidently far too short for him, which made him walk in pain; and, to complete the absurdity of his attire, huge glittering rings covered half of his hands. The lady was oppressed with jewellery which, on these occasions, is let out on hire. She seemed unable to bend or turn for the mass of ornaments about her. White satin shoes and silk stockings gave a perfect finish to her bridal attire.

As the party marched up to the priest, I felt as a captive in chains gracing a Roman triumph. No one of all that crowd looked at the bride: they had evidently agreed among themselves to stare only at me. I felt that I was the bride, and the father, and the best man—in fact, everybody of any importance rolled into one. I looked around once; and what a strange scene it was in the long white church! There were hundreds of black faces, all looking one way—at me—but I did not see their faces; I saw only their white eyes glistening in the bright noon-day sun, that came streaming through the great open windows, as though purposely to show me off. I wished it had been midnight. I hoped fervently that some of the hackery bullocks would break loose, and rush into the church, and clear me a way out. I know nothing of how the marriage was performed, or whether it was performed at all; I was thinking too much of making my escape. But in a very short time by the clock, though terrifically long to me, I found myself gracing the Roman triumph on my way out. The fresh air rather recovered me; and what with the drollery of handing the cook’s wife into the cook’s carriage, and the excitement of the busy [Pg 121] scene, and the scrambling for hackeries, and the galloping about of unruly bullocks, I felt determined to finish the day’s proceedings. I knew the worst.

I followed the happy couple in my vehicle, succeeded by a long line of miscellaneous conveyances, drawn by all sorts of animals. Away we went at a splitting pace, knocking up the hot dust and knocking down whole regiments of pigs and children, up one hill and down another, as best our animals could carry us. At last there was a halt. I peeped out of my carriage, and found that we were before a gaily decorated and flower-festooned bungalow, of humble build—the house of the conjugal cook. Up drove all the bullock hackeries, and the gigs, and the carts, but no one offered to alight. Suddenly a host of people rushed out of the little house in the greatest possible haste. They brought out a long strip of white cloth, and at once placed it between the bride’s carriage and the house, for her to walk upon. Still there was no move made from any of the carriages, and I began to feel rather warm. At length a native came forward from the verandah, gun in hand, I supposed to give the signal to alight. The man held it at arm’s length, turned away his head—as though admiring some of our carriages—and “snap” went the flint; but in vain. Fresh priming was placed in the pan, the warrior once more admired our carriages, and again the “snap” was impotent. Somebody volunteered a pin for the touch-hole, another suggested more powder to the charge, whilst a third brought out a lighted stick. The pin and the extra charge were duly acted upon. The weapon was [Pg 122] grasped, the carriages were admired more ardently than before, the firestick was applied to the priming, and an explosion of undoubted reality followed. The warrior was stretched on his back. Half the hackery bullocks started and plunged out of their trappings, while the other half bolted. To add to the dire confusion, my villainous steed began to back very rapidly towards a steep bank, on the edge of which stood a quiet, old-fashioned pony, in a gig with two spruce natives seated in it. Before they could move away, my horse had backed into the pony chaise, and the last I saw of them at that time was an indistinct and rather mixed view of the two white-robed youths and the old-fashioned pony and chaise performing various somersaults into the grass-swamp at the base of the bank.

Glad to escape from the contemplation of my misdeeds, I followed the bridal party into the little house. Slowly alighting from her vehicle, the lady was received by a host of busy relations, some of whom commenced salaaming to her; some scattered showers of curiously-cut fragments of coloured and gilt paper over her and her better half—probably intended to represent the seeds of their future chequered happiness and troubles; and then, by way of inducing the said seed to germinate, somebody sprinkled over the couple a copious down-pouring of rose-water. The little front verandah of the dwelling was completely hidden beneath a mass of decorations of flowers, fruits, and leaves, giving it at first sight the appearance of a cross between a fairy-bower and a Covent Garden fruit-stall. The living, dark stream poured into the fairy bower, and rather threatened the floral arrangements [Pg 123] outside; the door-way was quickly jammed up with the cook’s nearest and dearest relatives of both sexes; while the second cousins and half-uncles and aunts blocked up the little trap-door of a window with their grizzly, grinning visages. The room we were in was not many feet square—calculated to hold, perhaps, a dozen persons in ordinary comfort; but, on this occasion, compelled to welcome within its festive mud-walls at least forty. A small oval table was in the centre, a dozen or so of curiously-shaped chairs were ranged about the sides, in the largest of which the bride was seated. The poor creature was evidently but ill at ease—so stiff and heavily-laden with ornaments. The bridegroom was invisible, and I felt bound to wait upon the lady in his absence. The little darkened cell was becoming fearfully hot; indistinct ideas of the Black Hole of Calcutta rose to my heated imagination. A feverish feeling crept over me, not a little enhanced by the Oriental odours from things and persons about me. The breeze, when it did manage to squeeze itself in, brought with it the sickly perfume of the myriads of flowers and leaves outside. Upon the whole, the half hour or so which elapsed between our arrival and the repast, was a period of intense misery to me, and vast enjoyment to the cook’s family circle. There was nothing to while away the hot minutes. I had to look alternately at the bride, the company, and the ceiling; the company stared at myself and the lady; while she, in her turn, looked at the floor hard enough to penetrate through the bricks to the foundation below. In the first instance I had foolishly pictured the breakfast, [Pg 124] or whatever the meal was to be, set forth upon some grassy spot in the rear of the premises, under the pleasant shade of palms and mangoe trees.

But the vulgar crowd must be kept off by walls; and the little oval table in the centre was to receive the privileged few, and to shut out the unprivileged many. Dishes reeking hot, and soup-tureens in a state of vapour, were passed into the room, over the heads of the mob; for there was no forcing a way through them. A long pause, and then some more steaming dishes, and then another pause, and some rice-plates; and at last, struggling and battling amidst the army of relations, the bridegroom made his appearance—very hot and very shiny, evidently reeking from the kitchen. He had slipped on his blue cloth, many-buttoned coat, and smiled at his wife and the assembled company as though he would have us believe he was quite cool and comfortable.

It devolved upon me to hand, or rather drag the bride to one end of the table; opposite to whom sat her culinary lord and master, as dignified and important as though his monthly income had been ten guineas instead of ten rix-dollars. I seated myself next to the lady of the hut, and resigned myself to my fate; escape was out of the question. Nothing short of fire, or the falling in of the roof, could have saved me. Our rickety chairs were rendered firm and secure as the best London-made mahogany-seats by the continuous, unrelenting pressure of the dense mob behind and around us. The little room seemed built of faces; you might have danced a polka or a waltz on the heads of the company [Pg 125] with perfect security. As for the window-trap, I could see nothing but bright, shining eyes through it.

The covers were removed, as covers are intended to be; but, instead of curiously-arranged and many-coloured dishes of pure and unadulterated Sinhalese cookery, as I had, in the early part of the day, fondly hoped, there appeared upon them a few overdone, dried up joints a l’Anglaise; a skinny, consumptive baked shoulder of mutton; a hard-looking boiled leg of a goat; a shrivelled spare-rib of beef; a turkey that might have died of jungle-fever; and a wooden kind of dry, lean ham, with sundry vegetables, made up this sad and melancholy show. All my gastronomic hopes, so long cherished amidst that heated assemblage, vanished with the dish-covers, and left me a miserable and dejected being. Ten minutes previously, I had felt the pangs of wholesome hunger, and was prepared to do my utmost; at that moment I only felt empty and sick. Could I have reached the many-buttoned cook, I might have been tempted to have done him some bodily harm; but I could not move. The host had the wretch of a turkey before him. Well up to the knife-and-fork exercise, he whipped off from the breast of the skinny bird two slices of the finest meat—the only really decent cuts about it—and then, pushing the dish on to his next neighbour, begged him to help himself. Of course, I had to attend to the hostess. I gave her a slice of the sinewy, lean ham before me, with two legs of a native fowl, and began to think of an attempt upon the boiled mutton for myself; but there was no peace for me yet. The bride had never [Pg 126] before used a knife and fork, and, in her desperate attempts to insert the latter into one of the fowl’s legs, sent it with a bound into my waistcoat, accompanied by a shower of gravy, and a drizzling rain of melted butter and garlic. Feeling more resigned to my fate, I proceeded to cut up her ham and chicken, and then fancied the task was done; but not so. Her dress was so tight, the ornaments so encompassed her as with a suit of armour, that all her attempts to reach her mouth with her fork were abortive. To bend her arm was evidently impossible. Once she managed to get a piece of ham as high as her chin; but it cost her violent fractures in several parts of her dress; so that I became alarmed for what might possibly happen, and begged her not to think of doing it again, offering to feed her myself. Feverish, thirsty, and weary as I felt at that table, I could scarcely suppress a smile when I found myself, spoon in hand, administering portions of food to the newly-made wife. Never having had, at that period of my existence, any experience in feeding babies, or other living creatures, I felt at first much embarrassed, somewhat as a man might feel who, only accustomed to shave himself, tries, for the first time in his life, to remove the beard of some friend in a public assembly. Fortunately for me, the lady was blessed with a rather capacious mouth; and, as I raised, tremblingly and in doubt, a pyramid of fowl, ham, and onions, upon the bowl of the Brittania-metal spoon, my patient distended her jaws in a friendly and hopeful manner.

During my spoon performances I was much startled at hearing, close to our door, the loud [Pg 127] report of several guns fired in quick succession. I imagined at first that the military had been called out to disperse the mob, but as nobody gave signs of any alarm or uneasiness, that could not have been the case; so I settled in my mind that the friends of the family were shooting some game for the evening’s supper. All that I partook of at that bridal party was a small portion of very lean, dry beef, and some badly boiled potatoes, washed down by a draught of hard, sour beer. I essayed some of the pastry, for it had a bright and cheerful look, and was evidently very light. I took a mouthful of some description of sugared puff, light to the feel, and pleasant to look at, but in reality a most heartless deception—a sickly piece of deceit: it was evidently a composition of bean-flour, brown sugar, stale eggs, and cocoanut oil—the latter, although burning very brilliantly in lamps, and serviceable as a dressing to the hair, not being quite equal to Lucca oil when fried or baked. To swallow such an abomination was impossible, and, watching my opportunity, I contrived at length to convey my savoury mouthful beneath the table. This vile pastry was succeeded by a plentiful crop of fruit of all kinds, from pine-apples to dates. Hecatombs of oranges, pyramids of plantains, shoals of sour-sops, mounds of mangoes, to say nothing of alligator pears, rhambatams, custard apples, guavas, jamboes, and other fruit, as varied in name and taste as in hue and form, graced that hitherto graceless board. I had marked for immediate incorporation a brace of custard apples, and a glowing, corpulent alligator-pear, and was even on the point of securing them before attending to my [Pg 128] dark neighbour, when a loud shout, followed by a confused hubbub, was heard outside in front. There was a cracking of whips and a rattling of carriage-wheels, and altogether a huge commotion in the street, which at once put an end to our dessert, and attracted attention from the inside to the exterior of the house. My spirits revived from zero to summer-heat, and thence up to blood-heat, when I learnt that the arrivals were a batch of “Europe gentlemen,” friends of the cook’s master, who had come just to have a passing peep at the bride and the fun. Their approach was made known by sundry explanations in the English language, and a noise as of scuffling at the door. How our new friends were to get in was a mystery to me, nor did the host appear to have any very distinct ideas upon the subject. He rose from his seat, and, with his mouth full of juicy pine apple, ordered a way to be cleared for the “great masters;” but he might as well have requested his auditory to become suddenly invisible, or to pass out through the key-hole. There was no such thing as giving way. A few of the first cousins grinned, and one or two maternal uncles coughed audibly, while the eyes of the distant relations at the window were glistening more intensely, and in greater numbers than ever. The stock of British patience, as I rather expected, was quickly exhausted, and in a minute or two I perceived near the door some white faces that were familiar to me at a certain regimental mess-table. Uncles and brothers-in-law were rapidly at a discount, and there appeared every prospect of mere connexions by marriage becoming relations by blood. Some giant of a native ventured upon [Pg 129] the hazardous speculation of collaring an officer who was squeezing past him, and received a friendly and admonitory tap in return, which at once put him hors de combat. The cook, enraged at the rudeness of his countryman, dealt a shower of knocks amongst his family circle; the visitors stormed the approaches, and at last carried the covered way; Singalese gentry struggled and pushed, and tried in vain to repel the invaders; the fair sex screamed, and tried to escape; the mêlée became general and furious. I gave my whole attention to the bride, who kept her seat in the utmost alarm; her husband was the centre of attraction to the combatants, and in the midst of a sort of “forlorn hope” of the native forces, the heavily loaded table was forced from its centre of gravity. Staggering and groaning beneath the united pressure from fruit and fighting, the wooden fabric reeled and tottered, and at last went toppling over, amidst a thunder-storm of vegetable productions. It was in vain I pulled at the unhappy bride to save her—she was a doomed woman, and was swept away with the fruity flood. When I sought her amidst the wreck and confusion, I could only discover heaps of damaged oranges, sour-sops, and custard-apples, her white satin shoes, the Chinese fan, and the four silver meat-skewers. By dint of sundry excavations, the lady was fairly dug out of the ruins and carried off by her female friends; the room was cleared of the rebellious Singalese, and a resolution carried unanimously that the meeting be adjourned to the compound or garden at the back. Under the pleasant shade of a tope of beautiful palms, we sat and partook of the remains of the feast. [Pg 130] The relations, once more restored to good humour, amused themselves in their own fashion, preparing for the dancing, and festivity, and illuminations that were to take place in the evening. We sat there until some time after sunset, and when I had seen the great cocoa-nut shells, with their flaring wicks, lighted up, and the tom-toms begin to assemble, I deemed it prudent to retire and seek a wholesome meal at the hotel.

Decorative image

[Pg 131]



Illustrated letter

TO dwellers in Ceylon, the cocoanut palm calls up a wide range of ideas. It associates itself with nearly every want and convenience of native life. It might tempt a Singalese villager to assert that if he were placed upon the earth with nothing else whatever to minister to his necessities than the cocoa-nut tree, he could pass his existence in happiness and contentment.

When he has felled one of those trees after it has ceased bearing (say in its seventieth year), with its trunk he builds his hut and his bullock-stall, which he thatches with its leaves. His bolts and bars are slips of the bark, by which he also suspends the small shelf which holds his stock of home-made utensils and vessels. He fences his little plot of chillies, tobacco, and fine grain with the leaf-stalks. The infant is swung to sleep in a rude net of coir-string made from the husk of the fruit; its meal of rice and scraped cocoanut is boiled over a fire of cocoanut shells and husks, and is eaten off a dish formed of the plaited green leaves of the trees, with a spoon cut out of the nut-shell. When he goes a-fishing by torchlight his net is of cocoanut fibre; the torch, or chule is a bundle of dried cocoanut leaves and flower-stalks; the little canoe is the trunk of the cocoa-palm tree, [Pg 132] hollowed by his own hands. He carries home his net and string of fish on a yoke, or pingo, formed of a cocoanut stalk. When he is thirsty, he drinks of the fresh juice of the young nut; when he is hungry, he eats its soft kernel. If he have a mind to be merry, he sips a glass of arrack, distilled from the fermented juice, and he flavours his curry with vinegar made from this toddy. Should he be sick, his body will be rubbed with cocoanut oil; he sweetens his coffee with jaggery, or cocoanut sugar, and softens it with cocoanut milk; it is sipped by the light of a lamp constructed from a cocoanut shell, and fed by cocoanut oil. His doors, his windows, his shelves, his chairs, the water-gutter under the eaves, are all made from the wood of the tree. His spoons, his forks, his basins, his mugs, his salt-cellars, his jars, his child’s money-box, are all constructed from the shell of the nut. Over his couch when first born, and over his grave when buried, a bunch of cocoanut blossoms is hung, to charm away evil spirits.

This palm is assiduously cultivated in Ceylon, in topes or plantations; and it was long believed that the rude native system of culture was the best, but experience has shown the fallacy of this opinion. Hence, the Singalese continue to find the manual labour, but the Englishman provides skill and implements.

