HotFreeBooks.com
A Woman's Journey Round the World
by Ida Pfeiffer
Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12     Next Part
Home - Random Browse

I must mention a sight which I accidentally saw, one evening, upon the Pearl stream. It was, as I afterwards heard, a thanksgiving festival in honour of the gods, by the owners of two junks that had made a somewhat long sea voyage without being pillaged by pirates, or overtaken by the dangerous typhoon.

Two of the largest flower boats, splendidly illuminated, were floating gently down the stream. Three rows of lamps were hung round the upper part of the vessels, forming perfect galleries of fire; all the cabins were full of chandeliers and lamps, and on the forecastle large fires were burning out of which rockets darted at intervals with a loud report, although they only attained the elevation of a few feet. On the foremost vessel there was a large mast erected, and hung with myriads of coloured paper lamps up to its very top, forming a beautiful pyramid. Two boats, abundantly furnished with torches and provided with boisterous music, preceded these two fiery masses. Slowly did they float through the darkness of the night, appearing like the work of fairy hands. Sometimes they stopped, when high flames, fed with holy perfumed paper, flickered upwards to the sky.

Perfumed paper, which must be bought from the priests, is burnt at every opportunity, and very frequently beforehand, after every prayer. From the trade in this paper the greater portion of the priests' income is derived.

On several occasions, accompanied by Herr von Carlowitz, I took short walks in the streets near the factory. I found the greater pleasure in examining the beautiful articles of Chinese manufacture, which I could here do at my leisure, as the shops were not so open as those I saw during my excursion round the walls of Canton, but had doors and windows like our own, so that I could walk in and be protected from the pressure of the crowd. The streets, also, in this quarter were somewhat broader, well paved, and protected with mats or planks to keep off the burning heat of the sun.

In the neighbourhood of the factory, namely in Fousch-an, where most of the manufactories are situated, a great many places may be reached by water, as the streets, like those in Venice, are intersected by canals. This quarter of Canton, however, is not the handsomest, because all the warehouses are erected on the sides of the canals, where the different workmen have also taken up their residence in miserable huts that, built half upon the ground and half upon worm-eaten piles, stretch far out over the water.

I had now been altogether, from July 13th to August 20th, five weeks in Canton. The season was the hottest in the whole year, and the heat was really insupportable. In the house, the glass rose as high as 94.5 degrees, and out of doors, in the shade, as high as 99 degrees. To render this state of things bearable, the inhabitants use, besides the punkas in the rooms, wicker-work made of bamboo. This wicker-work is placed before the windows and doors, or over those portions of the roofs under which the workshops are situated. Even whole walls are formed of it, standing about eight or ten feet from the real ones, and provided with entrances, window-openings, and roofs. The houses are most effectually disguised by it.

On my return to Hong-Kong, I again set out on board a junk, but not so fearlessly as the first time; the unhappy end of Monsieur Vauchee was still fresh in my memory. I took the precaution of packing up the few clothes and linen I had in the presence of the servants, that they might be convinced that any trouble the pirates might give themselves on my account would be thrown away.

On the evening of the 20th of August I bade Canton, and all my friends there, farewell; and at 9 o'clock I was once again floating down the Si-Kiang, or Pearl stream, famous for the deeds of horror perpetrated on it.



CHAPTER IX. THE EAST INDIES—SINGAPORE.



ARRIVAL IN HONG-KONG—THE ENGLISH STEAMER—SINGAPORE PLANTATIONS—A HUNTING PARTY IN THE JUNGLE—A CHINESE FUNERAL—THE FEAST OF LANTERNS—TEMPERATURE AND CLIMATE.

The passage from Canton to Hong-Kong was accomplished without any circumstance worthy of notice, save the time it took, in consequence of the prevalence of contrary winds the whole way. We were, it is true, woke up the first night by the report of guns; but I expect they were not fired at us, as we were not molested. My travelling companions, the Chinese, also behaved themselves on this occasion with the greatest politeness and decorum; and, had I been enabled to look into the future, I would willingly have given up the English steamer and pursued my journey as far as Singapore on board a junk. But as this was impossible, I availed myself of the English steamer, "Pekin," of 450 horse-power, Captain Fronson commander, which leaves for Calcutta every month.

As the fares are most exorbitant, {116} I was advised to take a third-class ticket, and hire a cabin from one of the engineers or petty officers; I was greatly pleased with the notion, and hastened to carry it out. My astonishment, however, may be imagined when, on paying my fare, I was told that the third-class passengers were not respectable, that they were obliged to sleep upon deck, and that the moon was exceedingly dangerous, etc. It was in vain that I replied I was the best judge of my own actions; I was obliged, unless I chose to remain behind, to pay for one of the second places. This certainly gave me a very curious idea of English liberty.

On the 25th of August, at 1 o'clock, P.M., I went on board. On reaching the vessel I found no servant in the second places, and was obliged to ask a sailor to take my luggage into the cabin. This latter was certainly anything but comfortable. The furniture was of the most common description, the table was covered with stains and dirt, and the whole place was one scene of confusion. I inquired for the sleeping cabin, and found there was but one for both sexes. I was told to apply to one of the officials, who would no doubt allow me to sleep somewhere else. I did so, and obtained a neat little cabin in consequence, and the steward was kind enough to propose that I should take my meals with his wife. I did not, however, choose to accept the offer; I paid dearly enough, Heaven knows, and did not choose to accept everything as a favour. Besides, this was the first English steamer I had ever been on board, and I was curious to learn how second-class passengers were treated.

The company at our table consisted not only of the passengers, of whom there were three besides myself, but of the cooks and waiters of the first-class places, as well as of the butcher; or, in a word, of every one of the attendants who chose to take "pot-luck" with us. As for any etiquette in the article of costume, that was entirely out of the question. Sometimes one of the company would appear without either coat or jacket; the butcher was generally oblivious of his shoes and stockings; and it was really necessary to be endowed with a ravenous appetite to be enabled to eat anything with such a set.

The bill of fare was certainly adapted to the crew and their costume, but decidedly not to the passengers, who had to pay thirteen dollars (2 pounds 12s.) a day each for provisions.

The table-cloth was full of stains, and, in lieu of a napkin, each guest was at liberty to use his handkerchief. The knives and forks had white and black horn handles, with notched blades, and broken prongs. On the first day we had no spoons at all; on the second we had one between us, and this one was placed on the table in solitary grandeur during the entire voyage. There were only two glasses, and those of the most ordinary description, which circulated from mouth to mouth; as I was a female, instead of my turn of the glasses, I had, as a peculiar mark of distinction, an old tea-cup with the handle knocked off.

The head cook, who did the honours, pleaded in excuse for all this discomfort, that they happened this voyage to be short of servants. This struck me as really a little too naive, for when I paid my money I paid for what I ought to have then, and not for what I might have another time.

As I said before, the provisions were execrable; the remnants of the first cabin were sent to us poor wretches. Two or three different things would very often be side by side in the most friendly and brotherly manner upon one dish, even although their character was widely different; that was looked upon as a matter of no import, which was also the case as to whether the things came to table hot or cold.

On one occasion, during tea, the head cook was in unusually good humour, and remarked, "I spare no possible pains to provide for you. I hope you want for nothing." Two of the passengers, Englishmen, replied, "No, that's true!" The third, who was a Portuguese, did not understand the importance of the assertion. As a native of Germany, not possessing the patriotic feeling of an English subject in the matter, I should have replied very differently had I not been a women, and if, by so replying, I could have effected a change for the better.

The only light we had was from a piece of tallow candle, that often went out by eight o'clock. We were then under the necessity of sitting in the dark or going to bed.