There is a good road to within a couple of miles of the plantation I am about to describe, so that the visitor has little difficulty in performing this much of the journey. The remaining two miles lie through a sandy track of very flat and rather uninteresting country. Here and there, amidst a maze of paddy fields, areca nut [Pg 133] topes, and patches of low, thorny jungle, are dotted little white-walled huts. They are much cleaner than any such near the towns of Ceylon; attached to each is a small slip of ground, rudely fenced, and half cultivated, with a few sweet potatoes, some chillies, and a little tobacco and fine grain. It was mid-day when I started on foot to this estate. The sun was blazing above in unclouded glory. Under the shade of a bread-fruit tree, the owner of the first hut I got to was dozing and chewing betel-nut, evidently tasting, in anticipation, the bliss of Buddha’s paradise. The wife was pounding up something for curry; the children were by her side—the boys smoking tiny cheroots, the girls twisting mats. It was fortunate for me that the sandy path was over-shadowed by jungle trees, or my progress would have been impossible. Not a breath of air was stirring amidst that dense mass of vegetation; not a twig or a leaf could be persuaded to move; the long and graceful paddy stalks glittered and sparkled in their watery resting places, as though they were made of the purest burnished gold. The buffaloes had taken to their noon-day watering places. The birds were evidently done up, and were nowhere to be seen; the beetles crawled feebly over the cooler shrubs, but they could not get up a single hum or a buzz amongst them all; even the busy little ants perspired, and dropped their lilliputian loads. Well, the dry ditch and thorny fence that form the boundary and protection of the estate were at last reached, and the little gate and watch-hut were passed. The watcher, or lascoryn, was a Malay, moustachioed and fierce, for the natives of the country can rarely be [Pg 134] depended on as protectors of property against their fellow-villagers. A narrow belt of jungle trees and shrubs had been left quite round the plantation, to assist in keeping out cattle and wild animals, which are frequently very destructive to a young cocoanut estate, in spite of armed watchers, ditches, and fences. Passing through this little belt, I found, on entering, an entirely new scene. Before and around me waved gracefully the long shining leaves of three hundred acres of cocoanut palms, each acre containing, on an average, eighty trees. It was indeed a beautiful and interesting sight. Two-thirds of these trees were yielding ample crops, though only in their tenth year; in two years more they will generally be in full bearing. Unlike the rudely-planted native garden, this estate had been most carefully laid down; the young plants had all been placed out at regular intervals and in perfectly straight lines, so that, looking over the estate in either direction, the long avenues presented one unbroken figure, at once pleasing to the eye and easy of access. But if these interminable masses of palms appeared a lovely picture when regarded at some little distance, how much was their beauty heightened on a nearer inspection! Walking close under the shadow of their long and ribbon-like leaves, I could see how thickly they were studded with golden-green fruit in every stage of growth. The sight was absolutely marvellous. Were such trees, so laden, painted by an artist, his production would, in all probability, be pronounced unnatural. They appeared more like some fairy creations, got up for my special amusement, resembling nearly those gorgeous [Pg 135] trees which, in my youth, I delighted to read about in the “Arabian Nights,” growing in subterranean gardens, and yielding precious stones. They hung in grape-like clusters around the crest of the tree; the large, golden, ripe nuts below, smaller and greener fruit just above them, followed by scores of others in all stages, from the blossom-bud to the half-grown. It was impossible to catch a glimpse of the stem, so thickly did the fruit hang on all sides. I made an attempt to count them—“thirty—fifty—eighty—one hundred”—I could go no further; those little fellows near the top, peeping up like so many tiny dolls’ heads, defied my most careful numeration; but I feel confident there must have been quite two hundred nuts on that one palm. Above the clusters of rich fruit were two feather-like flowers, white as snow, and smooth and glossy as polished ivory; they had just burst from their sheaths, and a more delicate, lovely picture could scarcely be imagined.

A cocoanut tree in a native Singalese tope will sometimes yield fifty nuts in twelve months; but the average of them seldom give more than twenty-five in the year. It is therefore very evident that European skill may be employed beneficially on this cultivation, as well as on any other.

I was at first rather startled at perceiving a tall, half-naked Singalese away in the distance, with a gun at least half as long again as himself, long black hair over his shoulders, and bunches of something hanging at his girdle. He was watching some game amongst the trees; at last he fired, ran, picked up something, and stuck it in his girdle. What could it be?—parrot, [Pg 136] pigeon, or jungle-fowl? It was only a poor little squirrel; and there were at least two scores of these pretty creatures hanging at the waist of the mighty hunter! Fortunately, he could speak a little English, and I was not long in learning the cause of this slaughter. It appeared that in addition to their pretty bushy tails, glossy coats, and playful gambols, the squirrels have very sharp and active teeth, and an uncommon relish for the sweet, tender buds of the cocoanut flower, which they nip off and destroy by scores, and of course lessen by so much the future crop of fruit. Handfuls of the buds lay half-eaten around each tree, and I no longer felt astonished at this species of sporting. The ground had evidently been well cleared from jungle plants, not one of such was to be seen in all this track; a stout and healthy-looking grass was springing up along the avenues; whilst at intervals patches of Indian corn, sweet potatoes, guinea-grass, and other products—intended for cattle-fodder during dry weather when the wild grasses fail—gave tints of varied luxuriance to the scene.

The ground at this part of the estate sloped a little, and I came to an open space, somewhat marshy in appearance. A number of cattle, young and old, were browsing about on the long grass, or sipping a draft from the clear stream which ran through the low ground. They were confined within a rude but stout fence, and on one side was a range of low sheds for their shelter. The cattle appeared in good condition. They were purchased, when very young, from the drovers who bring them in hundreds from the Malabar coast; and many were then fit for [Pg 137] the cart, the carriage, or the knife. At the end was a manure shed, and outside stood a keeper’s hut, with a store attached, in which were piled up dried guinea-grass, maize, &c.

The manure pit was deep and large, and in it lay the true secret of the magical productiveness of the trees I had just seen. Good seed, planted in light, free soil, well cleared and drained, will produce a fine healthy tree in a few years; and if to this be added occasional supplies of manure and a few waterings during the dry season, an abundant yield of fruit will most assuredly reward the toil and outlay of the cocoa-nut cultivator.

Leaving this spot, I strolled through the next field to see what a number of little boys were so busy about. There were a dozen dark urchins, running about from tree to tree; sometimes they stopped, clambered up, and appeared to have very particular business to transact at the stems of the leaves; but oftener they passed contented with a mere glance upwards at the fruit. They had a sharp-pointed instrument in the hand, whilst at the wrist of each was hung a cocoa-nut shell. I paused to see what one of these children was searching for, half hid as the little fellow was amongst the gigantic leaves. Intently scrutinising his motions, I observed that he forced the little sharp instrument into the very body of the tree. Down it went to the inmost core of the giant stem; all his strength was employed. He strained and struggled amongst the huge leaves as though he were engaged in deadly strife with some terrible boa or cheetah. At last he secured his antagonist, and descended with something alive, small and [Pg 138] black, and impaled on the barbed point of the little weapon. A few questions elicited the whole secret. The cocoa-nut tree, it seems, has many enemies besides squirrels—the elephant, the wild hog, the rat, the white ant, the porcupine, the monkey, and a large white worm, either attack it when young or rob it of its fruit when mature. But the most numerous and persevering enemy which it has to encounter from the age of three years until long after it produces fruit, is cooroominiya, or cocoa-nut beetle; a black, hard-coated creature, with beautiful wings, and a most powerful little tusk, which it employs with fatal activity to open a way into the stems of the palms. Its labours commence in the evening, and by early morning it will be buried half-a-dozen inches deep in the very centre of the tree, where, if not detected and removed, it feeds on the soft, pithy fibres, deposits its eggs, and does not depart in less than two or three days. These holes are always made in the softest and sweetest part of the tree, near the crown; and in young plants they prove seriously hurtful, checking the growth and impairing the health of the future tree. In a morning’s walk an active lad will frequently secure as many as a score of these cooroominiyas, which, after being killed, are strung upon liliputian gibbets about the estate, as a warning to their live friends.

Farther on I perceived, gathered in anxious consultation, three of the lads around a tree that was loaded with fruit; they looked up at the leaves, then at the root, then at the trunk. At last one little fellow started off, swift-footed as a hare, and was soon out of sight. The others [Pg 139] began scraping the earth from the root as fast as possible, and all the information they would impart was “ledde gaha,” or sick tree; so that there was nothing for it but to imagine that the little messenger had been despatched for the doctor. He soon came back, not with the medicine-man, but a mamootie, or Dutch hoe, and a cattie, or sharp bill-hook. And then the busy work went on again. In little more time than I take to tell the story, the soil was removed from about the root, a hole was discovered in the trunk, and its course upwards ascertained by means of a cane probe. With the cattie, one of the boys commenced cutting and opening midway in the trunk of the tree. On looking up I perceived that the patient gave unmistakable symptoms of ill health. The long leaves were drooping at the end, and tinged with a sickly yellow; many of the nuts had fallen off, and others had evidently half a mind to follow the example. The flower, which had just burst above, hung down its sickly head, weeping away the germs of what had else been fruit. The hole was now complete; it was large enough for the smallest boy to force his hand in, and it soon brought away a basket full of pith and powdered wood from the body of the tree. There, amidst the ruin, was the enemy that has caused so much mischief and labour. It was an unsightly worm, about four inches in length, and as thick as one’s small finger, having a dull white body and black head. I then began to wonder what had next to be done—whether the tree would die after all this hacking and maiming. Would the medicine-man now be sent for? No. The interior of the wounded tree, as well as the aperture, was [Pg 140] thoroughly freed from dirt and decomposed fibre—which might have aided in hatching any eggs left by the worm—and finally the root was covered up, and the opening and inside of the palm tightly filled with clay. I was assured that not more than one of ten trees thus treated ever fails to recover its health.

The nocturnal attacks of elephants are checked by means of lighted fires, and an occasional shot or two during the night. Wild hogs and porcupines are caught in traps and hunted by dogs. The monkeys are shot down like the squirrels, and the white ants are poisoned. In spite of all these measures, however, an estate often suffers very severely, and its productiveness is much interfered with by these depredators.

The soil over which I had as yet passed had been of one uniform description—a light sandy earth, containing a little vegetable matter, and but a little. Afterwards I arrived at a tract of planted land, quite different from its nature and mode of cultivation. It was of a far stiffer character, deeper in colour, and more weedy. This portion of the estate was in former days a swamp, in which the porcupine, the wild hog, and the jackal delighted to dwell, sheltered from the encroachment of man by a dense mass of low jungle, thorns, and reeds. To drive away these destructive creatures from the vicinity of the young palms the jungle was fired during dry weather. It was then perceived that the soil of this morass, although wet and rank from its position, was of a most luxuriant character. A few deep drains were opened through the centre, cross drains were cut, and after one season’s exposure [Pg 141] to the purifying action of the atmosphere and rain, the whole of it was planted, and it now gives fair promise of being one day the finest field in the plantation.

From this low ground I strolled through some long avenues of trees on the right; their long leaves protected me from the heat of the afternoon sun, which was still considerable. The trees on this side were evidently older; they had a greater number of ripe fruit; and further away in the distance might be seen a multitude of men and boys busily engaged in bearing away the huge nuts in pairs to a path or rude cart-track, where a cangany, or native overseer, was occupied in counting them as they were tossed into the bullock-cart. The expertness of the boys in climbing these smooth, lofty, and branchless trees, by the aid of a small band formed by twisting a portion of a cocoa-nut leaf, was truly astonishing. In a moment their small feet grasped the trunk, aided by the twisted leaf, whilst their hands were employed above; they glided upwards, and with a quick eye detected the riper fruit, which, rapidly twisted from their stalks, were flung to the ground. Their companions below were busy in removing the nuts, which for young children is no easy task—the nuts frequently weighing fifteen or twenty pounds each, with the husk or outer skins on them. The natives have a simple but ingenious method of tying them together in pairs, by which means the boys can carry two of them with ease, when otherwise one would be a task of difficulty. The nuts have little, if any, stalk; the practice, therefore, is to slit up a portion of the husk (which is the coir fibre in its natural state), pull [Pg 142] out a sufficient length without breaking it, and thus tie two together. In this way the little urchins scamper along with the nuts slung across their shoulders, scarcely feeling the weight.

I followed the loaded carts. They were halted at a large enclosure, inside of which were huge pens formed of jungle sticks, about ten feet in height; into these the nuts were stored and re-counted, a certain number only being kept in each, as the pens are all of the same dimensions. Adjoining was another and still larger space, lying lower, with some deep ditches and pits in the midst. Here the outer husk is stripped off, preparatory to breaking the nut itself in order to obtain the kernel, which has to be dried before the oil can be expressed. Into the pits or ditches the husk is flung, and left in ten feet of water ten or fourteen days, when it is removed and beaten out on stones, to free the elastic fibre from dirt and useless vegetable matter. This is a most disagreeable operation, for the stench from the half-putrid husks is very strong. The fibre, after being well dried on the sandy ground, undergoes a rude assortment into three qualities, in reference chiefly to colour, and is then delivered over to the rope-maker, who works it up into yarn, rope, or junk, as required. Freed from their outer covering, the nuts are either sold for making curries, in which they form a prominent feature, or they are kept for drying ready for the oil-mill.

Having learned this much, I strolled through the small green field and along a patch of guinea-grass, to see what was going on in that direction. The neat-looking building adjoining was the superintendent’s bungalow, and the long [Pg 143] sheds and open spaces in their front and rear were for drying the nuts into what is termed copperah, in which state they are ground up for pressure. It was a busy scene indeed, and the operations require constant vigilance on the part of the manager; yet all the work is carried on in the rudest way, and with the most simple instruments. Half-a-dozen stout lads were seated cross-legged on the ground, each with a heap of nuts by his side. The rapidity with which they seized these, and, with one sharp blow of a heavy knife, split them precisely in half, and flung them away into other heaps, was remarkable. It seemed to be done with scarcely an effort, yet, on handling the broken nut, one could not help being struck with its thickness and strength. Smaller boys were busily employed in removing these heaps of split fruit to the large open spaces, when others, assisted by a few women, were occupied in placing them in rows close together, with the open part outwards, so that the kernels may be fully exposed to the direct rays of the sun. In this way they remain for two days, when the fruit, partly dried, shrinks from the shell and is removed. Two more days’ exposure to the sun in fine weather will generally complete the drying process. The kernels are then called copperah, and are brittle and unctuous in the hand.

To convert this material into oil, the natives employ a very primitive mill, worked by bullocks, and called a checkoo; this process is very slow, and the oil never clean. Europeans have, however, obviated these objections, and manufacture the cocoa-nut oil by means of granite crushers and hydraulic presses worked by steam [Pg 144] power. This is chiefly done in Colombo, to which place, of course, the copperah has to be conveyed. The refuse of the oil-presses, the dry cake (or poonac), is very useful as food for cattle or poultry, and not less so as a manure for the palm-trees when moistened and applied in a partially decomposed state.

Not a particle of this valuable tree is lost. The fresh juice of the blossom, which is broken off to allow it to flow freely, is termed, as I have said, toddy, and is drunk, when quite new, as a cool and pleasantly-refreshing beverage; when fermented, it is distilled, and yields the less harmless liquor known as arrack.

All these operations are not carried on with ease and regularity. The Singalese are an idle race; like many better men, their chief pleasure is to perform as little work as possible. This necessitates a never-ending round of inspection by the European manager, who, mounted on a small pony, paper umbrella in hand, visits every corner of the property at least once a day, often twice. Neither is it unusual for him to make a round during the night. On the whole, therefore, he enjoys no sinecure.

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ONE more word on Ceylon, and I will leave it for the present; but in concluding I cannot well omit reference to our trip to the sapphire mines, up the Kaluganga river.

The trip was an exceedingly pleasant and interesting one; and as it is easily accomplished, I would strongly urge on any one having a few days to spare at Colombo not to fail to go there. It is time and money well spent.

In chatting under the verandah of the Grand Oriental Hotel with the dealers in precious stones, I was informed that the sapphires, moon-stones, cat’s eyes, and other gems of value sold in Ceylon, are found in drifts and sunk mines laying at the foot of Adam’s Peak, a mountain 7353 feet high, which is visible from the deck of the steamer when one approaches Ceylon from almost any point of the compass. I was further told that a noble stream—the Kaluganga—taking its source from the great mountain ranges, runs through and fertilises a portion of the island, until it empties its surplus waters into the ocean at a small village called Kalatura, on the Galle road.

I was quite aware that the bulk of the sapphires, moon-stones, cat’s eyes, and other gems sold under the verandah and hawked on board the mail-boats came in “bulk” from the [Pg 146] various glass-works in Birmingham; but it is nevertheless a fact that the mines exist, and are most profitably worked by both Singalese and other miners. My old digging recollections being limited to gold, silver, tin, or copper, and being told that the trip to the precious stone mines was a pleasant one, I decided on completing my mining education, and accordingly set myself to beat up recruits for an excursion. We had at the time a few nice people boarding at the British India Hotel, where I usually put up, owing to the fact that it belongs to my friend, Mr. Ephraim, who kept the first hotel I put up at when in Point de Galle in 1878. I broached the idea, called in Ephraim for advice, and before we retired for the night had arranged matters. Ephraim undertook to get traps for the next morning, a guide, and a letter of introduction to a brother boniface who keeps the Kalatura Rest-house or hotel.

Accordingly, after a hasty but hearty breakfast, and armed with a small portable bundle of “necessaries,” we started to catch the early train. Even in Ceylon the electric wire has crushed all romance, but in exchange has brought with its levelling, crushing effects, a certain amount of practical results. In this instance, when the train stopped at the Kalatura station we found a vehicle and an attendant awaiting our pleasure, and the welcome news that breakfast was ready at the Bungalow. This meal, considering the hour, we could not possibly accept as a breakfast, inasmuch as it would have been an insult to the one which we had done ample justice to before leaving Colombo, barely three hours before. We therefore made a compromise [Pg 147] with our conscience, and made straight for this Kalatura “tiffin,” which, to our great delight, was preluded by a glorious feast of the most delicious, fresh rock oysters—the regular “claw” shell—which, in the good old days, before the waters of Port Jackson had been disturbed by so many steamers, were known all over Australia as “Sydney rock.” For “auld lang syne” we did ample justice to these. They acted as an aperative, and gave us a keen appetite for the really excellent repast our worthy host had, on Mr. Ephraim’s recommendation and telegram, prepared for us. The “prawn curry” I shall never forget. It was a triumph of Eastern culinary art. We were evidently favoured guests. Mine host had himself cooked the luncheon, and even condescended to wait at table!—to enjoy, no doubt, the well-deserved praise we unanimously gave him: first, for his display of artistic, gastronomic talent; and also for the great honour he conferred on us by waiting in propria persona on such humble travellers.

It seems that all our wishes had been already anticipated, and that between Ephraim and our guide, Kalatura was aware of our intention to sail or pull up the great river as far as Adam’s Peak. Having lit a cigar after a passable cup of coffee—(Bye-the-bye, it is a strange anomaly that in Ceylon, where the very best coffee is grown, it is quite as difficult to get a decent cup of that beverage as it is to buy, even at an enormous price, a sapphire without a flaw)—we strolled down to the banks of the river, and at the foot of an old Dutch fort met our Singalese guide. Wading through a motley group of [Pg 148] boatmen and a crowd of coolies busy loading and unloading boats and drays, we were led to a large padé boat which had been chartered for our trip by the hotel-keeper. The padé boat, as I have already mentioned, is a large barge, upon the centre of which a wooden—or rather straw—hut has been built as a sort of deck-house. This having been thoroughly swept and cleaned, the floor covered with clean white matting, had been supplied from the hotel with a table, some reclining and other chairs, cooking utensils, and even the necessary napery, towels, &c.; a couple of cooks, and a well-filled larder, in which we found also a hamper containing beer, claret, and whisky in sufficient quantity to carry us over many days.

Orders were given to cast off. Favoured by a fresh sea breeze, sails were hoisted, and in a very few moments, in spite of the strong current, we had lost sight of the Kalatura Bridge, and, indeed, all signs of civilisation. In order to avoid the full force of the stream we had to steer close in shore. This gave us full opportunity to admire the wonderful tropical vegetation of this favoured island, as well as occasionally to have a “blaze” at birds, squirrels, monkeys, or other quaint denizens of the thick jungle, which grows with astounding vigour right down to the very water’s edge. This noble river winds and turns like most mountain streams and narrows at places so that its course often runs under a canopy of luxuriant foliage, whilst at others it spreads over a wide area of flat land, giving it a lake-like appearance. In such spots small clusters of huts and patches of cultivated ground break the monotony and [Pg 149] solitude of the voyage. We stopped at some of these native hamlets to study Singalese life and purchase fruit, milk, and eggs, all of which we found everywhere to be good, abundant, and remarkably cheap. From the apparent curiosity of the natives, it is evident that they are seldom visited by excursionists. The women and children in particular evinced great pleasure at seeing our party, more particularly if we distributed sweets and nick-nacks amongst them, when they accompanied us on board.

This first day’s excursion was one of endless enjoyment, every turn in the river opening up some fresh and charming scenery. The breeze, as we advanced farther inland, gradually failed us; still, before dusk, we had gone over many miles, which, considering the cumbersome shape of our boat, the size of the sails, and the rapidity of the stream, was very fair travelling. We anchored a short distance from the shore with a stern-line made fast to a bamboo clump. During the short twilight some of our party tried to penetrate through the jungle for sport, but soon returned, having found it an impossibility to make headway—the vegetation being simply prodigious, the trees and under-scrub actually matted together by creepers of all sizes and form, so as to render all progress an utter impossibility.

During the afternoon the native cook and his assistant had made good use of their time. How, where, and when they managed it I never could make out; but as soon as the boat was safely moored, and when we returned from our vain attempt to invade the sanctity of the jungle, we found the table laid, and really a [Pg 150] capital dinner—soup, fish, two entrées, a roast, the inevitable curry, some pastry, fruits in profusion—the two last courses being the only things in which our chef had not had a finger in. His coffee, even, was passable; but I determined in future to attend to that myself, having some conceit as to my capabilities in that particular line. We had a long day, therefore did not linger—a few cigars, some tough yarns, and one by one dropped off. Beds had been extemporised on cane settees in an adjoining compartment of our floating house.

At an early hour—indeed, at dawn, which is by far the pleasantest part of the day all through India—we got out of bed and made for the bow of the boat, bent on a plunge in the waters of the Kaluganga. Luckily, we had our sleeping suits on, so that the stripping business gave us time to look round. It is quite as well we did. At about six or eight yards off, forming quite a semi-circle, were a number of black spots, which on closer scrutiny proved to be the muzzles of so many alligators! Needless to say that we changed our plans. A tub, if smaller, was decidedly safer. There being only two on board, those who had to wait their turn whiled away the time in “peppering” at the alligators—a harmless sport on both sides, and a great waste of powder. These brutes had a skin so hard and slippery that they only gave a snort and a sneeze when hit, and disappeared.

After our tubbing, and whilst discussing a cup of coffee of MY making, a screaming row overhead drew us out once more to the bow of the floating dwelling, to witness one of the strangest sights imaginable. The roof of our [Pg 151] cabin was literally covered with bunches of bananas, baskets of fruit, and other delicacies, which had evidently attracted the attention of myriads of monkeys of all sizes and colour, which swarm in the jungle of Ceylon. The cunning imps had formed a living chain by hanging to one another from the nearest tree-top overhanging the river. The last one was dexterously grabbing our fruit, which, being passed from one to the other, would soon have found its way from our larder to that of these infernal chimpanzees. A rush was made for rifles and revolvers, but with our usual luck, when we were ready to fire the monkeys were gone. We did fire a volley at the grinning brutes, who seemed to enjoy the fun; but, like all preceding game, left us with unstained hands. Indeed, from their grins, it strikes me very forcibly that they turned the tables by making “game” of us.

Sailing was now out of the question. Our men put out their long sweeps, the steersman, perched on the roof of the deck-house, keeping the helm well down. We proceeded on our course at a fair pace, keeping as close in-shore as the length of the oars would permit.

Towards tiffin-time we got well in amongst the mountainous part of the river, where the scenery became grander—in some parts huge piles of hills covered with vegetation, with here and there some capricious, overhanging rocky projections. In the distance, wherever the stream ran straight for the Peak, we had glimpses of that great mountain, which takes its name from our first father—it being firmly believed that Ceylon was THE Garden of Eden, [Pg 152] where our first parents learned horticulture, and bartered civilisation for a taste of a fruit which we, their unworthy descendants, can purchase at four a penny; whilst, strange to say, it does not grow on this most prolific island!

Ceylon is certainly an earthly paradise, where serpents are quite abundant enough to scare an unprotected female, and the climate mild enough to warrant the use of vine leaves in preference to heavier clothing.

Of course, we had ample leisure to discuss these various pre-historic points as we lazily glided over the smooth surface of the noble river.

Native settlements as on the previous day, were located when and where the banks were flat enough to admit of easy cultivation. The Singalese do not believe in hard work; and, as I explained before, where he can grow a few cocoa-nut trees, he has only need to provide for the time that elapses between the planting of the nut and the first crop. After that, he and his surroundings are amply provided for.

On the third day we reached our destination. Like a great many other alluvial diggings, these mines are devoid of interest. Some straggling huts, a poor, ill-fed lot of natives and Moormen—very few of the latter, who are merely there to pick up, as cheap as they can, any fairly good stone found. The best part of this excursion is the journey on the river, and more particularly that going up, when everything has the cachet of novelty.

Had we known the topography of the island better, we might have gone back to Colombo by train. However, in this as in many other [Pg 153] instances, experience had to be bought. We did not pay much for this—indeed, our return to Kalatura was a dream. Making a start at dusk, we reached our hotel the next day before tiffin. We slept nearly all the way back. What with the current and the sweeps, we travelled at a rare pace.

The summing up of our excursion is—a charming, and certainly most inexpensive trip, which I strongly urge all globe-trotters to make on the same lines, returning to the city overland; and above all, beware of the vendors of precious stones at the mines. If you have to be swindled (which you are sure to be) let it be done in Colombo. The cut glass you purchase there has at all events the appearance of genuine stones, whereas at the mines you will fill your pockets with rough pebbles—warranted genuine sapphires, cat’s eyes, rubies, or moon-stones—intrinsically worth a rupee a cart-load for gravelling garden walks, but utterly valueless for any other purpose. Indeed, the only drawback to Ceylon—and, for the matter of that, the whole of India—is the abominable bore a visitor is subjected to from the myriads of swindling dealers who actually persecute him from morning till night, and beset him everywhere he goes. I had the satisfaction in one solitary instance to pay one of that tribe in his own coin. During one of our morning drives to the Cinnamon Gardens, some hawkers kept pace with our horse, flinging bouquets of flowers, cinnamon walking-sticks, &c., into the carriage, and asking most outrageous prices for their wares. I had exhausted my stock of small change, but wanted to secure one of the bunches of flowers [Pg 154] offered; and finding in my purse my Melbourne season ticket for the Opera—a very natty, small, red morocco card, with a bright gold coat of arms on the cover—I tendered it to the fellow, who greedily took it in payment for his bouquet. When he had it examined by an expert, he called at the hotel next day and endeavoured to get a refund, and was much crestfallen to find that for once he was “had.”

The Indian mail having arrived—the Siam, under the command of my very old friend, Captain Ashdown—I moved on board with bag and baggage for Calcutta, taking Madras en route.

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[Pg 155]

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THIS city, though of some interest in many ways, is not one likely to prepossess a visitor in favour of the great Indian Empire. The anchorage is an open roadstead, and the process of landing is most abominable, though worthy of notice.

As soon as the steamer drops anchor she is surrounded by hundreds of huge, unwieldy-looking boats—or rather barges—each manned by a dozen or more naked Indians, who swarm the decks, deafen one with their screams, and pester passengers to take the brass token bearing the number of their licensed ferry-boat. These extraordinary boats are built of bark—sewn together, not nailed, so that they may stand the shock of being hurled by the waves or breakers on to the strand.

It needs some nerve to submit to this mode of landing, but being the inevitable, one has to submit. The seats in the boat are lower than the gunwale, and to these the passenger has to hold on as best he can; the pullers ply their paddles (not oars) vigorously towards the beach, [Pg 156] where the sea breaks furiously. When within fifty or sixty yards from shore the boat is taken up by the rollers. She is steered stem on, the helmsman keeping a sharp eye on each coming wave. The pullers, at his command, back water until a suitable roller appears, when a vigorous pull keeps the boat on its crest until she is carried by it high and dry on the shingle; but ere she grounds the men simultaneously jump over-board and by their united efforts carry boat and contents beyond the reach of the next wave, which, if it overtook it, would annihilate the frail vessel. Each dripping nigger then offers “a back” to passengers belonging to the stronger sex, and “a chair” to the ladies—in this undignified manner did I make my first appearance in the great Indian Empire.

I firmly believe in first impressions, and have no doubt that my landing at Madras “pig-a-back” on a nigger had a baneful influence on my judgment of the place. I certainly did not feel much impressed by it, and was glad to find myself once more on the deck of the Siam, and still more so to feel the motion of the screw as she veered round and shaped her course for Calcutta.

When the steamer reaches the “mouths of the Ganges,” one becomes impressed with a feeling of admiration for this gigantic portion of the British Empire—all one has read or heard of India comes uppermost into one’s mind. A glance at the map now laid on the table of the chart-room of the steamer shows the immensity of that sheet of water pouring into the Bay of Bengal, arising from the melted snow of the Himalayas—that marvellous wall [Pg 157] of snow which separates the two great empires, India and China; fertilising an immense territory, upon which swarms a teeming population of three hundred and fifty-four millions of human beings, now subject to the rule of Queen Victoria!—a small hand wielding a mighty sceptre.

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[Pg 158]



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STEAMING up the Hooghly—perhaps the most intricate of all navigations—the ship is handed over to a pilot—not such as one is used to in other places. The pilots of the Hooghly are “swell” officers, highly salaried, clad in gorgeous naval uniforms. They come on board with bag and baggage, a retinue of black servants, and while on board—more like admiral than pilot—take full command of the ship.

The intricacies of this navigation may be readily gathered from the fact that the channels of the river change almost daily—the process of silting, due to the amount of soil carried by this enormous volume of water, is constant, but erratic. It is only by the constant use of the lead that the pilot can steer a safe course.

Accurate calculations have proved that the silt carried by the Hooghly amounts to 40,000 millions of cubic feet of solid earth per annum. Not only have the channels been altered from time to time, but within the memory of British settlers in India the entire beds of some of these mighty rivers have been completely displaced.

For instance, the city of Rajmahal—once the Mahomedan capital of Bengal—was not many years back selected to be the spot where the railways should tap the river system. The [Pg 159] river has now turned away in a different direction, and left that town high and dry seven miles from its bank. This is one instance only amongst scores of similar vagaries of this great stream.

The sanctity of the Ganges is another item of great interest. From its source in the Himalayas to the mouths in the Bay of Bengal, its banks are holy ground. Each point of junction of the main stream with a tributary has special claims to sanctity; but the tongue of land where the Ganges and the Jumna unite is the true “Praág”—the place of pilgrimage—to which hundreds of thousands of devout Hindus repair to wash away their sins in the sanctifying waters.

To die and be buried on the river bank is the last wish of millions of natives. Even to exclaim “Gangá, Gangá!” on his death-bed, at a distance of hundreds of miles from that river may—in the opinion of Hindu devotees—atone for the sins of a whole life.

Whilst steaming towards the great City of Palaces one has ample time to read up the history of the noble river—to learn of its birth in a Himalaya snow-bed 13,800 feet above the level of the sea, where it first assumes its course, barely 29 feet wide, and fifteen inches deep. During the first 180 miles of its course it drops to an elevation of 7,024 feet. At this point (Hardwar) it has already gained a discharge of 7000 cubic feet per second! During the next 1000 miles of its journey seawards, the Ganges collects the drainage of its catchment basin, and reaches Rajmahal, 1170 miles from its source. It has here a high flood discharge of 1,800,000 [Pg 160] cubic feet of water per second, and an ordinary discharge of 207,000 cubic feet—the longest duration of flood being about forty days.

The maximum discharge of the Mississippi is 1,200,000, that of the Nile only 362,000, and that of the Thames 6600 cubic feet of water per second. I take these figures from L. D. A. Jackson’s “Hydraulic Manual,” as illustrating the great supremacy of the Ganges. The mouth we are now steaming up is 20 miles broad, with a minimum depth in the driest season of 30 feet, yet it is but one of the many openings which spread over 200 miles on the sea coast of Bengal. In endeavouring to convey an idea of the Ganges, we must dismiss from our minds any lurking comparison of its gigantic stream with other rivers we might be familiar with in any other part of the world.

A single one of its many tributaries—the Jumna—has an independent existence of 860 miles, with a catchment basin of 118,000 square miles, and starts from an elevation at its source of 10,849 feet above sea-level.