In the morning the cabin served as a barber's shop, and in the afternoon as a dormitory, where the cooks and servants, who were half dead with sleep, used to come and slumber on the benches.

In order to render us still more comfortable, one of the officers pitched upon our cabin as quarters for two young puppies, who did nothing but keep up one continued howl; he would not have dared to put them in the sailors' cabin, because the latter would have kicked them out without farther ceremony.

My description will, in all probability, be considered exaggerated, especially as there is an old opinion that the English are, above all other people, justly celebrated for their comfort and cleanliness. I can, however, assure my readers that I have spoken nothing but the truth; and I will even add that, although I have made many voyages on board steam-ships, and always paid second fare, never did I pay so high a price for such wretched and detestable treatment. In all my life I was never so cheated. The only circumstance on board the ship to which I can refer with pleasure was the conduct of the officers, who were, without exception, obliging and polite.

I was very much struck with the remarkable degree of patience exhibited by my fellow-passengers. I should like to know what an Englishman, who has always got the words "comfort" and "comfortable" at the top of his tongue, would say, if he were treated in this manner on board a steamer belonging to any other nation?

For the first few days of our voyage we saw no land, and it was not until the 28th of August that we caught sight of the rocky coast of Cochin China. During the whole of the 29th we steered close along the coast, but could see no signs of either human beings or habitations, the only objects visible being richly wooded mountain- ranges; in the evening, however, we beheld several fires, which might have been mistaken for the signals from lighthouses, and proved that the country was not quite uninhabited.

During the following day we only saw a large solitary rock called "The Shoe." It struck me as being exactly like the head of a shepherd's dog.

On the 2nd of September we neared Malacca. Skirting the coast are tolerably high, well-wooded mountain-ranges, infested, according to all accounts, by numerous tigers, that render all travelling very dangerous.

On the 3rd of September we ran into the port of Singapore; but it was so late in the evening, that we could not disembark.

On the following morning I paid a visit to the firm of Behu and Meyer, to whom I had letters of introduction. Madame Behu was the first German lady I had met since my departure from Hamburgh. I cannot say how delighted I was at forming her acquaintance. I was once more able to give free vent to my feelings in my own native tongue. Madame Behu would not hear of my lodging in an hotel; I was immediately installed as a member of her own amiable family. My original plan was to have remained but a short period in Singapore, and then proceed in a sailing vessel to Calcutta, as I had a perfect horror of English steamers, and as I had been told that opportunities continually presented themselves. I waited, however, week after week in vain, until, in spite of my unwillingness, I was obliged to embark in a comfortable English steamer at last. {118}

The Europeans lead pretty much the same kind of life at Singapore that they do at Canton, with this difference, however, that the merchants reside with their families in the country, and come to town every morning for business. Each family is obliged to keep a large staff of servants, and the lady of the house meddles very little in domestic matters, as these are generally altogether entrusted to the major-domo.

The servants are Chinese, with the exception of the seis (coachmen or grooms), who are Bengalese. Every spring, whole shiploads of Chinese boys, from ten to fifteen years old, come over here. They are generally so poor that they cannot pay their passage. When this is the case, the captain brings them over on his own account, and is paid beforehand, by the person engaging them, their wages for the first year. These young people live very economically, and when they have a little money, return generally to their native country, though many hire themselves as journeymen, and stop altogether.

The Island of Singapore has a population of 55,000 souls, 40,000 of whom are Chinese, 10,000 Malays, or natives, and 150 Europeans. The number of women is said to be very small, in consequence of the immigrants from China and India consisting only of men and boys.

The town of Singapore and its environs contain upwards of 20,000 inhabitants. The streets struck me as being broad and airy, but the houses are not handsome. They are only one story high; and, from the fact of the roof's being placed directly above the windows, appear as if they were crushed. On account of the continual heat, there is no glass in any of the windows, but its place is supplied by sun-blinds.

Every article of merchandise has here, as at Canton, if not its own peculiar street, at least its own side of the street. The building in which meat and vegetables are sold, is a fine handsome edifice resembling a temple.

As a natural result of the number of persons of different nations congregated upon this island, there are various temples, none of which are worthy of notice, however, with the exception of that belonging to the Chinese. It is formed like an ordinary house, but the roof is ornamented in the usual Chinese fashion to rather too great an extent. It is loaded with points and pinnacles, with circles and curves without end, all of which are formed of coloured tiles or porcelain, and decorated with an infinity of arabesques, flowers, dragons, and other monsters. Over the principal entrance are small stone bas-reliefs, and both the exterior and interior of the building can boast of a profusion of carved wood-work richly gilt.

Some fruit and biscuits of various descriptions, with a very small quantity of boiled rice, were placed upon the altar of the Goddess of Mercy. These are renewed every evening, and whatever the goddess may leave is the perquisite of the bonzes. On the same altar lay pretty little wooden counters cut in an oval shape, which the Chinese toss up in the air; it is held to be a sign of ill-luck if they fall upon the reverse side, but if they fall upon the other, this is believed to betoken good fortune. The worthy people are in the habit of tossing them up until they fall as desired.

Another manner of learning the decrees of fate consists in placing a number of thin wooden sticks in a basin, and then shaking them until one falls out. Each of these sticks is inscribed with a certain number, corresponding with a sentence in a book of proverbs. This temple was more frequented by the people than those in Canton. The counters and sticks seemed to exercise great influence over the congregation, for it was only round them that they gathered.

There is nothing further to be seen in the town, but the environs, or rather the whole island, offers the most enchanting sight. The view cannot certainly be called magnificent or grand, since one great feature necessary to give it this character, namely, mountains, is entirely wanting. The highest hill, on which the governor's house and the telegraph are situated, is scarcely more than 200 feet high, but the luxuriant verdancy, the neat houses of the Europeans in the midst of beautiful gardens, the plantations of the most precious spices, the elegant areca and feathered palms, with their slim stems shooting up to a height of a hundred feet, and spreading out into the thick feather-like tuft of fresh green, by which they are distinguished from every other kind of palms, and, lastly, the jungle in the back-ground, compose a most beautiful landscape, and which appears doubly lovely to a person like myself, just escaped from that prison ycleped Canton, or from the dreary scenery about the town of Victoria.

The whole island is intersected with excellent roads, of which those skirting the sea-shore are the most frequented, and where handsome carriages, and horses from New Holland, and even from England, {120a} are to be seen. Besides the European carriages, there are also certain vehicles of home manufacture called palanquins, which are altogether closed and surrounded on all sides with jalousies. Generally, there is but one horse, at the side of which both the coachman and footman run on foot. I could not help expressing my indignation at the barbarity of this custom, when I was informed that the residents had wanted to abolish it, but that the servants had protested against it, and begged to be allowed to run beside the carriage rather than sit or stand upon it. They cling to the horse or vehicle, and are thus dragged along with it.

Hardly a day passed that we did not drive out. Twice a week a very fine military band used to play on the esplanade close to the sea, and the whole world of fashionables would either walk or drive to the place to hear the music. The carriages were ranged several rows deep, and surrounded by young beaux on foot and horseback; any one might have been excused for imagining himself in an European city. As for myself, it gave me more pleasure to visit a plantation, or some other place of the kind, than to stop and look on what I had so often witnessed in Europe. {120b}

I frequently used to visit the plantations of nutmegs and cloves, and refresh myself with their balsamic fragrance. The nutmeg-tree is about the size of a fine apricot-bush, and is covered from top to bottom with thick foliage; the branches grow very low down the stem, and the leaves shine as if they were varnished. The fruit is exactly similar to an apricot covered with yellowish-brown spots. When ripe it bursts, exposing to view a round kernel about the size of a nut, enclosed in a kind of net-work of a fine deep red: this network is known as mace. It is carefully separated from the nutmeg itself, and dried in the shade. While undergoing this process, it is frequently sprinkled with sea-water, to prevent its original tint turning black instead of yellow. In addition to this net-work, the nutmeg is covered with a thin, soft rind. The nutmeg itself is also dried, then smoke-dried a little, and afterwards, to prevent its turning mouldy, dipped several times in sea-water, containing a weak solution of lime.