As a factor in the commercial welfare of India the Ganges plays an important part. Until the opening of the railways its waters formed the almost sole channel of traffic between Upper India and the sea-board. The products not only of the river plains, but even those of the central provinces, were all brought by this route into Calcutta.

Notwithstanding the revolution caused by the railways, the heavier and more bulky staples of the country are still carried by water, and the Ganges still ranks as one of the great waterways [Pg 161] in the world. Many millions of people live by the river traffic along its margin.

Besides this, the Ganges is a river of great historic cities. Calcutta, Patna, and Benares are built on its banks; Agra and Delhi on those of its tributary, the Jumna; and Allahabad on the tongue of land where the two streams meet.

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[Pg 162]



Illustrated letter

I MUST now close the interesting book, “Hunter’s Indian Empire,” which I was perusing. We are nearing our destination. Steamers, tugs, sailing ships, native crafts of various sizes and design, all give evidence that we are drawing near a great emporium of trade, and a metropolitan city.

As we turn the next bend a glorious panorama develops itself before us. The last rays of a tropical sun illuminate the distant city—the gilded domes, the church spires, the forest of masts, framed in gorgeous green foliage, disclose to our eyes the great Eastern city of Calcutta. A few moments more and our big ship is moored alongside the P. and O. Company’s Jetty at Garden Reach.

This dépôt of the great leviathan company is necessarily at some distance from the city. The great tonnage and immense length of the P. and O.’s ships, and their enormous consumption of coal, makes it imperative that they should stop at Garden Reach to land passengers, and coal prior to making their way up to town, whence they start on their outward-bound journey.

All is now bustle and confusion. The wharf is full of gharrys of every class seeking fares to the city. To the uninitiated the gharry is anything [Pg 163] but a tempting vehicle; but throughout India it is, with the palanquin (or, as it is better known, the “palky”) the only public conveyance to be had. The latter, from its name, can be imagined; but the gharry is quite a specialty—a square, black box, some five feet in every face, more or less suspended on very indifferent springs (less rather than more), perched on four very questionable wheels which, when in motion, waddle about as if every turn would be their last. I am now describing the best class of gharry. There are four. I leave it to the reader to sketch out the fourth. What may be said of the conveyance pales into insignificance when a close inspection is bestowed on the horses, and more particularly the harness. In the latter there seemed to me to be a total absence of leather or buckles. Bits of rope, a good deal of rope-yarn, twisted rags, predominate; but all these are quite sufficient to hold the cattle and set the vehicle in motion. The poor, wretched brutes have not the least appearance of life in them. The tout ensemble is complete when the Jehu is perched on the box. The “livery” consists of a few yards of dirty cotton stuff, sometimes wound round his loins—when not round his head as a turban. “Coachy” never has another vestige of clothing, but he is never without an umbrella!—blue, red, white, or green. This indispensable article he freely makes use of, either to poke the horses with, or to protect himself from the rain; and in order to do so effectually he squats on the box, umbrella in one hand and reins in the other. On such occasions the strip of cotton goods which constitutes his sole garment is carefully put under [Pg 164] the box cushion to be kept dry. His skin may get wet, but the “rag” never.

When one gets used to gharrys they are all right, but it takes some time to do it. Like many other Indian “dainties,” it is an acquired taste. Besides other shortcomings, the gharry driver is not only thoroughly ignorant of English; but, to make matters worse, has not the remotest knowledge of locality. When I got my valise safely tied on one of these charming conveyances, I told the driver to take me to the Great Eastern Hotel. We made a start, and after half-an-hour’s jostling from side to side I saw that I was not getting any nearer to town, and naturally attempted to argue the point with my driver, who was in high argument with his assistant—there are always two for a two-horse gharry, one for every horse. All the reply I could elicit was “Acha, sahib,” which I have learned since means “All right.” After several stoppages, and the invariable “Achas,” I found myself at Ballygunge, one of the suburbs of Calcutta, where, by sheer luck, I met that most useful of all British institutions—a policeman!—who administered a few cuts of his cane to my drivers, and a wholesome admonition, which caused them to land me at last at the door of the Great Eastern.

The first step into Eastern life—the most important, if one wishes to get on safely and peaceably in India—is the engagement of a “kitmugar.” This is the servant which one must have, even at an hotel, where food and a bed are provided, but no attendance whatever. Everyone needs this kitmugar, who makes your bed, waits on you hand and foot, and, if he be a [Pg 165] good man, never leaves you, day or night. He has the privilege of robbing his “Barra sahib,” but he takes good care that nobody else does it; and this, let me assure you, is a very important matter in that most interesting country, where the European is looked upon as “fair game” by the three hundred and sixty odd millions of natives.

Next to the engagement of the kitmugar comes the hiring of a “Victoria” and the two other inevitable attendants, viz., coachman and groom. I was particularly lucky in this. An Assam tea planter had just left the hotel, and at the recommendation of the manager I secured the lot—kitmugar, victoria, and coachman—who proved excellent servants during the whole period of my first stay in Calcutta. Master Hassam was a fair English scholar, as sharp as they make them, knew every hole and corner in this immense city, and was a perfect “terror” at a dinner party, when he could fight his way amongst all other servants, and secure for his “Sahib” the daintiest tit-bits of every dish, the best brands of wine, and the biggest lumps of ice. He was quite au fait at bargaining—knew the run of the bazaars—and nothing of any interest could be held within fifty miles without his being able to get us in as “dead-heads.” The amount of lying and romancing he must have had recourse to must have been something astounding.

Wherever I went the natives made way, and granted me a reception which surprised me, until I discovered that Hassam was trading on the “Exhibition ticket,” which was becoming the talk of India, and Calcutta in particular. [Pg 166] Being the kitmugar of the “Barra sahib” of the Exhibition cast a lustre on him which he took good care to keep in the very highest state of polish, inasmuch as he had in view the perquisites of patronage from the hundreds of tradesmen, artisans, and others seeking employment. The rascal knew what he was about. If he did pluck a feather here and there off my back, he took them by handfuls off those who tried to interview me on business; and wherever we went amongst natives he made the most of his chance to “show off” his sahib, and get both his share of the honour and glory, as well as the whole of the “backsheesh.”

During the Doorgha Pooja and other great religious festivities, which in November keep the whole of India—but more particularly Calcutta and other cities on the banks of the sacred rivers—in a state of excitement and gorgeous displays, we had a pretty lively time of it. Day and night we had to attend processions, Nautch dances, fireworks, and gatherings the description of which would cast into the shade tales from the “Arabian Nights.” No one but those who have visited India during the period I am alluding to, can have the least conception of the scenes we witnessed. A city of upwards of a million of inhabitants—with an increase of more than double that number—all clad in gay colours, thronging the thoroughfares day and night in such dense crowds that one could almost walk on their heads; bands of music, heading hundreds of glittering pagodas; images of gods and goddesses of huge proportions being carried and paraded through the streets, followed by dancers, mimes, imps, and devils, elaborately painted [Pg 167] and going on with the most extraordinary antics; balconies and windows being loaded with people, gaily adorned in costly silks, and glittering with jewels, gold and silver lace, spangled banners, &c. For a whole fortnight this carnival continues incessantly, all business is stopped, the whole population perambulates the streets night and day, until at last the costly pagodas, the images of gods and goddesses, wend their way to the river, where, in the midst of the clanging noise of hundreds of bands of music, they are cast into the waters of the sacred river, and Calcutta once more resumes its every-day style of life.

Why Calcutta is called the city of palaces I never could realise. Truly the houses in Chowringhee and in the European portion of the city are large, lofty, and pretentious, but not in any way palatial. The Residence of the Viceroy, or that of the Governor of Bengal at Alipore—and, for the matter of that, all and every one of the public or private buildings—have a clean, gay appearance during the “cold season”: that is, from December till March; but as soon as the rains begin they all assume a dingy, woe-begone appearance, which casts quite a gloom over the whole place.

Calcutta, during the four months above-named, is bright, lively, enchanting—the climate most charming.

The Strand, after 4 P.M., thronged with carriages and horsemen—a gay crowd, which, with the gay trappings of the four-in-hands and the Oriental costume of many of the native princes quite eclipses even Rotten Row or Longchamps.

[Pg 168]

But when the season is over—when vice-royalty and its cumbersome personnel have gone to Simla and Darjeeling—the gay butterfly loses its bright colouring; nothing is left but the unsightly chrysalis. The heat, the damp, with the ills which follow, renders the city anything but a desirable place of residence.

British enterprise has got over the difficulty in some measure, and for those who have to stay in the plains it is now an easy matter to take an occasional run up into the hills—a truly wonderful piece of engineering having conquered the most inaccessible perpendicular walls of the Himalaya ranges. The Darjeeling railway—a 2ft. 6in. guage zig-zag line, carries a mail and passenger traffic daily from Calcutta to that sanatorium, 7000 feet above the sea level. This trip can be accomplished in sixteen hours, and is full of incidents which make it attractive. The first stage is on the broad guage railway to the banks of the Ganges, which is crossed by a large steamer, on board which dinner is served. On the other side begins the narrow guage line, which runs through tea plantations as far as Kurseong.

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[Pg 169]



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SALIGOORI—the lowermost station at the foot of the Himalayas—gives one the first insight into the real Indian jungle, the habitat of the far-famed Bengal tigers and still more dreadful cobra, besides leopards, cheetahs, hyænas, wolves, foxes, and jackals, which, with the wild hog, are reckoned the “big game,” which both natives and Europeans chase for pastime.

The tiger, being the noblest, has the first claim—being the characteristic beast of prey in India. The Bengal tiger is certainly the finest of all mammals—its average length from the point of his nose to the tip of his tail being twelve feet.

In many districts the natives consider the tiger as a sort of protection to their crops, which it saves from destruction by the wild animals on which he feeds. But when once he develops a taste for human blood, the slaughter he works becomes truly formidable. The confirmed man-eater is generally an old beast, disabled from overtaking his usual prey, and seems to accumulate his tale of victims in sheer cruelty rather than for food. A single tiger, now in the Zoological Gardens at Alipore (Calcutta), is known to have killed 108 persons in the course of three years. He was at last trapped, and caged [Pg 170] in the Zoo, and is by far the finest specimen of the species I have ever seen.

Many instances are recorded of even more frightful depredations. In the hills, 13 villages were abandoned, and 250 square miles of country thrown out of cultivation; in 1869, one of these dreadful animals killed 137 people and stopped all traffic on a main public road for several weeks, until the opportune arrival of an English sportsman, who killed him.

Official records are kept of such matters. In 1877, 819 persons and 16,137 head of cattle were reported to have been killed by tigers; on the other hand, 1579 tigers were destroyed by native hunters, and £3777 paid in rewards, besides those killed by European sportsmen.

The leopard and cheetah are smaller and less dangerous to life. The latter is often tamed for hunting purposes, as I shall explain anon.

The wolf, fox, jackal, and hyæna limit their depredations to flocks or children, but being of a timid nature, are easily kept at bay.

The serpent tribe in India is numerous. They actually swarm in gardens, and often intrude into the dwellings of the inhabitants, principally during the rainy season. Certainly the majority are harmless, but the bite of others is speedily fatal. The most to be dreaded is the cobra-de-capello, or hooded snake. It seldom exceeds three or four feet in length, and is about an inch and a quarter thick. The Rupelian snake—about four feet long—is another whose bite is almost instantaneous death. Sir Joseph Fraser states that no antidote has yet been discovered to cure the bite of either of these horrible reptiles.

[Pg 171]

The loss of life from snake bites in India is painful to contemplate, but the extermination of snakes is attended with grave difficulties—from their great number, the character of the country, the rapid undergrowth of the jungle; and, above all, the scruples of the majority of the people, whom caste prevents from destroying life.

Something, however, has been effected by the offer of rewards. In 1877 a total of 16,777 persons are reported as having died from snake-bites, while £811 was paid for the destruction of 127,295 snakes!

The last census of the Indian Empire shows a population of 252,451,210, and this may be accepted as a minimum, owing to the great difficulty existing in obtaining exact returns. Many of the natives evince a great reluctance at giving the true number of their family. The density of the population may be appreciated when a comparison is drawn from the following figures:—France has 180 people to the square mile, England 200, whilst in Bengal the population reaches the enormous number of 1280 persons to each cultivated square mile. The Famine Commissioners in 1880 reported that over six millions of the peasant holdings of Bengal—or two-thirds of the whole—averaged from two to three acres a-piece. Allowing for women and children, this represents a population of about 24,000,000 struggling to live off 15,000,000 acres—or just half-an-acre a-piece.

Unlike other countries, India has few large towns, and no manufacturing centres. In England, for instance, 42 per cent.—or nearly one half of the population—live in towns, with upwards of 20,000 inhabitants; whilst in India [Pg 172] barely 4 per cent.—or not a twentieth of the people—live in towns. India is entirely a rural country.

We see, therefore, in India, a dense population of farmers. Wherever their number exceeds one to the acre—or 640 to the square mile—the struggle for existence becomes a hard task; at half-an-acre a-piece (and it is often so), that struggle is very hard indeed. When a crop fails the Government has a bad time of it to feed the starving millions. Disease and death in such periods, amongst underfed people, is simply horrible.

The opening up of lines of railway throughout this vast empire, now enables the Governments to alleviate the dreadful effects of over-population, and relieve the distress. Still, the fact remains that since the establishment of British rule in India the population has increased materially. The census of 1872 shows an increase of 240,000; the production of the soil being stationary, the future becomes problematical.

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[Pg 173]



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>THE foregoing pages are, I am afraid, rather dry and tiresome, but still, one cannot travel through a country like India with one’s eyes and ears closed; and when it is taken into consideration that we are accustomed to look upon the Indian population with contempt—entirely losing sight of the undeniable fact that when the Gaul and the Saxon were savages, clad in sheep and goat-skins, the Brahmins of India were almost as highly advanced in civilisation as the French and English of the present day—it is natural that in travelling through such a country one should spend a few hours, at least, in studying with interest a people whose history is traceable far beyond the Christian era. W. W. Hunter, in his admirable work on India, traces its history back 3000 years. Vedic temples have been found, showing an advanced state of civilisation several centuries before Christ.

A collection of short lyrical poems, containing 10,580 verses, addressed to the gods, are still in existence.

These people, whom we now treat with contempt, are direct descendants from a nation whose faith, after all, is not so very dissimilar from our own.

Three thousand years have elapsed since the [Pg 174] production of some of these poems or hymns. Religion, like many other matters, may have changed somewhat since then, yet words remain such as these:—“Neither gods nor men reach unto thee, O Indra; Soma is King of Heaven and earth, the conqueror of all.” To Varuna, also, it is said in prayer:—“Thou art Lord of all, of heaven and earth; thou art the King of all those who are gods, and of all who are men.” This evidently shows that they worshipped one god, although not one alone.

Not very far, after all, from the Creed we are so proud of in the year of our Lord, 1889.

At the rate we are daily modifying and twisting it about, I doubt much if in three thousand years from this we shall have as much of the original as the poor Hindus now have of theirs.

I have just come across another Vedic hymn, which I think I should record before leaving a subject which I hand over to my readers to ponder upon at their leisure.

It is a translation from the Sanskrit text by Professor Max Müller, and is in the public libraries in India:—

“In the beginning there arose a Golden Child. He was the one born Lord of all that is; he established the earth and the sky. Who is the God to whom we shall offer our sacrifice?

“He who gives life; he who gives strength; whose command all the bright gods revere; whose shadow is immortality; whose shadow is death. Who is the God to whom we shall offer our sacrifice?

“He who through his power is the one King of the breaking and awakening world; he who [Pg 175] governs all—man and beast. Who is the God to whom we shall offer our sacrifice?

“He through whom the sky is bright and the earth is firm; he through whom the heaven was established—nay, the highest heaven; he who measured out the light and the air. Who is the God to whom we shall offer our sacrifice?

“He who by his height looked even over the water-clouds; he who alone is God above all gods. Who is the God to whom we shall offer our sacrifice?

“The yearning for rest is God; that desire for the wings of a dove, so as to fly away and be at rest, with which noble hearts have ached in all ages.

“Where there is eternal light in the world, where the sun is placed; in the immortal, imperishable world, place me, O Soma!

“Where life is free, in the third heaven of heavens; where the worlds are radiant, there make me immortal! Where there is happiness and delight, where joy and pleasure reside, where our desires are attained—there make me immortal!”

Is there in the whole of our Christian Creed a more simple, more beautifully expressed prayer to the Almighty power?