The clove-tree is somewhat smaller, and cannot boast of such luxuriant foliage, or such fine large leaves as the nutmeg-tree. The cloves are the buds of the tree gathered before they have had time to blossom. They are first smoked, and then laid for a short time in the sun.

Another kind of spice is the areca-nut, which hangs under the crown of the palm of the same name, in groups containing from ten to twenty nuts each. It is somewhat larger than a nutmeg, and its outer shell is of so bright a colour, that it resembles the gilt nuts which are hung upon the Christmas-trees in Germany. The kernel is almost the same colour as the nutmeg, but it has no net-work: it is dried in the shade.

The Chinese and natives of the place chew this nut with betel-leaf and calcined mussel-shells. They strew the leaf with a small quantity of the mussel-powder, to which they add a very small piece of the nut, and make the whole into a little packet, which they put into their mouth. When they chew tobacco at the same time, the saliva becomes as red as blood, and their mouths, when open, look like little furnaces, especially if, as is frequently the case with the Chinese, the person has his teeth dyed and filed. The first time I saw a case of the kind I was very frightened: I thought the poor fellow had sustained some serious injury, and that his mouth was full of blood.

I also visited a sago manufactory. The unprepared sago is imported from the neighbouring island of Borromeo, and consists of the pith of a short, thick kind of palm. The tree is cut down when it is seven years old, split up from top to bottom, and the pith, of which there is always a large quantity, extracted; it is then freed from the fibres, pressed in large frames, and dried at the fire or in the sun. At this period it has still a yellowish tinge. The following is the manner in which it is grained: The meal or pith is steeped in water for several days, until it is completely blanched; it is then once more dried by the fire or in the sun, and passed under a large wooden roller, and through a hair sieve. When it has become white and fine, it is placed in a kind of linen winnowing-fan, which is kept damp in a peculiar manner. The workman takes a mouthful of water, and spurts it out like fine rain over the fan, in which the meal is alternately shaken and moistened in the manner just mentioned, until it assumes the shape of small globules, which are constantly stirred round in large, flat pans until they are dried, when they are passed through a second sieve, not quite so fine as the first, and the larger globules separated from the rest.

The building in which the process takes place is a large shed without walls, its roof being supported upon the trunks of trees.

I was indebted to the kindness of the Messrs. Behu and Meyer for a very interesting excursion into the jungle. The gentlemen, four in number, all well provided with fowling-pieces, having determined to start a tiger, besides which they were obliged to be prepared for bears, wild boars, and large serpents. We drove as far as the river Gallon, where we found two boats in readiness for us, but, before entering them, paid a visit to a sugar-refining establishment situated upon the banks of the river.

The sugar-cane was piled up in stacks before the building, but there had only been sufficient for a day's consumption, as all that remained would have turned sour from the excessive heat. The cane is first passed under metal cylinders, which press out all the juice; this runs into large cauldrons, in which it is boiled and then allowed to cool. It is afterwards placed in earthen jars, where it becomes completely dry.

The buildings resembled those I have described when speaking of the preparation of sago.

After we had witnessed the process of sugar-baking, we entered the boats, and proceeded up the stream. We were soon in the midst of the virgin forests, and experienced, at every stroke of the oars, greater difficulty in forcing our passage, on account of the numerous trunks of trees both in and over the stream. We were frequently obliged to land and lift the boats over these trees, or else lie flat down, and thus pass under them as so many bridges. All kinds of brushwood, full of thorns and brambles, hung down over our heads, and even some gigantic leaves proved a serious obstacle to us. These leaves belonged to a sort of palm called the Mungkuang. Near the stem they are five inches broad, but their length is about twelve feet, and as the stream is scarcely more than nine feet wide, they reached right across it.

The natural beauty of the scene was so great, however, that these occasional obstructions, so far from diminishing, actually heightened the charm of the whole. The forest was full of the most luxuriant underwood, creepers, palms, and fern plants; the latter, in many instances sixteen feet high, proved a no less effectual screen against the burning rays of the sun than did the palms and other trees.

My previous satisfaction was greatly augmented on seeing several apes skipping about on the highest branches of the trees, while others were heard chattering in our immediate vicinity. This was the first time I had seen these animals in a state of perfect freedom, and I secretly felt very much delighted that the gentlemen with me did not succeed in shooting any of the mischievous little creatures: they brought down, however, a few splendid lories (a sort of small parrot of the most beautiful plumage) and some squirrels. But our attention was soon attracted by a much more serious object. We remarked in the branches of one of the trees a dark body, which, on nearer inspection, we found to be that of a large serpent, lying coiled up, and waiting, probably, to dart upon its prey. We ventured pretty near, but it remained quite motionless without turning its eyes from us, and little thinking how near its death was. One of the gentlemen fired, and hit it in the side. As quick as lightning, and with the greatest fury, it darted from the tree, but remained fast, with its tail entangled in a bough. It kept making springs at us, with its forked tongue exposed to view, but all in vain, as we kept at a respectable distance. A few more shots put an end to its existence, and we then pulled up under the bough on which it was hanging. One of the boatmen, a Malay, made a small noose of strong, tough grass, which he threw round the head of the serpent, and thus dragged it into the boat. He also told us that we should be sure to find a second not far off, as serpents of this kind always go in pairs, and, true enough, the gentlemen in the other boat had already shot the second, which was also coiled up on the branch of a large tree.

These serpents were of a dark green colour, with beautiful yellow streaks, and about twelve feet in length. I was told that they belonged to the boa species.

After having proceeded eight English miles in four hours, we left the boats, and following a narrow footpath, soon reached a number of plots of ground, cleared from trees, and planted with pepper and gambir.

The pepper-tree is a tall bush-like plant, that, when trained and supported with props, will attain a height varying from fifteen to eighteen feet. The pepper grows in small, grape-like bunches, which are first red, then green, and lastly, nearly black. The plant begins to bear in the second year.

White pepper is not a natural production, but is obtained by dipping the black pepper several times in sea-water: this causes it to lose its colour, and become a dirty white. The price of a pikul of white pepper is six dollars (24s.), whereas that of a pikul of black is only three dollars (12s.).

The greatest height attained by the gambir plant is eight feet. The leaves alone are used in trade: they are first stripped off the stalk, and then boiled down in large coppers. The thick juice is placed in wide wooden vessels, and dried in the sun; it is then cut into slips three inches long and packed up. Gambir is an article that is very useful in dyeing, and hence is frequently exported to Europe. Pepper plantations are always to be found near a plantation of the gambir plant, as the former are always manured with the boiled leaves of the latter.

Although all the work on the plantations, as well as every other description of labour at Singapore, is performed by free labourers, I was told that it cost less than if it were done by slaves. The wages here are very trifling indeed; a common labourer receives three dollars a month, without either board or lodging; and yet with this, he is enabled not only to subsist himself, but to maintain a family. Their huts, which are composed of foliage, they build themselves; their food consists of small fish, roots, and a few vegetables. Nor is their apparel more expensive; for, beyond the immediate vicinity of the town, and where all the plantations are situated, the children go about entirely naked, while the men wear nothing more than a small apron about a hand's-breadth wide, and fastened between the legs: the women are the only persons dressed with anything like propriety.

The plantations that we now saw, and which we reached about 10 o'clock, were cultivated by Chinese. In addition to their huts of leaves, they had erected a small temple, where they invited us to alight. We immediately spread out upon the altar some refreshments, which Madame Behu, like a good housewife, had given us; but, instead of imitating the Chinese, and sacrificing them to the gods, we were wicked enough to devour them ravenously ourselves.

When we had satisfied our hunger, we skinned the serpent and then made a present of it to the Chinese; but they gave us to understand that they would not touch it, at which I was greatly surprised, since they will generally eat anything. I was afterwards convinced that this was all pretence, for on returning some hours later from our hunting excursion and going into one of their huts, we found them all seated round a large dish in which were pieces of roast meat of the peculiar round shape of the serpent. They wanted to hide the dish in a great hurry, but I entered very quickly and gave them some money to be allowed to taste it. I found the flesh particularly tender and delicate, even more tender than that of a chicken.

But I have quite forgotten to describe our hunting excursion. We asked the labourers if they could not put us on the track of a tiger; they described to us a part of the wood where one was reported to have taken up his abode a few days previously, and we immediately set off. We had great difficulty in forcing our way through the forest, having, at every instant, to clamber over prostrate trees, creep through brambles or cross over swamps, but we had, at all events, the satisfaction of progressing, which we certainly should not have had in the forests of Brazil, where such an undertaking would have been impracticable. It is true that there were creepers and orchids, but not in such numbers as in Brazil, and the trees, too, stand far wider apart. We saw some splendid specimens, towering to a height of above a hundred feet. The objects which interested us most were the ebony and kolim trees. The timber of the first is of two kinds, a layer of brownish-yellow surrounding the inner stem, which composes that portion especially known as ebony.

The kolim-tree diffuses an excessively strong odour, similar to that of onions, indicating its site at some distance off. The fruit tastes extremely like onions, and is very often used by the common people, but its odour and taste are too strong for Europeans. I merely just touched a piece of fresh rind, and my hands smelt of it the next morning.

We beat about the forest for some hours without meeting the game of which we were in search. We once thought that we had found the lair, but we soon found that we were mistaken. One of the gentlemen, too, affirmed that he heard the growl of a bear; it must, however, have been a very gentle growl, as no one else heard it, although we were all close together.

We returned home without any further addition to our stock of game, but highly delighted with our agreeable trip.

Although Singapore is a small island, and all means have been used and rewards offered for the extirpation of the tigers, they have failed. Government gives a premium of a hundred dollars, and the Society of Singapore Merchants a similar sum for every tiger killed. Besides this, the valuable skin belongs to the fortunate hunter, and even the flesh is worth something, as it is eagerly bought by the Chinese for eating. The tigers, however, swim over from the neighbouring peninsula of Malacca, which is only separated from Singapore by a very narrow channel, and hence it will be impossible to eradicate them entirely.

The varieties of fruit found at Singapore are very numerous and beautiful. Among the best may be reckoned the mangostan, which is said to grow only here and in Java. It is as big as a middling- sized apple. The rind is a deep brown on the outside and scarlet inside, and the fruit itself is white, and divided naturally into four or five sections: it almost melts in the mouth, and has an exquisite flavour. The pine-apples are much more juicy, sweeter, and considerably larger than those at Canton; I saw some which must have weighed about four pounds. Whole fields are planted with them, and when they arrive at full maturity, three or four hundred may be bought for a dollar. They are often eaten with salt. There is also another kind of fruit, "sauersop," which also often weighs several pounds, and is green outside and white or pale yellow inside. It very much resembles strawberries in taste, and, like them, is eaten with wine and sugar. The gumaloh is divided into several distinct slices, and resembles a pale yellow orange, but is not so sweet and juicy; many people, however, prefer it; it is at least five times as large as an orange. In my opinion, however, the palm of excellence is borne away by the "custard apple," which is covered with small green scales. {125} The inside, which is full of black pips, is very white, as soft as butter, and of the most exquisite flavour. It is eaten with the help of small spoons.

A few days before my departure from Singapore, I had an opportunity of witnessing the burial of a Chinese in easy circumstances. The procession passed our house, and in spite of a temperature of 113 degrees Fah., I went with it to the grave, which was three or four miles distant, and was too much interested in the ceremony to leave until it was concluded, although it lasted nearly two hours.

At the head of the procession was a priest, and at his side a Chinese with a lantern two feet high, covered with white cambric. Then came two musicians, one of whom beat a small drum at intervals, and the other played the cymbals. These persons were followed by the coffin, with a servant holding a large open parasol over that part of it on which the head of the deceased lay. Alongside walked the eldest son or the nearest male relative, carrying a small white flag, and with his hair hanging in disorder over his shoulders. The relations were all dressed in the deepest mourning—that is to say, entirely in white; the men had even got white caps on, and the women were so enveloped in white cloths that it was impossible to see so much as their faces. The friends and attendants, who followed the coffin in small groups without order or regularity, had all got a white strip of cambric bound round their head, their waist, or their arm. As soon as it was remarked that I had joined the procession, a man who had a quantity of these strips, came up and offered me one, which I took and bound round my arm.

The coffin, which consisted of the trunk of a large tree, was covered with a dark-coloured cloth; a few garlands of flowers were suspended from it, and some rice, tied up in a cloth, was placed upon it. Four-and-twenty men bore this heavy burden on immense poles: their behaviour was excessively lively, and every time they changed, they began quarrelling or laughing among themselves. Nor did the other personages in the ceremony display either grief or respect; they ate, drank, smoked, and talked, while some carried cold tea in small pails for the benefit of such as might be thirsty. The son alone held himself aloof; he walked, according to custom, plunged in deep sorrow by the side of the coffin.

On reaching the road that led to the last resting place, the son threw himself upon the ground, and, covering up his face, sobbed very audibly. After a little, he got up again and tottered behind the coffin, so that two men were obliged to support him; he appeared very ill and deeply moved. It is true, I was afterwards informed that this grief is mostly merely assumed, since custom requires that the chief mourner shall be, or pretend to be, weak and ill with sorrow.

On arriving at the grave, which was seven feet deep, and dug on the declivity of a hill, they laid the pall, flowers, and rice on one side, and then, after throwing in a vast quantity of gold and silver paper, lowered the coffin, which I then for the first time perceived was of the finest workmanship, lacquered and hermetically closed. At least half an hour was taken up by this part of the proceedings. The relations at first threw themselves on the ground, and, covering their faces, howled horribly, but finding the burial lasted rather long, sat down in a circle all round, and taking their little baskets of betel, burnt mussel-shells, and areca-nuts, began chewing away with the greatest composure.

After the coffin was lowered into the grave, one of the attendants advanced to the upper part of it, and opened the small packet of rice, on which he placed a sort of compass. A cord was then handed to him. He placed it over the middle of the compass, and altered its position until it lay exactly in the same direction as the needle. A second cord, with a plummet attached, was then held to the first and let down into the grave, and the coffin moved backwards and forwards according to this line, until the middle was in the same direction as the needle: this arrangement consumed at least another quarter of an hour.

After this, the coffin was covered over with numberless sheets of white paper, and the person who had conducted the previous operation made a short speech, during which the children of the deceased threw themselves upon the ground. When it was finished, the speaker threw a few handfuls of rice over the coffin and to the children, who held up the corner of their outer garments so as to catch as many of the grains as possible; but as they only succeeded in obtaining a few, the speaker gave about a handful more, which they tied up carefully in the corner of their dress, and took away with them.

The grave was at last filled in, when the relations set up a most dismal howl, but, as far as I could remark, every eye was dry.