This hymn, as I said before, was the common prayer of a people 3000 years ago.

The Vedic conception of immortality is not less beautiful in its simplicity:—

“Do thou conduct us to heaven, where our friends dwell in bliss, having left on earth the infirmities of the body—free from lameness, free from blindness, free from crookedness of body—there [Pg 176] let us behold our fathers, forefathers, and our children. May the water-shedding spirits bear us upwards, cooling us with their swift motion through the air, and sprinkling us with dew. Bear us, carry us, with all our faculties complete, to the world of the righteous. Crossing the dark valley which spreadeth boundless around him, let the unborn soul ascend to heaven. Wash the feet of him who is stained with sin; let him go upwards with cleansed feet. Crossing the gloom, gazing with wonder in many directions, let the unborn soul go up to heaven.”

From the Vedas has arisen the great sacred Brahmin caste, which even now ranks highest throughout India. It is regarded as pure, stainless, divine, as well as human, worthy of unbounded admiration and worship. The Brahmin is the general preceptor, the guide of many millions of Hindus, residing in the vast country lying between the Himalayas and Cape Comarin.

The Brahmin is not merely the thinking, but he alone is the reading, man. He possesses and reads the holy books—Vedas, Shastras, and Puranas—he knows the Sanskrit and the Hindu literature—he interprets its secrets to his countrymen.

Of course the Brahminical tribes are now numerous all through India, and education is fast stripping them of their divine assumptions, and reducing them gradually to the condition of ordinary humanity. Still, as they become imbued with our modern ideas and bend to European influence, the Brahmins adhere to their studious habits. They find their way to [Pg 177] the “professions,” which are gradually introduced into the Indian empire.

One of the best pleaders in the courts of Calcutta, my friend Jokonanda Mookerjea, is a Brahmin of the highest caste, but like many of his ancient tribe, he has of late years forfeited the good opinion of his people, owing to his having modified somewhat, or rather relaxed, the strict rules of that caste.

One who has not had much communion with Indians can hardly conceive how strictly, even after a century of close contact with Europeans, the natives keep in its integrity the observance of the caste law. A case is on record of a Brahmin felon, confined in the Calcutta gaol in 1864, who tried to starve himself to death, and submitted to most severe flogging rather than eat food, on account of his scruples as to whether the man who had cooked it was equal in sanctity to his own caste.

Trades of all kinds are classified according to caste. The goldsmiths rank highest, and claim to be the nearest to the Brahmins; the Dattas, or writers, come next; then follow the bankers, merchants, &c., &c., down to the very lowest grade of menial work—barber, man-servant, cook, cook’s mate, sweeper, and, last of all, meter and dome—this last is the only one which will remove the dead, whether man or beast.

If an animal—even a cat, dog, or rat—lies dead on your premises, not one of the scores of servants employed will remove its carcase. A dome has to be sought ere the nuisance can be abated. The meter is the only one who will empty the slops.

[Pg 178]

The rules and regulations of caste are thoroughly well arranged, and strictly adhered to. Each caste has its guild, guild funds, charities. Indeed, in this, like in many others, “we,” the conceited civilisers of the world, are following in the footsteps of the most ancient people of the earth.

I fail to see much difference between our trades and labour unions and the “caste” of India, where one man is not allowed to do any other work than that of his “caste.” Hence the unavoidable nuisance of even the humblest paid European having to employ a dozen servants. The cook is not allowed to wash a plate or carry the meal into the parlour; the kitmugar will bring your boots to your dressing room, but his “caste” forbids him to clean them. The native clerk will copy and address a letter, but he will hand it over to the “Péon,” who alone can carry it to its destination. The “Dobbee” will wash your clothes, but you must employ a water carrier to fetch the water used in the laundry. This very interesting trade and labour union, like the “Vedic” creed, dates from an almost “pre-Adamite” period.

The longer I live, the firmer I believe that there is nothing new under the sun, and that from the beginning of the world it has been the lot of humanity to “prey” on one another. My firm belief is that as it was in the beginning it is now, and ever shall be, to the end of the chapter.

A while ago I put down my pen, thinking that I had allowed it to run too freely into very uninteresting matters. I find that the last few [Pg 179] pages are almost as much so. Still, some of my readers may feel interested in such. Those who do not have a very easy remedy—“skip” them. “Scripta manent,” they are written; let them remain.

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[Pg 180]



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WHILST in Calcutta—being there for the sole object of initiating an International Exhibition, it became urgent to disseminate amongst the native population the purpose of such a venture.

H.E. the Viceroy (Lord Ripon) and the Governor of Bengal, Mr. (now Sir Rivers) Thompson, were very doubtful as to the success of this Exhibition, owing to the prejudices of the Indian population, and the erroneous impression they would have of a thing quite beyond their comprehension, and, moreover, in direct contravention with their ultra-conservative ideas. They feared that the strict zenana laws would not permit the female portion of the people to visit my Exhibition.

Whilst fully appreciating the validity of such serious obstacles, I did not quite give up hopes of overcoming them. As a rule I do not object to a few “balks”—I think that life is a kind of hurdle race—mine has been so all through. I was not born to enter into a flat one. I certainly do think that difficulties give a zest to and enhance the value of the result of one’s undertakings.

In this instance I made up my mind to at once face the opposition. I sought and readily obtained introductions to the principal native notabilities of Calcutta.

[Pg 181]

Maharajah Sir Jotindra Tagore, Bart.; Maharajah Bahadur of Cooch Behar, Rajah Krishna, Rajah Rajendra Mullick, Prince Mahomed, Furruck Shah, the Maharajah of Paikpara; and, above all, my worthy friend the late Kristodas Pal (the able and learned editor of the Patriot), Nawab Abdool Luteef, and last, though not least, my doctor—Kanny Lall Dey—were my friends and helpmates, as far as the Hindu portion was concerned. Amongst the Parsees my task was much easier. They are, of course, more easily approached; they live more like ourselves. But even with them I had the good fortune to meet an able coadjutor, Mr. Mettra, who did not wait for a call, but of his own accord came to me a few days after my arrival in Calcutta, and proffered a friendship which I hope will last a lifetime.

A meeting was called by the Chairman of the Anglo-Indian Club. A large number of the leading natives of Calcutta and the surrounding country responded. The objects of the Exhibition were fully explained to the meeting; a number of questions asked. A unanimous resolution was adopted that every assistance should be given to me to carry out my venture, and immediate steps taken to disseminate through even the most remote parts of the empire the objects of the International Exhibition.

The enthusiasm of the gentlemen present can best be realised when I say that one of the native maharajahs tendered to me a cheque for a lac of rupees (£10,000) in case I should be short of funds. At the instigation of the meeting I consented to deliver some lectures at the Hindu and Mahomedan colleges. These lectures [Pg 182] were translated into the various dialects of India and circulated broadcast throughout the country. This, and the assistance of the English as well as the native Press, created sufficient excitement amongst the people to cause a large influx at the opening. In a few weeks after that day small numbers of Indians came to see and report. Ere the first month was ended the curiosity began to spread far and wide, until at last the avenues leading to the Exhibition, and the Exhibition itself, were thronged with visitors eager to see the “Barra Bazaar.”

In order, if possible, to break through the impenetrable barrier of the zenana, the Sunday afternoon was set aside for the admission of “females.” All male attendants were removed, close screens erected round the entrance gates, and invitations issued to the leading natives in the city. Several thousands responded. The number nearly doubled on the second Sunday, after which I intimated that MY caste precluded Sabbath-breaking, so that in future, if “ladies” wished to see the Exhibition, they must come on week days with the men.

Although native women are not “visible,” they visit one another in the “zenanas,” and like all belonging to the fair sex, “TALK!” Those who had seen the Exhibition gave an amplified description of its wonders to their friends. Curiosity is a weakness of the sex, let the colour be what it will. In India, as it is elsewhere, women have a will of their own. They very soon persuaded their lords and masters that a thick muslin cloud might be used to hide their charms from the public gaze, without preventing them seeing the “show.” The end was that the [Pg 183] sexes mixed in equal numbers. The revolution was complete. The women of India had conquered their liberty, and, as Lord Ripon publicly stated, I may claim to be their liberator. Wherever I visited native gentlemen, I was always asked to sit in the centre of the drawing-room, in order that the invisible ladies of the household might, through “peep holes,” have a look at the man to whom they owed their view of the Barra Bazaar.

In some instances native Princes purchased at a high figure the sole right of the Exhibition for a few hours, so that their wives or mothers might have a quiet, undisturbed ramble through it. So great came the demand for such a favour that in some instances their visits took place in the night, after the closing, and extended until near daylight.

As might be expected amongst people of high refinement—as most undeniably the upper class of Indians are—such small acts of courtesy on my part had a great influence. One and all of our distinguished visitors expressed their grateful thanks personally, and expressed a wish that I should, at the close of my labours in Calcutta, visit them in their respective provinces.

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[Pg 184]



Illustrated letter

BEING delayed at the close of the Exhibition in settling accounts with the Government, facilities were given us to visit the interior of the country. A train was placed at our disposal, with instructions sent to the various lines to take it wherever we wished to go. Our farewell from Calcutta was such as to leave an ever-lasting impression. The kindness and hospitality of the many friends we made during our stay in that great city will never be forgotten.

Our first stop was at the great sacred city of Benares, passing through Burdwan and Khana, in the province of Moorshedabad, Luckeeserai and Putna, reaching Dinapure at daylight next morning.

This first night spent in a sleeping car, being a novelty, was not quite as productive of rest as might have been expected, although every comfort had been provided for us: the narrow bunks, the jolting, and last, though not least, the want of the punkah, which we had become used to in Calcutta, kept us awake part of the time, and in order to wile away the hours, we improvised sundry meals—supper, tea and coffee, and early breakfast—which, however, did not in any way prevent us doing complete justice to that which awaited us at Dinapure.

Here we availed ourselves of the privilege [Pg 185] granted to stop whenever we chose, and after breakfast went for a stroll through the Bazaar, and to see the junction of the various branches of the mighty Ganges. Here the Tone, and a short distance further the Gogra join the main stream, fertilising the plains, which, even under the most primitive mode of tillage, yield enormous quantities of wheat, which we saw in huge piles in the open market, retailed at one rupee a bushel.

What these plains could produce in the hands of skilled husbandmen would feed the world.

When the great railway extension scheme now under consideration by the Government of India is carried out, the wheat production of the central provinces of India will materially affect the price of bread stuffs throughout the world.

Indian natives have an excellent memory for faces. We had not been many minutes in the Dinapure Bazaar before we were recognised as the “Exhibition Wallahs,” and treated accordingly. Indeed, throughout the whole of our trip, we met with similar treatment, which doubtless had a great influence in the good feeling we all have, and shall ever cherish, of India and the Indians.

Another train being due at 11 a.m., we caused our “caravan” to be hooked on, and proceeded to Moghal-Serai, the nearest station to the sacred city.

Here dwell the celebrated artistic “potters” of Central India. From Moghal-Serai come all the black, black and silver jars, figures, and ornaments which one sees all through India. Ornaments highly valued in Europe can here be purchased for a few “pice” (farthings). I need [Pg 186] not say that we nearly filled a waggon with some of these specimens of Indian pottery, which, however, did not lumber us long. If they are pretty, and even artistic in design, they fail in the baking. The first jolting of the train materially decreased our collection. The few pieces we have brought out safe were those which were packed in our valises, carefully wrapped with soft materials. The fragility easily accounts for the increased value this ware acquires at a distance from the place whence it comes.

Having left our goods and chattels and servants in the train, we drove to the river side, and were ferried across the Ganges—Benares being situated on the west bank, the native town skirts the sacred river. The Burna flows into the Ganges, just north of the Raj Ghât, and flows between the civil station and the cantonments.

Benares is the first city of the north-western provinces, and is well known as the stronghold of Hindooism. It covers an area of 3141 acres, with a population of 500,000, and stands about 270 feet above the sea level.

The trade and manufactures are principally silks, shawls, cloth, embroideries in gold and silver thread, gold filigree work, and, above all, chased brass work. The wealth of Benares, however, mainly depends upon the constant influx of rich pilgrims, whose presence lends the same impetus to the local trade as that given to European watering places by the season visitors.

Many of these pilgrims are rajahs, or other persons of importance, who bring considerable retinues, and become large benefactors to the [Pg 187] various shrines or temples. Hindu princes pride themselves upon keeping up a “town residence in Holi-Kasi.” But besides the wealth which thus flows passively into the bazaars of Benares, a considerable trade is carried on by the merchants and bankers. The sugar, indigo, and saltpetre of the district finds a market in the city. The trans-Gagra products of Gorakhpur and Basti, and the raw materials of Jaunpur, form large items in the through traffic of Benares. Manchester goods are imported in considerable quantities and distributed to the neighbouring local centres.

Wheat, barley, pulse of various kinds, maize, oil seeds, most of the esculent vegetables of Europe, rice, and hemp are amongst the staple products of the soil; but the most important article is the sugar cane. Benares surpasses every other part of India in the abundance and excellence of quality of sugar produced.

We made our way straight for Clark’s Hotel, where our old friend the Maharajah of Benares had secured quarters for us. The Residence of His Highness is some distance from the hotel, and the old gentleman, after making every apology for having located us here, said that after dinner he would come and fetch us to attend a “nautch” at the palace; but that he feared we could not be made as comfortable with him as we would at an hotel kept by Europeans.

We found, however, that the Maharajah had given orders on a lavish and royal scale. In fact, the whole of the hotel was “ours”—the other residents were to be “our guests.” The meals were of such a profuse kind, the wines of [Pg 188] so varied a description, that we felt almost over-powered. When we attempted remonstrance the landlord said, “It is the wish of the Maharajah that it be so, and I dare not disobey His Highness’s orders.”

At about eight o’clock carriages drove up to the door, and we were taken straight to the palace at Ramnaggar. This—the fort, garden house, and temple of the Maharajah—are well worthy of a visit. The temple is a huge building one hundred feet high, the greater part of which was built by Rajah Chait-Singh, but completed by the present Maharajah. The whole edifice is remarkable for its execution, specially as regards the sculpture.

The garden house is also about a mile from the fort. A magnificent tank is attached to it. It is a square, having a temple at each corner. A handsome “ghât” surrounds it, where hundreds of pilgrims can bathe and dress comfortably.

Ramnaggar is one of the five celebrated places of pilgrimage in Benares. Hindus dying there are sure to enter the abodes of the blessed without their souls undergoing transmigration, which, in their idea, is a far worse fate than the eternal cremation we have such a wholesome dread of.

The palace—or, at least, the portion of the palace thrown open for our reception—is furnished in the European style. The rooms are lofty and well-proportioned. On this occasion they were brilliantly lit up, and filled with the elite of the native population. Our host was most attentive. He had provided every imaginable variety of refreshments, music, singers, [Pg 189] jugglers, and the inevitable “nautch,” which went on without any intermission the whole evening—one set of dancers following another when exhausted by their incessant whirling round and abominably discordant song.

The hospitality of Indian princes is something beyond description. They, who are most abstemious and simple both in food and drink, must look upon Europeans as a voracious and thirsty race. Whilst with Indians, we were everlastingly pressed to either eat or drink; and wherever we went—sight-seeing, hunting, boating, or riding—coolies were sent ahead of us with tents, provisions, and all the most luxurious appliances for comforting the inner man.

The Maharajah’s entertainment lasted until a very late hour. I should perhaps be nearer the truth if I said an early hour on the following morning.

We, however, turned out to breakfast in good time, as he had arranged to have carriages and horses to take us round the ghâts, temples, and palaces for which Benares is famous.

According to appointment, we proceeded first to the palace of His Highness the Maharajah of Vizianagram, situated in Bhelepur. This is one of the finest palaces in this city of palaces, having been specially reconstructed and decorated to receive His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales during his stay in Benares. In order to convey an idea of the magnitude of that princely residence it will suffice to say that the entrance hall is 100ft. by 50ft. The furniture and appointments in all the reception rooms are thoroughly [Pg 190] European, but, as in most Indian residences, there is a certain incongruous mixture of the most costly articles side by side with ornaments or pictures of the commonest kind—real bronzes and costly marble statuary being placed in close proximity with plaster casts of the most trivial value. Gaudily-coloured prints, in cheap frames, are mixed up amongst original paintings by well-known masters.

H.H. of Vizianagram only visits this residence once or twice a year, on pilgrimage, but still keeps up the retinue and style of the place; and the officer in charge dispenses the most royal hospitality to visitors authorised by his master to have an entrée to this magnificent and really interesting place.