After this, boiled fowls, ducks, pork, fruit, all kinds of pastry, and a dozen cups full of tea, together with the tea-pot, were placed in two rows upon the grave, and six painted wax tapers lighted and stuck in the ground near the refreshments. During all this time, immense heaps of gold and silver paper were set fire to and consumed.

The eldest son now approached the grave again, and threw himself down several times, touching the ground on each occasion with his forehead. Six perfumed paper tapers were handed to him a-light; when he had swung them round in the air a few times he gave them back, when they also, in their turn, were fixed in the earth. The other relations performed the same ceremony.

During all this time, the priest had been sitting at a considerable distance from the grave under the shade of a large parasol, and without taking the slightest share in the proceedings. He now, however, came forward, made a short speech, during which he rang a small bell several times, and his duty was at an end. The refreshments were cleared away, the tea poured over the grave, and the whole company returned home in excellent spirits accompanied by the music, which had also played at intervals over the grave. The provisions, as I was informed, were distributed among the poor.

On the following day I witnessed the celebrated Chinese Feast of Lanterns. From all the houses, at the corners of the roofs, from high posts, etc., were hung innumerable lanterns, made of paper or gauze, and most artistically ornamented with gods, warriors, and animals. In the courts and gardens of the different houses, or, where there were no courts or gardens, in the streets, all kinds of refreshments and fruit were laid out with lights and flowers, in the form of half pyramids on large tables. The people wandered about the streets, gardens, and courts, until nearly midnight, when the edible portions of the pyramids were eaten by the proprietors of them. I was very much pleased with this feast, but with no part of it more than the quiet and orderly behaviour of the people: they looked at all the eatables with a scrutinizing glance, but without touching the smallest fragment.

Singapore is situated 58' (nautical miles) north of the line, in 104 degrees East longitude, and the climate, when compared to that of other southern countries, is very agreeable. During the period of my stay, extending from September 3rd to October 8th, the heat seldom exceeded 83 degrees 75' indoors, and 117 degrees in the sun. There is never any great variation in the temperature, which is the natural consequence of the place being near the equator. The sun always rises and sets at 6 A.M. and 6 P.M. respectively, and is immediately followed by full daylight or perfect night; the twilight hardly lasting ten minutes.

In conclusion, I must remark that Singapore will shortly become the central point of all the Indian steamers. Those from Hong-Kong, Ceylon, Madras, Calcutta, and Europe arrive regularly once a month; there is likewise a Dutch war-steamer from Batavia, and in a little time there will also be steamers running to and fro between this place, and Manilla and Sidney.



CHAPTER X. THE EAST INDIES—CEYLON.



DEPARTURE FROM SINGAPORE—THE ISLAND OF PINANG—CEYLON—POINTE DE GALLE—EXCURSION INTO THE INTERIOR—COLOMBO—CANDY—THE TEMPLE OF DAGOHA—ELEPHANT HUNT—RETURN TO COLOMBO AND POINTE DE GALLE.

I once more embarked in an English steamer, the "Braganza," of 350 horse power, that left Singapore for Ceylon on the 7th of October. The distance between the two places is 1,900 miles.

The treatment I experienced on board this vessel was, it is true, a little different from that on board the other, although it was nearly as bad. There were four of us in the second cabin; {128} we dined alone, and had a mulatto servant to attend upon us. Unfortunately, he was afflicted with elephantiasis, and his appearance did not at all tend to whet the edge of our appetites.

During the 7th and 8th of October, we held our course through the Strait of Malacca, which separates Sumatra from the peninsula, and during all this time we never lost sight of land. Malacca is, near the coast, merely hilly; but further in the interior the hills swell into a fine mountain range. To our left lay a number of mountainous islands, which completely intercepted our view of Sumatra.

But if the scenery around us was not remarkable, the spectacle on board the vessel itself was highly interesting. The crew was composed of seventy-nine persons, comprising Chinese, Malays, Cingalese, Bengalese, Hindostanese, and Europeans. As a general rule, those of each country generally took their meals separately with their own countrymen. They all had immense plates of rice, and little bowls full of curry; a few pieces of dried fish supplied the place of bread. They poured the curry over the rice, and mixing the whole together with their hands, made it into small balls which they put into their mouths with a small piece of fish; about half their food used generally to fall back again into their plates.

The costume of these people was very simple. Many of them had nothing more than a pair of short trousers on, with a dirty old turban, and even the place of this was sometimes supplied by a coloured rag, or a cast-off sailor's cap. The Malays wore long cloths wound round their bodies, with one end hanging over their shoulder. The Chinese preserved intact their usual costume and mode of life; and the coloured servants of the ship's officers were the only ones who were occasionally well and even elegantly dressed. Their costume consisted of white trousers, wide upper garments, also white, with white sashes, silk jackets, and small embroidered white caps, or handsome turbans.

The manner in which all these poor coloured people were treated was certainly not in accordance with Christian principles. No one ever addressed them but in the roughest manner, and they were kicked and cuffed about on every occasion; even the dirtiest little European cabin-boy on board was allowed to act in the most cruel manner, and play off the most ignoble practical jokes upon them. Unhappy creatures! how is it possible that they should feel any love for Christians?

On the 9th of October we landed on the small island of Pinang. The town of the same name lies in the midst of a small plain, which forms the half of an isthmus. Not far from the town rises a picturesque mountain range.

I received five hours' leave, which I devoted to riding about in all directions through the town in a palanquin, and even going a little distance into the country. All that I could see resembled what I had already seen at Singapore. The town itself is not handsome, but the contrary is the case with the country houses, which are all situated in beautiful gardens. The island is intersected by a great number of excellent roads.

From one of the neighbouring mountains there is said to be a very fine prospect of Pinang, a part of Malacca, and the sea, and, on the road to the mountain, a waterfall. Unfortunately, the few hours at my disposal did not allow me to see everything.

The greatest portion of the population of this island consists of Chinese, who perform all the manual labour, and engross all the retail trade.

On the 11th of October we saw the small island of Pulo-Rondo, which appertains to Sumatra. We now took the shortest line across the Bay of Bengal, and beheld land no more until we came in sight of Ceylon.

On the afternoon of the 17th of October, we neared Ceylon. I strained my anxious eyes to catch a glimpse of it as soon as possible, for it is always described as being a second Eden; some go so far as to affirm that our common father, Adam, settled there on his expulsion from Paradise, and, as a proof of this, adduce the fact of many places in the island, such as Adam's Peak, Adam's Bridge, etc., still bearing his name. I breathed the very air more eagerly, hoping, like other travellers, to inhale the fragrant odours wafted to me from the plantations of costly spices.

It was one of the most magnificent sights I ever beheld, to observe the island rising gradually from the sea, and to mark the numerous mountain ranges, which intersect Ceylon in every direction, becoming every instant more defined, their summits still magically lighted by the setting sun, while the thick cocoa-groves, the hills, and plains lay enveloped in dusky night. The fragrant odours, however, were wanting, and the vessel smelt, as usual, of nothing more than tar, coals, steam, and oil.

About 9 in the evening, we arrived before the harbour at Pointe de Galle, but, as the entrance is very dangerous, we quietly hove-to for the night. On the following morning two pilots came on board and took us safely through the narrow passage of deep water leading into the port.

Hardly were we landed before we were surrounded by a crowd of people with precious stones, pearls, tortoiseshell, and ivory articles for sale. It is possible that a connoisseur may sometimes make a very advantageous purchase; but I would advise those who have not much experience in these things, not to be dazzled by the size and splendour of the said precious stones and pearls, as the natives, according to all accounts, have learnt from Europeans the art of profiting as much as they can by a favourable opportunity.

Pointe de Galle is charmingly situated: in the fore-ground are some fine groups of rock, and in the back-ground, immediately adjoining the little town, which is protected by fortifications, rise magnificent forests of palms. The houses present a neat appearance; they are low, and shaded by trees, which, in the better streets, are planted so as to form alleys.

Pointe de Galle is the place of rendezvous for the steamers from China, Bombay, Calcutta, and Suez. Passengers from Calcutta, Bombay, and Suez, do not stop more than twelve, or, at most, twenty- four hours; but those proceeding from China to Calcutta have to wait ten or fourteen days for the steamer that carries them to their destination. This delay was to me very agreeable, as I profited by it to make an excursion to Candy.

There are two conveyances from Pointe de Galle to Colombo—the mail which leaves every day, and a coach which starts three times a week. The distance is seventy-three English miles, and the journey is performed in ten hours. A place in the mail costs 1 pounds 10s., and in the coach 13s. As I was pressed for time, I was obliged to go by the first. The roads are excellent; not a hill, not a stone is there to impede the rapid rate at which the horses, that are changed every eight miles, scamper along.

The greater portion of the road traversed thick forests of cocoa- trees, at a little distance from the sea-shore, and the whole way was more frequented and more thickly studded with houses than anything I ever saw even in Europe. Village followed village in quick succession, and so many separate houses were built between them, that there was not a minute that we did not pass one. I remarked also some small towns, but the only one worthy of notice was Calturi, where I was particularly struck by several handsome houses inhabited by Europeans.

Along the road-side, under little roofs of palm-leaves, were placed large earthen vessels filled with water, and near them cocoa-nut shells to drink out of. Another measure for the accommodation of travellers, which is no less worthy of praise, consists in the establishment of little stone buildings, roofed in, but open at the sides, and furnished with benches. In these buildings many wayfarers often pass the night.

The number of people and vehicles that we met made the journey appear to me very short. There were specimens of all the various races which compose the population of Ceylon. The Cingalese, properly so called, are the most numerous, but, besides these, there are Indians, Mahomedans, Malays, natives of Malabar, Jews, Moors, and even Hottentots. I saw numerous instances of handsome and agreeable physiognomies among those of the first three races; the Cingalese youths and boys, in particular, are remarkably handsome. They possess mild, well-formed features, and are so slim and finely built, that they might easily be mistaken for girls; an error into which it is the more easy to fall from their manner of dressing their hair. They wear no covering on their head, and comb back all their hair, which is then fastened behind by means of a comb, with a flat, broad plate, four inches high. This kind of head-dress looks anything but becoming in the men. The Mahomedans and Jews have more marked features; the latter resemble the Arabs, and, like them, have noble physiognomies. The Mahomedans and Jews, too, are easily recognised by their shaven heads, long beards, and small white caps or turbans. Many of the Indians, likewise, wear turbans; but the most have only a simple piece of cloth tied round their head, which is also the case with the natives of Malacca and Malabar. The Hottentots allow their coal-black hair to fall in rude disorder over their foreheads and half-way down their necks. With the exception of the Mahomedans and Jews, none of these different people bestow much care upon their dress. Save a small piece of cloth of about a hand's-breadth, and fastened between their legs, they go about naked. Those who are at all dressed, wear short trousers and an upper garment.

I saw very few women, and these only near their huts, which they appear to leave less than any females with whom I am acquainted. Their dress, also, was exceedingly simple, consisting merely of an apron bound round their loins, a short jacket that exposed rather than covered the upper part of their body, and a sort of rag hanging over their head. Many were enveloped in large pieces of cloth worn loosely about them. The borders and lobes of their ears were pierced and ornamented with ear-rings, while on their feet and arms, and round their necks, they wore chains and bracelets of silver, or some other metal, and round one of their toes an extremely massive ring.

Any one would suppose that, in a country where the females are allowed to show themselves so little, they would be closely wrapped up; but this is not the case. Many had forgotten their jackets and head coverings, especially the old women, who seemed particularly oblivious in this respect, and presented a most repulsive appearance when thus exposed. Among the younger ones I remarked many a handsome and expressive face; only they, too, ought not to be seen without their jackets, as their breasts hang down almost to their knees.

The complexion of the population varies from a dark to a light or reddish brown or copper colour. The Hottentots are black, but without that glossy appearance which distinguishes the negro.

It is extraordinary what a dread all these half-naked people have of the wet. It happened to commence raining a little, when they sprang like so many rope-dancers over every little puddle, and hastened to their huts and houses for shelter. Those who were travelling and obliged to continue their journey, held, instead of umbrellas, the leaves of the great fan-palm (Corypha umbraculifera) over their heads. These leaves are about four feet broad, and can be easily held, like fans. One of them is large enough for two persons.

But if the natives dread the rain, they have no fear of the heat. It is said that they run no risk from the rays of the sun, being protected by the thickness of their skulls and the fat beneath.

I was much struck by the peculiarity of some of the waggons, which consisted of wooden two-wheeled cars, roofed with palm leaves stretching out about four feet, before and behind, beyond the body of the car. These projections serve to protect the driver from the rain and the rays of the sun, whichever way they may chance to fall. The oxen, of which there was always only a pair, were yoked at such a distance from the waggon, that the driver could walk very conveniently in the intervening space.

I profited by the half-hour allowed for breakfast to proceed to the sea-shore, whence I observed a number of men busily employed on the dangerous rock in the middle of the most violent breakers. Some of them loosened, by the aid of long poles, oysters, mussels, etc., from the rocks, while others dived down to the bottom to fetch them up. I concluded that there must be pearls contained inside, for I could not suppose that human beings would encounter such risks for the sake of the fish alone; and yet this was the case, for I found, later, that though the same means are employed in fishing for pearls, it is on the eastern coast and only during the months of February and March.

The boats employed by these individuals were of two kinds. The larger ones, which contained about forty persons, were very broad, and composed of boards joined together and fastened with the fibres of the cocoa-tree; the smaller ones were exactly like those I saw in Tahiti, save that they appeared still more dangerous. The bottom was formed of the trunk of an extremely narrow tree, slightly hollowed out, and the sides of the planks are kept in their places by side and cross supports. These craft rose hardly a foot and a half out of the water, and their greatest breadth did not average quite a foot. There was a small piece of plank laid across as a seat, but the rower was obliged to cross his knees from want of room to sit with them apart.

The road, as I before mentioned, lay for the most part through forests of cocoa-trees, where the soil was very sandy and completely free from creepers and underwood; but near trees that did not bear fruit, the soil was rich, and both that and the trees covered with creepers in wild luxuriance. There were very few orchids.

We crossed four rivers, the Tindurch, Bentock, Cattura, and Pandura, two by means of boats, two by handsome wooden bridges.

The cinnamon plantations commenced about ten miles from Colombo; and on this side of the town are all the country-houses of the Europeans. They are very simple, shaded with cocoa-trees and surrounded with stone walls. At 3 o'clock in the afternoon, we drove over two draw-bridges and through two fortified gateways into the town, which is far more pleasantly situated than Pointe de Galle, on account of its nearer proximity to the beautiful mountain ranges.

I only stopped a night here, and on the following morning again resumed my journey in the mail to the town of Candy, which is distant seventy-two miles.

We left on the 20th of October, at 5 o'clock in the morning. Colombo is a very extensive town. We drove through a succession of long, broad streets of handsome houses, all of which latter were surrounded by verandahs and colonnades. I was very much startled at the number of persons lying stretched out at full length under these verandahs, and covered with white clothes. I at first mistook them for corpses, but I soon perceived that their number was too great to warrant that supposition, and I then discovered that they were only asleep. Many, too, began to move and throw off their winding- sheets. I was informed that the natives prefer sleeping in this manner before the houses to sleeping inside of them.