Our next visit was to the Golden Temple (Bisheshan) dedicated to Siva, the presiding deity of Benares. This temple is looked upon as being the holiest of all holy places in the sacred city. The symbol of the god is a plain Lingam of uncarved stone.

Prior to describing this temple I shall digress to explain this extraordinary “divinity,” termed the Lingam god, the original having, under the most extraordinary, binding, and strict conditions, been entrusted to my care to be exhibited in the Gem Gallery of the Calcutta Exhibition. I cannot do better than transcribe the printed form which was handed to me for distribution by the special attendants who were placed in charge of this valuable exhibit, and never lost sight of it during the whole period of the Exhibition.

“This unique object of interest, the original [Pg 191] Hindoo Lingam god, from one of the most ancient temples of ‘Dilly,’ now Delhi, consists of an extraordinary chrysoberyl cat’s-eye, of great size and brilliancy, set in a very large topaz. The whole supports, on an Indian native gold base, encrusted with diamonds, and set round with nine gems of great value, called the ‘nine charms,’ represented by the following precious stones: diamond, ruby, sapphire, chrysoberyl, cat’s-eye, coral, hyacinthine, garnet, yellow sapphire, and emerald.

“This extraordinary historical relic has a two-fold interest, principally on account of its great antiquity and repute, and, secondly, as containing one of the most curious and brilliant cat’s-eyes known.

“The Lingam god is well known to all who have visited the East, as representing the deity to whom the Hindoo ladies pay devotion, with the object of obtaining lineal descent, and this identical god is the original one, to whom annually thousands of devotees of every rank journeyed from all parts of India to pay their devotions for a period of upwards of 1000 years, until about the year 1193, when the Mahomedan conqueror, Kulb-ud-din, having wrested Delhi from the Hindoo kings, destroyed twenty-seven temples to obtain the materials to build the great Mahomedan mosque of Kulb-Musjid, which to this day perpetuates his name.

“On the destruction of the Hindoo temples above referred to, this relic was placed for safety in the Mogul Treasury, and carefully preserved as an unique specimen of a gem which is credited, independently of its sacred [Pg 192] character, of conferring great good fortune to its possessor.

“The Lingam god remained in the Mogul Treasury for a period of 664 years, until the outbreak of the Indian Mutiny in 1857, when it was removed, with other valuables, by the Queen of Bad Shah Bahadoor Shah, the last King of Delhi, who was exiled by the British Government, and died at Rangoon. It was subsequently parted with by her during the unsettled period of the Mutiny.

“It is estimated that the number of Hindoos who have actually prayed to this same god number many hundreds of millions.”

To return to the Golden Temple in which this “precious deity” is located. It was erected by Ahalya Bai, the Maharatta Princess of India, and has a central spire, each corner of the building being crowned by a dome. Maharajah Ranjeet Singh of Lahore had the spire and dome covered with thin plates of gold, and hence its name of Golden Temple. In the temple there is a reservoir about 3ft. square and 1-1/2ft. deep. In this reservoir the pecuniary offerings of wealthy and distinguished worshippers are thrown.

Maharajah Ranjub Singh filled it on one occasion with gold mohurs, but it is often filled with rupees, and almost daily with copper coins.

Close to the Golden Temple is the Gyan-gapi, or well of knowledge, where the natives believe Siva resides. The legend says that during a drought, which extended over twelve years, a priest (Rishi) dug up the earth on this spot with the trident of Siva, and at once came a flow of [Pg 193] water, which immediately put an end to the famine, and the consequent affliction of the people. Since then Siva has, in the Hindoo mind, lived in the well. Thousands of devout followers of Siva may be seen worshipping there, and offering flowers to their god in the well.

A colonnade of forty pillars was built over it in 1828 by Maharani Iri Mout Baija Bai, widow of Dowlat Scindia, Bahadur of Gwalior.

In the courtyard is the figure of a huge stone bull, six and a half feet high, which is dedicated to Mahadeo, and which was the gift of the Rajah of Nepaul. There is also a temple dedicated to Mahadeo, which was presented by the Rane of Hyderabad.

Next is the Temple of Ad-Bisheswar, which is in a dilapidated and almost dangerous condition; east of this is Kashi-Karwat, with a sacred well, having a passage leading to the river. Further on is the temple dedicated to Sanichar or Saturn. The idol has a solid silver head, with a cloth tied round the neck to hide the want of a body. This deity is the dread of the Hindoo.

We now visited the Temple of Anpurna. The goddess to whom this temple is dedicated is held in great veneration, for it is alleged that she protects the faithful from hunger. There, daily, an immense number of beggars are fed; and at any time mendicants may be seen waiting near the entrance for their dole.

Offerings of grain, rice, and other food, as well as money donations made by more wealthy worshippers, are gathered in a stone box, and are distributed daily to the beggars at the entrance. The figure of the goddess Anpurna [Pg 194] represents a charming creature decked out with gold and silver ornaments to fascinate the worshippers. This temple was erected in 1725 by the Rajah of Poona. It has a tower and a dome, and stands in the centre of a quadrangle, in the four corners of which stand four smaller shrines.

The temples of Sakhi-Binayaka, Sukreswar, Bhaironath, are all pretty much in the same style as those already described, and do not call for special notice. We now come to the shrine dedicated to Sika, the goddess of small-pox, whom Hindoos pay most particular court to, in order, no doubt, to preserve themselves from that disease—their faith in Sika being quite as great as ours is in Dr. Jenner’s system of inoculation. It may here be worth mentioning that small-pox is quite a recognised complaint throughout India; and, indeed, in exceptional periods when, owing to atmospheric influences, its spread exceeds the usual course, is not thought much more of than any other disease. There are, certainly, in large cities like Calcutta, Bombay, &c., a small-pox hospital, but isolation is seldom if ever resorted to. Whilst we were in Calcutta, one of my children went to school in a house divided into flats. The teacher resided on the first floor. The family occupying the ground floor had two cases of small-pox, which did not hinder any of the pupils from attending the school, although they had to pass through the hall, and unavoidably come in daily contact with members of the family of the patients.

I may also mention that in many instances during the Calcutta Exhibition, where natives used to throng the turnstiles for admission, we called the attention of the police to several people whose appearance denoted visible signs of [Pg 195] that dreadful malady. The most striking instance, and, to my mind, the most shocking, was that of a hawker of sweetmeats, who used to squat in front of the main entrance, carrying on a roaring trade with the lower class of native visitors to the Exhibition. I noticed that his face, neck, and gradually the whole of his body, was covered with pustules. When I called the attention of a medical man to this, he said, “Well, I think it is time that this fellow was sent to the Hospital,” and we had him removed at once.

At least one in fifty of the natives who paid for admission had purchased sweetmeats from that fellow, received change, which was handed to us at the turnstiles, still clammy with the perspiration of the hands of a man in the third or fourth stage of smallpox.

This in the very heart of a city with a million of inhabitants. Yet the disease does not spread, and is not thought half as much of as we do of measles or scarlatina. I cannot but think that it is owing to several causes—first, the innate cleanliness of the Hindoo race, who wash their bodies several times a day; secondly, to the almost constant working of the pores of the skin, caused by the peculiar heat of the climate; and last, though not least, I think that infection is carried amongst Europeans by the woollen texture of their garments, bed covers, hangings, &c., whereas the natives of India never use any covering other than cotton or linen, and very little of that even. My theory may be wrong, but the fact remains; not only relating to smallpox, but to cholera or typhoid fever, which are permanent in India, but never thought much of by natives.

[Pg 196]



Illustrated letter

IF one wished to describe all the temples or places of worship in Benares it would fill a volume. Like picture galleries in the Italian cities, so are temples here—one day at them is quite enough. There seems to be a place of worship dedicated to every whim or fancy of the worshippers. Amongst the many, I will quote the temple of Kameshwar, the “God of Desires,” whose duty is to grant all the wishes of the worshippers. The wishes of mankind being innumerable, it is not surprising that Kameshwar has a legion of worshippers, and I should say his hands are full if he grants one-thousandth-part of the prayers addressed to him.

But, of all the temples, commend me to Durga-Kund, or monkey temple. It is dedicated to the bloody goddess Durga, and stands in the centre of a quadrangle surrounded by high walls. In front of the temple stands a building in which hangs a drum, which calls the devout to worship, and on either side of this building is a small temple. Entering the quadrangle two lions of stone are seen crouching on either side of the pathway. These animals bear Durga on their backs whenever it pleases the goddess to take a ride. Near by are two shrines, one dedicated to Ganesh and the other to Mahadeo.

Before the temple there is a porch. Though [Pg 197] this porch joins with the temple, it must not be supposed that both temple and porch were built at one and the same time, or by the same person. The temple was built during the last century by the Maharatti Rani Bhawani, who also built the tank at the north of the building, and the porch by a pensioned native officer. The large bell in the enclosure is the gift of the Rajah of Nepaul.

Durga has a face of silver, is draped in gorgeous apparel, and has a necklace composed of massive gold coins. In front of her is a silver bath, before which a lamp burns continually. Outside, on the northern side of the temple, is a large tank.

As the name implies, this temple is devoted to the worship of monkeys, as well as to the reverence of Durga. Monkeys in incalculable numbers crowd round the temple and the tank, in which it is most amusing to see them bathing. Indeed, long before the precincts of the temple are reached, monkeys are met with on the road-side. They seem to know that they enjoy perfect immunity in that neighbourhood, and they thoroughly enjoy their liberty. Vendors of grain, nuts, and sweetmeats are also here in numerous array, visitors purchasing their wares to distribute them amongst the strange animals who follow and surround visitors all day long, but never beyond the boundary of the temple grounds, beyond which, if caught, they are transported. Strange though it may seem, not even the daintiest morsel will allure one of these mischievous animals beyond the sacred limit.

An object of great interest in this locality is the venerable tamarind tree on the south of the [Pg 198] temple, in the huge hollow trunk of which all the baby-monkeys are born. Around that tree young and old mothers may be seen, attending with the utmost maternal care on their young—nursing, feeding, or playing with them. The solicitude and anxious look of some of these for puny, sickly “babies” is most ludicrous to watch.

After our long visit to the temples we took a cursory look at the various ghâts—Raj ghât, Shivala Ghât, and at last Sarnath, which, next to the Taj-Mahal at Agra, is one of the most remarkable buildings in India; the great Buddhist tower near Sarnath being one of the oldest buildings in the East, its origin belonging to several centuries prior to the Buddhist era.

Nearly exhausted by the long day’s sight-seeing, we had, however, to pay a visit to the new town hall erected by his Highness the Mararajah of Vizianagram, in commemoration of H.R.H. the Duke of Edinburgh’s visit to this city, and opened by the Prince of Wales. H.H. the Maharajah, with his usual princely generosity, presented the building, furnished and complete, to the municipality of Benares.

I heartily confess that I never had a harder day’s work in my life, nor did I ever enjoy a bath, a dinner, and a bed more than I did on our return to our quarters.

On the following day we had a thorough overhaul of all the shops, bazaars, and factories, and returned with carriages full of all kinds of brass, silver, and copper wares, embroidered silk and cloth, earthen figures, and a heap of odds and ends, sufficient to fill a museum. I may as well sum it up by saying that when we [Pg 199] left Bombay for Australia we had seventy-seven large packages, filled to the brim with purchases made during our trip from Calcutta.

We took a most affectionate leave of our hospitable friend Maharajah Singh, who made us promise that some day we would again favour him with a visit in Benares. Alas, poor old fellow! we shall see him no more. I saw in one of the telegrams from India, a few weeks ago, that he died at Benares in the early part of August.

Decorative image

[Pg 200]



Illustrated letter

OUR next stage was Allahabad, on the delta formed by the junction of the two greatest rivers in the world, the Jumna and the Ganges. The bridge over the former, which carries the train over the mighty stream, is a wonderful feat of engineering. To look over and see the speed at which the current carries this immense sheet of water under the bridge gives one a shudder, and unwittingly one grasps the iron railing with a force which cramps one’s hands. It seems as if the bridge was receding under one’s feet.

After Benares, Allahabad seems almost an European city, and therefore loses much of its attractions. It is, however, well worthy of a visit, as a great emporium of trade, as well as a great manufacturing city, one of the principal items being the manufacture of carpets, which here are made by machinery, and not merely by hand, as they are manufactured through other parts of India. In colour and appearance they are equally fine, but if they are much cheaper than those that are hand made, they lack in durability and finish. We might have tarried in Allahabad, but the weather was intensely hot, and a hot day in that city is not to be easily forgotten. We therefore moved on to Cawnpore, which was full of reminiscences of the great [Pg 201] Mutiny, and even now is strongly garrisoned by English troops. Here are the great leather manufactories, and again the black earthen pottery we had met in a more crude and primitive state at Moghal-Serai. Having no particular reason to stay here, we pushed on to Agra, where we intended making a halt for a couple of days. We made straight for Fizarabad for dinner; slept at Tunala, and having started in the cool of the morning, reached Agra in time for breakfast.

It was not food we were craving for. Long before we reached the station our eyes had rested on that most marvellous structure, the Taj-Mahal, which has been justly termed the seventh marvel of the world, and still more appropriately, “a dream in marble.” Miles away, on the other side of the Jumna, cut in sharp outlines against the blue Indian sky, soaring above the green foliage, the gigantic white marble dome and marble minarets can be seen, increasing in size as the train draws nearer and nearer; but this hasty glimpse of the huge mausoleum gives a very poor idea of its stupendous size and awfully grandiose reality.

We had no patience until the carriages came to the door, and we were driven to the spot. Alas! The task of describing this monument is beyond my powers. In the face of it man is struck dumb—a feeling of insignificance creeps over one.

I have searched in vain for a true and faithful description of the Taj in the various books published on India, and am gratified to see that those who have preceded me at Agra have, like [Pg 202] myself, dropped both pen, brush, or pencil. Photography has made an attempt to portray it, but even this has proved a most miserable failure.

I must confine myself to historical facts. In the year 1623, the reigning prince (Shah Jehan), at the death of his wife, decided that he would erect a mausoleum which would, until the “crack of doom,” make her last resting-place on earth a memorable spot. Indian princes, when they make up their mind to achieve an object, seldom calculate the cost. It has to be, and—it is done.

Strange to relate, after searching the world for an architect, an obscure man—French by birth, a native of Bordeaux—submitted plans to this Eastern ruler—plans and estimates which one would think would stamp the projector as a confirmed lunatic.

Shah Jehan, however, at once accepted them; furthermore, he instructed the architect to proceed forthwith with the work. Materials were sought and brought out from the remotest regions of the globe.

To sum up this sketch, I will quote these authentic facts, viz., that twenty thousand work-men were employed incessantly for twenty-two years to complete this monument.

At the completion of the work His Highness became so intoxicated with the pride of ownership that, fearing lest some other prince of the earth should copy it, he caused the plans to be destroyed; and, horrible to relate, he had the architect’s eyes gouged out to prevent his furnishing any one with copies of the originals (which had been burnt by the prince’s own [Pg 203] hands), whilst on the other hand he loaded him with riches, honours, &c.! My poor countryman died of a broken heart, having learned too late how fallacious it is to put trust in princes.

If this wonderful structure strikes the traveller with awe and admiration when seen from outside, his feelings are greatly intensified when he crosses its threshold; and at the foot of the mausoleum, under the centre of the dome, the awful silence becomes almost unbearable. Words cling to one’s tongue, and whispering is the only possible way of exchanging thoughts. Such whispers are carried up in the air to the apex of the huge dome—towering hundreds of feet above one’s head—repeated tenfold by mysterious echoes, and for several minutes are wafted from one side of the building to the other.

A prayer, or hymn, or tune sung in the lowest possible key, is likewise repeated crescendo until it reaches an almost deafening pitch; then again gradually becomes lower and lower until the last note is lost in the death-like silence which pervades this great marble sepulchre.

At each corner of the immense square on which the Taj-Mahal stands, are four white marble towers, with circular stairs leading to the minarets at the top. From these a grand view of the Taj can be had, as well as of the majestic Jumna, whose waters bathe the foot of the edifice.

Marvellous as it is to see the Taj in daylight—difficult as it is to describe its grandeur and beauty—much more marvellous and indescribable does it become when seen by moonlight. The soft effect of the rays of the moon vaporises [Pg 204] the outlines, the white marble assumes a bluish tint, and the stillness of the night—all add to the enchantment.