The Calanyganga, an important river, is traversed by a long floating bridge; the road then branches off more and more from the sea-coast, and the character of the scenery changes. The traveller now meets with large plains covered with fine plantations of rice, the green and juicy appearance of which reminded me of our own young wheat when it first shoots up in spring. The forests were composed of mere leaved wood, the palms becoming at every step more rare; one or two might sometimes be seen, here and there, towering aloft like giants, and shading everything around. I can imagine nothing more lovely than the sight of the delicate creepers attached to the tall stems of these palms and twining up to their very crests.

After we had gone about sixteen miles, the country began to assume a more hilly aspect, and we were soon surrounded by mountains on every side. At the foot of each ascent we found extra horses in waiting for us; these were yoked to the ordinary team, and whirled us rapidly over all obstacles. Although there is a rise of about 2,000 feet on the road to Candy, we performed the distance, seventy-two miles, in eleven hours.

The nearer we approached our destination, the more varied and changing became the scenery. At one time we might be closely hemmed in by the mountains, and then the next moment they would stretch away, one above the other, while their summits seemed to contend which should outrival the rest in altitude and beauty of outline. They were covered, to the height of several thousand feet, with luxuriant vegetation, which, for the most part, then generally ceased, and gave way to the bare rock. I was not less interested, however, with the curious teams we sometimes met, than I was with the scenery. It is well known that Ceylon abounds in elephants, many of which are captured and employed for various purposes. Those that I now saw were yoked in twos or threes to large waggons, full of stones for mending the roads.

Four miles before reaching Candy, we came to the river Mahavilaganga, which is spanned by a masterly bridge of one arch. The materials of the bridge are most costly, consisting of satin- wood. In connection with this structure, I learned the following legend.

After the conquest of the island by the English, the natives did not give up the hope of once more attaining their independence, because one of their oracles had declared that it was as impossible for the enemy to obtain a lasting dominion over them, as it was for the opposite banks of the Mahavilaganga to be united by a road. When the bridge was begun, they smiled, and said that it could never be successfully completed. At present, I was told, they think of independence no more.

Near the bridge is a botanical garden which I visited the following day, and was astonished at its excellent arrangement, and the richness of its collection of flowers, plants, and trees.

Opposite the garden is one of the largest sugar-plantations, and, in the neighbourhood, a number of coffee-plantations.

In my opinion, the situation of Candy is most beautiful, but many affirm that it is too near the mountains, and lies in a pit. At any rate, this pit is a very lovely one, abounding in the most luxuriant vegetation. The town itself is small and ugly, consisting of nothing but a mass of small shops, with natives passing to and fro. The few houses that belong to Europeans, the places of business, and the barracks, are all outside the town, upon small hills. Large sheets of artificial water, surrounded by splendid stone balustrades, and shaded by alleys of the mighty tulip-tree, occupy a portion of the valley. On the side of one of these basins, stands the famous Buddhist temple of Dagoha, which is built in the Moorish- Hindostanee style, and richly ornamented.

On my leaving the coach, one of the passengers was kind enough to recommend me a good hotel, and to call a native and direct him where to conduct me. When I reached the hotel, the people there said that they were very sorry, but that all their rooms were occupied. I asked them to direct my guide to another establishment, which they did. The rascal led me away from the town, and, pointing to a hill which was near us, gave me to understand that the hotel was situated behind it. I believed him, as all the houses are built far apart; but on ascending the hill, I found nothing but a lonely spot and a wood. I wished to turn back, but the fellow paid no attention to my desire, and continued walking towards the wood. I then snatched my portmanteau from him, and refused to proceed any further. He endeavoured to wrest it from me, when, luckily, I saw in the distance two English soldiers, who hastened up in answer to my cries, and, on seeing this, the fellow ran off. I related my adventure to the soldiers, who congratulated me on the recovery of my luggage, and conducted me to the barracks, where one of the officers was kind enough to give orders that I should be conducted to another hotel.

My first visit was to the temple of Dagoha, which contains a valuable relic of the god Buddha, namely, one of his teeth, and, together with the out-buildings, is surrounded by a wall. The circumference of the principal temple is not very considerable, and the sanctuary, which contains the tooth, is a small chamber hardly twenty feet broad. Within this place all is darkness, as there are no windows, and inside the door, there is a curtain, to prevent the entry of any light. The walls and ceiling are covered with silk tapestry, which, however, has nothing but its antiquity to recommend it. It is true that it was interwoven with gold thread, but it appeared never to have been especially costly, and I cannot believe that it ever produced that dazzling effect which some travellers have described. Half of the chamber was engrossed by a large table, or kind of altar, inlaid with plates of silver, and ornamented round the edges with precious stones. On it stands a bell-shaped case, measuring at the bottom at least three feet in diameter, and the same in height. It is made of silver thickly gilt, and decorated with a number of costly jewels; there is a peacock in the middle entirely formed of precious stones; but all these treasures fail to produce any very great effect, from the clumsy and inartistic fashion in which they are set.

Under the large case there are six smaller ones, said to be of pure gold; under the last is the tooth of the all-powerful divinity. The outer case is secured by means of three locks, two of the keys belonging to which used to be kept by the English governor, while the third remained in the custody of the chief priest of the temple. A short time previous to my visit, however, the government had restored the two keys to the natives with great solemnities, and they are now confided to one of the native Radschas, or princes.

The relic itself is only shown to a prince or some other great personage; all other people must be content to believe the priest, who, for a small gratuity, has the politeness to describe the size and beauty of the tooth. The dazzling whiteness of its hue is said to eclipse that of ivory, while its form is described as being more beautiful than anything of the kind ever beheld, and its size to equal that of the tooth of an immense bullock.

An immense number of pilgrims come here every year to pay their adoration to this divine tooth.

"Where ignorance is bliss, 't is folly to be wise." How many people are there among us Christians who believe things which require quite as great an amount of faith? For instance, I remember witnessing, when I was a girl, a festival at Calvaria, in Gallicia, which is still celebrated every year. A great multitude of pilgrims go there to obtain splinters of the true cross. The priests manufacture little crosses of wax, on which, as they assure the faithful, they stick splinters of the real one. These little crosses, wrapped up in paper and packed in baskets, are placed ready for distribution, that is, for sale. Every peasant generally takes three: one to put in his room, one in his stable, and another in his barn. The most wonderful portion of the business is that these crosses must be renewed every year, as in that period they lose their divine power.

But let me return to Candy. In a second temple, adjoining that in which the relic is preserved, are two gigantic hollow statues of the god Buddha in a sitting posture, and both are said to be formed of the finest gold. Before these colossi stand whole rows of smaller Buddhas, of crystal, glass, silver, copper, and other materials. In the entrance hall, likewise, are several stone statues of different gods, with other ornaments, most of them roughly and stiffly executed. In the middle stands a small plain monument of stone, resembling a bell turned upside down; it is said to cover the grave of a Brahmin.

On the outer walls of the principal temple are wretched daubs in fresco, representing the state of eternal punishment. Some of the figures are being roasted, twitched with red-hot pincers, partly baked, or forced to swallow fire. Others again, are jammed between rocks, or having pieces of flesh cut out of their bodies, etc., but fire appears to play the principal part in these punishments.

The doors of the principal temple are made of metal, and the door posts of ivory. On the first are the most beautiful arabesques in basso-relief, and on the second, in inlaid work, representing flowers and other objects. Before the principal entrance, four of the largest elephant's teeth ever found are stuck up by way of ornament.