Indeed, before leaving Agra, one should pay a score of visits to this place—see it at sunrise, at noon, at sunset, and, above all, by moonlight, unless the visitor can afford the luxury which was provided for H.R.H. the Prince of Wales, and have it specially lit up with electricity. But I very much doubt if it can outdo a clear, full moonlit night. Hunter, in his description of the Taj, most appropriately terms it “a monument designed by Titans and furnished by jewellers.”

Not content with the Taj, Emperor Shah Jehan endowed his capital with other monuments of great artistic and architectural beauty. The Pearl Mosque (Moli-Musjid) is the purest and loveliest house of prayer in the world. Like all other structures erected by this emperor, white marble is the only material used; but in this instance the panels are studded with most costly gems. Another mosque, built by him in Delhi (Jama-Musjid) was commenced in the fourth year of his reign and finished in the tenth.

The palace at Delhi—now the fort—covers a vast parallelogram, 1600ft. by 3200ft., with most exquisite buildings in marble and fine stone. A deeply-recessed portal leads into a vaulted hall, rising two stories like the nave of a gigantic Gothic cathedral, and 375 feet in length—the noblest entrance to any existing palace.

The Diwan-i-Khas, or court of private audience, overlooks the river—a masterpiece of delicate inlaid work of poetic design. Last, though not least, this emperor built the city of [Pg 205] Shagehanabad (now New Delhi), and in his palace had the famous peacock throne, which was the most valuable of that brilliant epoch—the jewels alone being valued at £6,500,000.

Beyond these great “lions” Agra had not much to engross our attention—the carpet manufactories and a few temples and palaces—but after Benares the latter had little or no further attractions. The patient and accurate working of the carpet-makers is well worthy of mention, more particularly the work done by prisoners in the Agra jail, where the choicest and most elaborate carpets are made. The loom stands on a perpendicular frame, with two men on either side, and the pattern lays on the floor; the wool, silk, or cotton material, as the case may be, is passed from one side to the other, and “clipped” when properly fixed. These carpets are, of course, reversible. Four men, working twelve hours, are reckoned good hands if they can finish satisfactorily five inches square a-day; but as the job is generally given to men who have long sentences to serve, time is no object. At Allahabad the same carpets are made by machinery, but they cannot compare either for durability, finish, or even beauty, with those made in the Agra penitentiaries.

Agra was the only place where we were left to our own devices. Our friend, Dr. Tyler, had been summoned to Simla on official business; we therefore had to fight our way as we best could.

[Pg 206]



Illustrated letter

ON the third day after our arrival our movements had been made known in the neighbourhood. A telegram came from Dholpore, sent by Colonel Deniehy, the Resident, who, on behalf of the Maharajah, wished us to make a stay at His Highness’s palace.

Having no further reason to prolong our stay at Agra, we “hooked on” to the train, and in three hours reached the Dholpore station, where the genial face of Colonel Deniehy greeted our landing in the young prince’s dominions.

Carriages, and an escort of mounted troopers, commanded by the prince’s staff officer, Goby Singh (one of the handsomest Indian officers we had met in our travels), led us to the palace!

Here the Maharajah gave us the heartiest welcome. He expressed his regret that the laws and customs of his country precluded him from admitting us to the interior of his “house,” but the ladies would be welcomed by the Rani (his mother), or the Maharani (his wife); whilst we of the sterner sex would be entertained by his good friend Colonel Deniehy in the part of the palace which had been specially prepared for us.

After this kind speech the young prince led the way to the dining-room, where a sumptuous repast had been prepared, but, as usual, our host sat as a looker-on only. After tiffin we visited our apartments, which showed the [Pg 207] minutious solicitude of our hospitable entertainer. Every luxury had been provided for us—even a billiard-room.

So that we might not find the hours hang heavily on our hands, books, albums, and periodicals were in abundance on all the tables. At my bedside a few of the latest French novels were placed—new, but with leaves already cut, so that even this trouble might be spared!

I cannot convey a better idea of the strange but thorough hospitality of these people than to mention that whilst chatting with the Maharajah in the drawing-room, a fly came buzzing round my head, and I naturally chased it away once or twice with my hand. At a sign from the prince a servant crept noiselessly behind me, with a short cane, furnished with a round leather flap at the end of it. I discovered that this fellow’s duty was to keep off the flies—a duty he performed with extraordinary talent.

A “council” was held, and a plan drawn of excursions, hunting, and sight-seeing. Some of these, of course, only “the boys” and myself could attend; whilst later in the afternoons, when the sun’s rays were less intense, the ladies could join. It was during one of these afternoon drives that we witnessed one of the most impressive ceremonies of Indian customs—the cremation of the dead.

We had seen a good deal of cremation in Calcutta, where it is done in a special building, and where, at times, as many as half-a-dozen or more bodies are reduced to ashes in a few hours; but the matter-of-fact method adopted at the Calcutta cremating place are most repulsive.

[Pg 208]

In this instance the surroundings were most appropriate. We had left the carriages in a grove close by; the sun was about setting; Goby Singh, who accompanied us, had taken us out in a boat to drift with the current on the Chambal (a fine river, which pours its contingent into the Jumna near Calpi); the evening was calm, and the banks of the river studded with magnificent foliage. As our boat, drifting with the current, rounded a headland, we noticed a small procession of men coming down the bank of the river carrying a litter covered with flowers. We dropped a small kedge and watched the sequel. Close to the water’s edge a pile of sandalwood had been prepared. Here the procession stopped, the litter—upon which lay the dead body—was carefully laid on tressles. Four of the party then led the nearest relative of the deceased person to the river, where he was bathed, anointed with perfumes, dressed in new white garments, and prepared for the sacrifice. During that time oil and perfumes, as well as flowers, had been placed on the pile of wood, the body of the dead placed reverently on the top, and actually covered with flowers. The chief mourner (being the next of kin) slowly approached the place. All those present knelt, with their heads touching the ground, whilst the chief mourner, with a lighted torch, set fire to the pyre at each corner, then at each centre. In an instant the flames encircled the body, and the mourners retired a short distance to recite the prayers for the dead.

The sun had sunk below the horizon—a soft twilight alone remained. The glassy surface of the water reflected most accurately every line of [Pg 209] this sad ceremony—the flames, the smoke, the very figures of the mourners in their picturesque Eastern garments, being repeated on the water as in a mirror. The perfect stillness of everything around rendered the scene most impressive and touching. My ideas of cremation in this way were materially altered. Shocking as it seems to see human remains burnt in the ghât at Calcutta, cremation done in the open air, as we saw it on the banks of the Chambal, has a very different effect on one’s nerves. It would almost reconcile one with the notion of this fiery ordeal; and I must say that if I could ensure a similar end, I would feel very much inclined to add a codicil to my will, asking my heirs, executors, and assigns to adopt that plan of disposing of my remains.

The sight, however, had a depressing effect on our spirits that night, which did not escape the keen eye of our host. He made up his mind to dispel it, and accordingly, after dinner, improvised a musical entertainment, in which he himself took a leading part. Sitting at a magnificent grand piano, of exquisite tone and make, he played selections from all the best operas; sang French, Italian, German, and English music; and concluded by a serenade on the cornet, which he held in one hand while he accompanied on the piano with the other. At the conclusion he swerved quickly round on the piano-stool, saying—

“What do you think of that for a Nigger?”

Musical talent, however—besides a thorough knowledge of languages—are the least of the accomplishments of this young prince, who is barely out of his “teens.” Under the able [Pg 210] tuition and guardianship of Colonel Deniehy the Maharajah of Dholpore has become a first-rate soldier, an able politician, and a thorough sportsman. His feats of horsemanship on bare-backed Arab horses would rank far above the best performances at Astley’s or Franconi’s.

Yet, strange to say, like all his countrymen, Dholpore has never been out of India—indeed, very seldom crossed the boundaries of his kingdom.

It was with sincere regret that we had to end our stay at Dholpore; but our time was limited. Indeed, we were due at Bombay, and had several other invitations on the road, whilst, on the other hand, the season was getting on, when I did not think it wise to keep my people in the part of India where fever and ague was prevalent. After a most affectionate leave-taking from the Maharajah, Col. Deniehy, Goby Singh, and the other charming officers of the prince’s household, we steamed on the iron horse to Delhi, where we were not allowed to stay then, being met in that city by our good friend Sri-Ram, the able Prime Minister of the Maharajah of Ulwur, who was watching for our arrival, with orders to take us straight on to the house which had been prepared for us.

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[Pg 211]



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THE present territory of the Ulwur State is 3024 square miles in extent, and contains a population of 800,000. These are all what are known in India as Rajputs, a warlike tribe, of handsome physique, great power of endurance, and a remarkably intelligent race.

The city of Ulwur is in the very centre of the State. That city, as well as the whole State, have, under the able management of the present Maharajah, assisted by his Council, but, above all, by the great wisdom and statesmanship of Sri-Ram, assumed a degree of refinement and systematic government which might most advantageously be taken as an example by other Indian Principalities.

Like his friend and neighbour Dholpore, the Maharajah of Ulwur is a young gentleman of barely twenty-two years, and although his education has not had the highly-refined European touch which Colonel Deniehy has imparted to Dholpore—having been from his cradle under Sri-Ram’s tutorship—he is far, far above the average of other native princes. Like his ancestors, he is a thorough Rajput in his looks, his military bearing, and warlike propensities. Besides his stud, his hunting gear, and other manly sports, his chief pastime is drilling his troops and keeping up his army in a thoroughly [Pg 212] efficient condition. Indeed, his cadet corps, consisting of several hundred boys, ranging from nine to fourteen, would not discredit any part of the world; and last, though not least, the Maharajah’s band, all native musicians, under the leadership of a German bandmaster, is, next to that of the Nizam of Hyderabad’s, the best I have heard in India, not even excepting the British regimental bands in Calcutta.

Knowing the sporting proclivities of Ulwur, we had not wasted much of our valuable time in the “field” elsewhere, and after some consultation with the Maharajah, drew up a programme of sports. The first on the list was one which now has become a thing of the past in Europe, viz., hawking. Here, however, birds are kept specially for this kind of amusement, and they are so admirably trained that one can spend hours watching the wonderful control the master has over his birds. The next chase on the feathery tribe, and a most extraordinary pastime of our host, is bird-catching with lynxes. The lynx, as everyone knows, is a half-link between the cat and the tiger, a most active quadruped, more especially when trained for the sport now witnessed here. The lynx is brought out tied to a small chain. The birds are kept in a box, with a spring trap. Pigeons are usually resorted to. The keeper loosens the collar of the lynx, but holds him, whilst the bird is thrown up in the air. Treacherous though he be by nature, the lynx never attempts to take an undue advantage of its prey. It allows a fair start, and seldom, if ever, tries to catch it before it is fairly on the wing, from twelve to sixteen feet from the ground. One [Pg 213] bound, and the bird is caught. We witnessed the operation more than a hundred times, out of which the lynx did not miss its aim more than once in twenty.

The Maharajah’s great love for horseflesh naturally leads him to pay special care to his stud—Arabs, English, Pegu; indeed, every known breed is well and largely represented. The stables, which completely outshine even Her Majesty’s at Windsor Castle, are alone worthy of a trip to Ulwur. White marble loose boxes, with marble mangers and troughs, marble slabs over the doors, with gold inscriptions of name and pedigree, may perhaps convey some idea of the care that is taken of this valuable and extensive stud. Every horse has its own attendants, who live, eat, and sleep with the animal, whose instinct and intellect is so well under control that it obeys every word, every sign of its keeper. But, above all, the most remarkable feature is how thoroughly all these beautiful creatures know “the master.” By the bye, it may be worth mentioning here, that a whim of the Maharajah was to ride up to the top of his palace, where the zenana dwells. In order to be able to do so, the main staircase of the palace has been removed, and an inclined plane substituted, so that when His Highness goes “home,” instead of dismounting at the gate of the palace, he gallops up to the very door of the harem, where the groom in waiting takes charge of his horse, and leads it to the stables, until summoned by his master to lead it up again.

As might naturally be inferred, His Highness is a good whip, and his love for the horse [Pg 214] extends to a great proclivity for driving. Indeed, so great is that fancy in him, that he possesses more, and a greater variety of, carriages than anyone I ever came across. It would fill a volume to give a lucid enumeration of the various vehicles I saw at Ulwur. From the bullock-gharry to the mail coach, all the newest, as well as the most old-fashioned two, three, or four-wheeled conveyances, can be seen in the various and immense buildings in which they are kept. The Maharajah is not satisfied with the gigs, buggies, landaus, Victorias, barouches, brakes of the outer world; he has taxed his own ingenuity to create novel means of travelling, which are certainly quaint in their way, though very acceptable in case of need. Amongst them I shall confine myself to the “zenana” carriage, which, in reality, is a roomy house, on enormous wheels, much wider and higher than a Pullman railway car, but also much more roomy and comfortable. This ponderous “trap” is drawn by a team of four, six, or eight elephants, according to the Maharajah’s whim. When he has to drive through the city an order has to be issued to close all the shops and stop all traffic. The machine quite fills the streets from side to side.

The other contrivance is more of an amphibious kind. It is a most elegant steam launch, built of polished mahogany, and most gorgeously fitted up. It rests on a cradle provided with four wheels. When bent on a fishing excursion, or inclined for a trip on one of the rivers—which are some distance from the city—His Highness and suite get into the cabin of this lovely yacht, ten or twelve powerful horses or a [Pg 215] couple of elephants are yoked to it, and the boat is driven into the water until it floats off its cradle.

This craze for out-of-the-way modes of locomotion would be incomplete if I failed to state that during the Calcutta Exhibition one of the native princes, to whom the representative of Messrs. Fowler and Co. showed a traction road engine, was so struck with it that he at once purchased it, and now uses it occasionally as a steam carriage in his palace grounds.

We had been promised a deer-hunt, and accordingly had to take an early breakfast next morning in order to reach the prairie in which these pretty creatures graze at daybreak, in the cool of the morning. When we came out of the bungalow we found what appeared like a monster circus troupe. In front of our verandah were carriages, horses, camels, elephants, bullock gharries, all harnessed or saddled, and in charge of some fifty or more attendants, all clad in the Maharajah’s livery. A note from His Highness explained that, being in doubt as to what mode of conveyance the ladies would prefer, he begged to send a “choice” for them to select from; but considering the distance we had to go, he would strongly recommend saddle horses, camels, or, better still, elephants.

For the sake of novelty some of the boys mounted the camels. I joined the ladies, and the drivers, having made the elephants kneel, placed ladders on their flanks. We thus got into the “howdah,” a most gorgeously-ornamented apartment, built so as to be securely fixed on the huge animal’s back. When we had taken our seats, the driver (who sits on the neck [Pg 216] of the animal, using the back of its ears as stirrups) gave a peculiar cry, at which “Jumbo” gave a lurch which brought up his fore-paws to the ground, naturally throwing the howdah and its contents, at an incline of 45 degrees, towards the elephant’s tail. Before we could exactly realise the position, another “Dutt!” from our dusky driver caused the unwieldy brute to perform with his hind legs the same acrobatic trick he had just accomplished in front. The jerk was more powerful than pleasant, but we had now assumed for the time being a horizontal seat, and—though it was 16 or 18 feet from the ground, we felt pretty safe and comfortable. The jog-trot of the elephant is not unpleasant. We certainly had a marked advantage in point of comfort over the members of our party who had selected camels.

The jungle we traversed was very dense—in some instances really grand. Although thickly populated with tigers, leopards, and other small vermin, we did not see or hear any. At last the timber grew thinner, and we reached a large open plain, to leeward of which we halted.

A number of huntsmen had been sent the day before to scour the neighbourhood, and drive the deer gradually to this prairie, where they soon came, feeding and playing about, quite unconscious of impending danger.

At the space where we had halted we found awaiting our arrival the hunters with the cheetah chained on a small hand-cart, apparently asleep; a leather mask was fastened round the brute’s head, entirely covering its eyes.

When the herd of deer was quietly settled in the centre of the plain before us, two or three of [Pg 217] the hunters crept cautiously through the herbage until quite near the game, when one held his hand above the grass; this being a signal that all was ready, the leather bandage was removed from one of the cheetahs. It sat up, gave a yawn, and one look to the plain. Its eyes at once dilated; a sniff, and, like an arrow, it shot across, in stupendous bounds, so rapid and so prodigious, that really the animal seemed ever on the wing. In much less time than it has taken me to describe it—indeed, with the deadly speed and accuracy of a shot—the panther had seized one of the deer by the throat and pinned it to the ground, where it would have torn it to shreds had not one of the scouts been ready to snatch it from its dangerous claws and fangs.

This operation, in my opinion, is the most dangerous part of this kind of sport. It needs, not only a good deal of pluck, but also some management. The hunter—a naked Indian—carries a wooden bowl, a sharp knife, and the leather mask of the cheetah. While the carnivorous, blood-thirsty animal holds its prey, a sharp cut across the deer’s throat causes the blood to flow into the bowl; dropping the knife, but firmly holding the bowl, the native grasps the panther by the back of the neck, and forcing it to relinquish the deer, thrusts its nose into the hot blood; the mask is deftly fixed on, the deer skinned, the entrails and fore-quarters put near the bowl, so that the cheetah may find enough feed to divert its attention from the removal of the hind quarters, which were brought to our halting place, whilst the next cheetah was brought forward for another “slaughter of the innocents.”

[Pg 218]

At the risk of again losing caste amongst sportsmen, I confess that while glad to have seen this deer-hunting once, I never wish to see it again. It is a pity to take such a mean advantage of a pretty, inoffensive creature, and bring to its resting place its deadly foe, to kill it without even a chance of escape. Fleet as the cheetah is, if it had neared the spot on the weather side, the deer would scent its approach, and then the longer leg would win the day.

These are only a few amongst the many sports our genial host had provided for our amusement during the short stay we made at Ulwur. Every hour of our time was most fully employed driving, riding, or steaming, to visit this most admirably governed kingdom.

One of the sights, however, which deserves special mention, is that of the Crown jewels, belonging to the hereditary prince. A vast, strong, fire-proof room in the palace has been fitted up with large Tann’s safes, reaching from floor to ceiling. A guard stands sentry night and day at the door of this chamber, the keys of which are in the keeping of two trustworthy members of the Government.

In order that we may better inspect this wonderful and valuable collection of gems, a large table, covered with blue cloth, had been placed in the gallery facing the door, and seats provided round it. Our friend Sri-Ram asked the ladies which kind of precious stones they gave preference to. With true feminine acumen diamonds had the majority of votes. Several of the safes were opened; sliding trays, lined with purple velvet, were placed on the table, which at once glittered with most costly jewellery, [Pg 219] set with that most precious of all gems. Rings, bangles, brooches, stars, necklaces, tiaras, lockets—indeed, ornaments of all kinds, shapes, and fashion. After these, pearls, lapis lazuli, emeralds, amethysts, rubies, garnets, topazes, cat’s-eyes, turquoise, &c., &c., were laid before us in the same profusion, the last of the “show” being a collection of twelve hundred watches!—the last addition having been made only a few days before in the shape of a shell of diminutive dimension, the case on both sides being most marvellously enamelled work, studded with pearls and brilliants, a chef-d’œuvre of Parisian art.

On inquiry from Sri-Ram I was told that of course the Maharajah and his wives had in their private apartments, and for daily use, some of the most valuable gems; but what this strong room now held was computed to be worth close on a million sterling!

To proceed in the usual course, going from the “sublime to the ridiculous,” we left this gem room, and descended into the vault of the palace, where the coin is kept. Vulgar and ridiculous though they might seem, next to the dazzling sight we had just left, the piles of bags containing gold mohurs, silver rupees, or four-anna pieces, were nevertheless very tempting.

Ulwur is one of the few native princes to whom the British Government has granted the right of coinage, consequently he now issues coins of his own—with, of course, the Empress of India’s effigy. In this strong-room, however, we found many chests or sackfuls of ancient coins, and were permitted to annex a certain number of great antiquity—some bearing [Pg 220] dates, in Arabic figures, long, long before the Christian era. Some of the smaller coins were actually beyond computation as to age.

Whilst on the subject, which might prove of interest to archælogists, I will mention that one day while on a hunting expedition in the jungle between Dholpore and Ulwur, we came across a most interesting piece of antiquity in the shape of a bronze cannon—some twenty-five or thirty feet long, and, I should say, weighing several tons. The whole of this piece of ordnance represented a mythological animal something like a griffin—the mouth of the monster forming the muzzle of the gun, whilst its tail ended it. The whole length of the piece is covered with carvings or castings, intermingled with Arabic characters, which, I am sorry to say, I was not able to read. When I mentioned this “find” to the Prince (Dholpore), he told me that his people were aware of the existence of this gun, but no one could say how it came there, though, from some ruins in the neighbourhood, it is evident that at some early period a fort or a city must have existed in the locality.

I regretted very much that time did not allow of my pushing my enquiry further. But it is evident that this gun, which showed great artistic beauty, a perfect knowledge of “powder,” and the use of the appliances in boring metal, must have been manufactured some thousands of years ago, the Arabic characters being quite identical with those I find on the coins given to me by the Maharajah of Ulwur, which bear dates many centuries anterior to the Christian era.

While so much time and so much money are spent in searching the ruins of Pompeii, Herculanum, [Pg 221] and Nineveh, I wonder that no one has yet deemed it expedient to search Ceylon or India, where, I am quite sure, most interesting relics of the early history of the world could be traced. I cannot but think that if a corner of the veil which hides the past of India was raised, many secrets would be divulged which would upset old established theories.

Our holiday tour was drawing to a close. The time for sailing from Bombay did not permit of our going to Hyderabad, as we had promised the Nizam to do. We returned to Delhi, and after a short but interesting visit through old Delhi, started direct from Bombay, finding most comfortable quarters at the Waverley Hotel. Whilst Calcutta is essentially an Indian city, Bombay justly claims to be in many respects more European, owing doubtless to its Portuguese origin—the very name, both of the province as well as its metropolitan city, being quite Portuguese—“Bom Bahia”—which in that country’s language means “good harbour,” as that of Bombay most undeniably is. This great mercantile centre, inhabited by nearly three-quarters of a million of people of all nationalities and creeds, has quite a distinctive aspect from any of the other Indian cities, owing, no doubt, to the fact that the town is built on what at one time was an island, which therefore cannot possibly extend in area. The houses are constructed in numerous flats, most of these dwellings being six, seven, and eight stories high.

A large majority of the inhabitants, principally in the trading community, are Parsees, a most thrifty, intelligent race, in whose hands the commerce, banking, &c., are placed.

[Pg 222]

This being one of the great Parsee centres, these people have their temples, and what they term the “Tower of Silence,” which is the place where the Parsees dispose of their dead. Unlike both Christians, Buddhists, and Mahomedans, they avoid burial, cremation, or committing the dead to the sacred waters of the Ganges.

This Tower of Silence is a structure standing over a deep vault, the summit being an iron grating, upon which the body is deposited high up in the air. The birds of prey which flock around this charnel house soon dispose of the flesh, leaving the bones, when decayed, to fall through the grating into the fosse at the foot of the tower.

There is something terrible in the idea of one’s body being handed over as food for loathsome condors, hawks, and crows, but this is intensified when such things happen as that which occurred whilst I was in Bombay. Madame Follet, the wife of the French Consul in Bombay, was driving home in her open carriage, and when passing near this Tower of Silence, an ærial fight was raging between several birds, for what appeared to be some particular “tit-bit,” the holder of which dropped the object in the carriage. Horrible to say—it was the forearm and small hand of an infant!

I think, after all, that cremation is preferable to this mode of disposing of the dead.

In Bombay, like in other Indian cities, the people do not seem to take much heed of either cholera or smallpox. On one occasion, whilst strolling through the bazaar, I came across a gathering of natives. In forcing my way amongst the crowd, I saw a man writhing in [Pg 223] pain on the footpath. Several natives were busily engaged rubbing him with great force, whilst others were holding him tightly round both hands and feet. On inquiry, I was informed that the poor wretch had been seized with cholera, and that while his friends had gone for a palanquin, he was being rubbed to keep up the circulation. I need not say that I made a bee line for my hotel, and inasmuch as several of my children were suffering from attacks of ague and jungle fever, I thought it prudent to expedite our departure from Bombay. I accordingly hastened my arrangements, and within a week we were once more on the “briny,” comfortably settled on board the good ship Parramatta, on our way to Australia.

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[Pg 224]

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AFTER nearly two years in India one is glad to be once more amongst kindred people. Half a century in Australasia leads me very naturally to look upon it as “home.” All my belongings are Australians; to them, therefore, it is “home.” Besides—be it in Melbourne, Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane, or even in Perth—everyone I meet is a friend, and it is a comfort to meet friendly faces.

What a change had taken place in Melbourne in two years! Since I had left it the silver-mining had been brought to light, and the land boom had fairly set in.

My return in the midst of this feverish excitement, from a country where all excitement is unknown, was tantamount to a revelation.

Past experience, both in mining or land speculation, made me chary to enter into either. Still, it is not in my nature to remain idle, more particularly in the midst of such a lively community as that of Victoria.

Ere I had been in it three months I began to feel that bank interest was barely enough to get for my money. The marvellous and rapid fortunes [Pg 225] made on the Stock or Land Exchange gradually thawed the frigidity of my first impressions.

I need not add that at almost every step I was button-holed by brokers, offering investments. Land increased in value from day to day. A block bought for £100 changed hands within a week for £1000, bought up by a syndicate, floated into a Company for £10,000, and cut up in allotments. Thus some property realised fabulous returns.

Still, I thought all this would come to an end. I could not be persuaded to venture in such risky speculations. I thought that city property would be best. I always had more faith in stone or brick. Consequently, I spotted a block of land in the very centre of Melbourne; half an acre at the corner of Exhibition Street and Little Bourke Street, a piece of land which for the last thirty years had a most wretched name—one that no one would tackle at any price, and which accordingly the owner, who derived no revenue from it, would sell or lease cheap.

Unfortunately, he declined selling, but after long haggling, I secured the place for thirty years at a very low rental. During the interval I had matured my plans, so that the day the lease was executed I commenced the erection of what is now known as the Alexandra Buildings (a block of thirteen three-storied houses with shop fronts), and in the centre of the block what is, and will be for a long time to come, the largest theatre in the Southern Hemisphere.

Alas! I had not reckoned on the many difficulties I would have to encounter. First of [Pg 226] all, the City Surveyors, then the Board of Health, and ultimately the Local Option.

Buildings which I had reckoned would not exceed £25,000, owing to the rigidity of the bye-laws of the City Surveyors and Health Board, involved me in an outlay of £40,000, and after going to an enormous outlay for hotel, bars, and cafés, in connection with the theatre, the licence could not be obtained.

Coupled with such disastrous impediments, I had the ill-luck to open the theatre under very bad management, which almost gave the death-blow to my venture. I had hardly been back eighteen months in my Australian home when I had every reason to call it my “dear” home. Trouble, worry, and loss of money preyed on my mind to such an extent that my health failed me altogether. Struggle as I would, everything seemed to go crooked. Doctors and friends vainly tried their skill or kind words to rouse my fallen spirits and energies. I would have thrown up the sponge, when the Government initiated the Centennial Exhibition.

The word “Exhibition” sounded in my ears like the blast of the clarion to the war-horse. If an exhibition was on the tapis I must be in it. Naturally I endeavoured to have a “finger in the pie;” made application to the Victorian Government; laid a scheme before the Cabinet, showing how the great show could be carried on profitably. This, however, “did not suit.” The Exhibition, undertaken by a Ministry flushed with money, was made a political handle to secure popularity. Money was no object: popularity—favouritism—were. My prediction that instead of a surplus of at least £100,000, [Pg 227] it would end in a deficit of a quarter of a million, has since been realised, almost to a fraction.

New South Wales needed a representative. My much esteemed and old friend, Mr. Burdett Smith, M.P., the Executive Commissioner for the mother colony, recommended my appointment, so that once again I put on the harness. The excitement of Exhibition work proved the best and only cure to my ailments. As my old friend and medical adviser, Dr. B. Fyffe, had often told my people, “Only take the Alexandra off his mind and he will soon be cured.” In the turmoil and hard work attending the Exhibition I forgot the Alexandra and my other troubles. The wheel of Fortune once more turned in the right direction. After many vicissitudes and many trials, Simonsen’s opera, Carrie Swain, and last of all, my old friend, Alfred Dampier, helped to put my theatre in the right groove. The two former lessees had a short but profitable season, whilst Dampier, with great wisdom, adopted a system of popular prices, coupled with excellence of acting and mise-en-scene, which has given him unabated success for the last two years—a success which there is every probability he will maintain to the end of his lease, which we have gladly extended for a long period.

Under such able management I had no hesitation to leave the property under the charge of one of my sons, and under medical advice, have sought the bracing atmosphere of the South Island of New Zealand, to complete the cure of ailments which, after all, were more mental than physical.

The Commissioners for the New Zealand Exhibition wanting a manager, it was thought [Pg 228] that the experience I have acquired in such matters might prove of service. Combining business with pleasure, I have moved my camp once more.

What the result of the New Zealand Exhibition will be is as yet a blank page in the history of the near future, but based, as this great venture has been, on the soundest of principles—principles that the Governments of New South Wales and Victoria declined to follow—I may predict that the New Zealand Jubilee Exhibition will be a most thorough success, in every way, practically and financially.

Coming back to New Zealand, fifty years after I first landed on its shores, has been a source of great gratification to me.

I cannot bring this narrative to a close without mentioning a most extraordinary coincidence, which occurred a few months ago, while on a visit to Christchurch.

A landslip had occurred at Akaroa a few days previous to my arrival in Christchurch. This slip unearthed a number of cannon balls, imbedded deep into the side of a hill, above what is called the “Frenchman’s Garden.” These 32-pounders were all in a cluster, bar one, which by some unaccountable reason was found some forty yards off from the spot, where a target must have been placed, the hypothesis being that some “duffer” had fired this truant shot.

When I saw the rusty old “ball” I at once recognised the shape (now obsolete) of the old 32lb. shot used in the French navy. Coupling the locality with the old familiar projectile, I at once remembered that in September, 1840, when [Pg 229] on board the Aube at Akaroa, Captain Lavaud had ordered shot practice, and when the target had been placed on the hillside on shore, he invited me to fire the first shot, which went some fifty yards off the mark, much to the merriment of the crew, who very justly pronounced me a “duffer”—the very epithet which I heard applied to the unknown gunner, after the lapse of fifty years.

This old “friend,” found imbedded in the New Zealand soil at Akaroa, now stands before me on top of my écritoire, and from it I draw many comparisons.

Here we meet once more after fifty years! I have “rolled” all over the world. It has remained buried in the earth in New Zealand. Yet we are both very much alike—old-looking, rusty; still hard, tough, and fit for service if need be. The rust is only superficial; under it the old metal has all its natural properties.

This “find” at Akaroa has been a most appropriate one, inasmuch as it has enabled me to conclude as I began, by the history of a “Stray Shot,” which really should have been the title of this book.

I will now conclude by giving my readers the history of the crest which I have placed above my name upon the front page. We (I mean the Jouberts) do not claim to descend from the “Crusaders,” and although we must have had some lineal connections with the first inhabitants of the Garden of Eden, the line cannot be traced quite so far.

I suppose that we must have been lost in the “crowd” for many centuries, and it is very evident to me that until the sixteenth century [Pg 230] the name has no record. In the year 1550, however, Dr. Laurence Joubert was appointed Court Physician to Henry III., and at the death of Rondelet in 1562 he was made Regius Professor of Physic at Montpellier, where he died in 1582.

Having rendered eminent services to King Henry III., the monarch, by letters patent, authorised his favourite physician to assume the Gallic cock rampant, with Esculapius’ mythological serpent at its feet—the motto, “semper vigilans” being, I think, a most suitable one for a “medico.”

The old bird has never been of much service to our ancestor’s descendants. Still, we have always adhered to it, as an emblem of old Gaul. Even the Imperial eagle has not deterred us from our allegiance to the Gallic cock, and as years have rolled on, “semper vigilans” has been our motto. I trust that my sons will never forget its meaning, which in the vulgar tongue may be translated into “Be always wide awake,” or, better still, “Keep your weather eye open”—a maxim I have always endeavoured to follow, and I think verily that it is owing to this that I have got out of the various “shavings and scrapes” I have narrated in the foregoing pages.


My brother “Savages” have induced me to look up my diaries and publish this book.

If it proves an infliction, the blame is theirs.

It has afforded me an opportunity to record gratefully the many kindnesses I have received during my travels—more especially the genial hospitality of the “Savage Club.”

One of the infirmities of age is garrulity. I have endeavoured to avoid it.

One word more to my reader—ADIEU!



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