Ranged round the court-yard are the tents of the priests, who always go about with bare, shaven heads, and whose costume consists of a light yellow upper garment, which nearly covers the whole body. It is said that there were once 500 officiating priests in this temple; at present the divinity is obliged to content himself with a few dozen.

The chief part of the religious ceremonies of the Buddhists consists in presents of flowers and money. Every morning and evening a most horrible instrument, fit to break the drum of one's ear, and called a tam-tam, together with some shrill trumpets and fifes, is played before the door of the temple. To this soon succeeds a crowd of people from all sides, bringing baskets full of the most beautiful flowers, with which the priests adorn the altars, and that in a manner so elegant and tasty, that it cannot be surpassed.

Besides this temple, there are several others in Candy, but only one worth noticing. This is situated at the foot of a rocky hill, out of which has been hewn a statue of Buddha, thirty-six feet high, and over this is built the temple, which is small and elegant. The god is painted with the most glaring colours. The walls of the temple are covered with handsome red cement, and portioned out into small panels, in all of which the god Buddha appears al fresco. There are also a few portraits of Vischnu, another god. The colours on the southern wall of the temple are remarkable for their fine state of preservation.

Here, likewise, there is a funeral monument, like that of the Temple of Dagoha, not however, in the building itself, but under the lofty firmament of heaven, and shaded by noble trees.

Attached to the temples are frequently schools, in which the priests fulfil the duties of teachers. Near this particular temple, we saw about a dozen boys—girls are not allowed to attend school—busy writing. The copies for them were written very beautifully, by means of a stylus, on small palm-leaves, and the boys used the same material.

It is well worth any person's while to walk to the great valley through which the Mahavilaganga flows. It is intersected with a countless number of wave-like hills, many of which form regular terraces, and are planted with rice or coffee. Nature is here young and vigorous, and amply rewards the planter's toil. The darker portions of the picture are composed of palms or other trees, and the back-ground consists partly of towering mountains, in a holiday suit of green velvet, partly of stupendous and romantic rocks in all their gloomy nakedness.

I saw many of the principal mountains in Ceylon—giants, 8,000 feet high; but, unfortunately, not the most celebrated one, Adam's Peak, which has an altitude of 6,500 feet, and which, towards the summit is so steep, that it was necessary, in order to enable any one to climb up, to cut small steps in the rock, and let in an iron chain.

But the bold adventurer is amply repaid for his trouble. On the flat summit of the rock is the imprint of a small foot, five feet long. The Mahomedans suppose it to be that of our vigorous progenitor, Adam, and the Buddhists that of their large-toothed divinity, Buddha. Thousands of both sects flock to the place every year, to perform their devotions.

There still exists at Candy the palace of the former king, or emperor of Ceylon. It is a handsome stone building, but with no peculiar feature of its own; I should have supposed that it had been built by Europeans. It consists of a ground floor, somewhat raised, with large windows, and handsome porticoes resting upon columns. The only remarkable thing about it is a large hall in the interior, with its walls decorated with some rough and stiffly executed representations of animals in relief. Since the English deposed the native sovereign, the palace has been inhabited by the English resident, or governor.

Had I only arrived a fortnight sooner, I should have witnessed the mode of hunting, or rather snaring, elephants. The scene of operations is a spot on the banks of some stream or other, where these animals go to drink. A large place is enclosed with posts, leading up to which, and also skirted by stout posts, are a series of narrow passages. A tame elephant, properly trained, is then made fast in the middle of the large space, to entice by his cries the thirsty animals, who enter unsuspiciously the labyrinth from which they cannot escape, as the hunters and drivers follow, alarm them by their shouts, and drive them into the middle of the enclosure. The finest are taken alive, by being deprived of food for a short time. This renders them so obedient, that they quietly allow a noose to be thrown over them, and then follow the tame elephant without the least resistance. The others are then either killed or set at liberty, according as they possess fine tusks or not.

The preparations for capturing these animals sometimes last several weeks, as, besides enclosing the spot selected, a great many persons are employed to hunt up the elephants far and wide, and drive them gradually to the watering place.

Persons sometimes go elephant-hunting, armed merely with firearms; but this is attended with danger. The elephant, as is well known, is easily vulnerable in one spot only,—the middle of the skull. If the hunter happens to hit the mark, the monster lies stretched before him at the first shot; but if he misses, then woe to him, for he is speedily trampled to death by the enraged beast. In all other cases the elephant is very peaceable, and is not easily induced to attack human beings.

The Europeans employ elephants to draw and carry burdens—an elephant will carry forty hundred-weight; but the natives keep them more for show and riding.

I left Candy after a stay of three days, and returned to Colombo, where I was obliged to stop another day, as it was Sunday, and there was no mail.

I profited by this period to visit the town, which is protected by a strong fort. It is very extensive; the streets are handsome, broad, and clean; the houses only one story high, and surrounded by verandahs and colonnades. The population is reckoned at about 80,000 souls, of whom about 100 are Europeans, exclusive of the troops, and 200 descendants of Portuguese colonists, who founded a settlement here some centuries ago. The complexion of the latter is quite as dark as that of the natives themselves.

In the morning I attended mass. The church was full of Irish soldiers and Portuguese. The dress of the Portuguese was extremely rich; they wore ample robes with large folds, and short silk jackets; in their ears hung ear-rings of pearls and diamonds, and round their necks, arms, and even ankles, were gold and silver chains.

In the afternoon I took a walk to one of the numerous cinnamon plantations round Colombo. The cinnamon tree or bush is planted in rows; it attains at most a height of nine feet, and bears a white, scentless blossom. From the fruit, which is smaller than an acorn, oil is obtained by crushing and boiling it; the oil then disengages itself and floats on the top of the water. It is mixed with cocoa- oil and used for burning.

There are two cinnamon harvests in the course of the year. The first and principal one takes place from April to July, and the second from November to January. The rind is peeled from the branches by means of knives, and then dried in the sun; this gives it a yellowish or brownish tint. The best cinnamon is a light yellow, and not thicker than pasteboard.

The essential oil of cinnamon, used in medicine, is extracted from the plant itself, which is placed in a vessel full of water, and left to steep for eight to ten days. The whole mass is then transferred to a retort and distilled over a slow fire. In a short time, on the surface of the water thus distilled a quantity of oil collects, and this is then skimmed off with the greatest care.

In the animal kingdom, besides the elephants, I was much struck by the number and tameness of the ravens of Ceylon. In every small town and village may be seen multitudes of these birds, that come up to the very doors and windows and pick up everything. They play the part of scavengers here, just as dogs do in Turkey. The horned cattle are rather small, with humps between the shoulder-blades; these humps consist of flesh and are considered a great dainty.

In Colombo and Pointe de Galle there are likewise a great many large white buffaloes, belonging to the English government, and imported from Bengal. They are employed in drawing heavy loads.

Under the head of fruit, I may mention the pine-apple as being particularly large and good.

I found the temperature supportable, especially in the high country round about Candy, where, after some heavy rain, it might almost be called cold. In the evening and morning the thermometer stood as low as 61 degrees 25' Fah.; and in the middle of the day and in the sun, it did not rise above 79 degrees 25'. In Colombo and Pointe de Galle, the weather was fine, and the heat reached 95 degrees Fah.

On the 26th of October I again reached Pointe de Galle, and on the following day I embarked in another English steamer for India.



CHAPTER XI. MADRAS AND CALCUTTA.



DEPARTURE FROM CEYLON—MADRAS—CALCUTTA—MODE OF LIFE OF THE EUROPEANS—THE HINDOOS—PRINCIPAL OBJECTS OF INTEREST IN THE TOWN— VISIT TO A BABOO—RELIGIOUS FESTIVALS OF THE HINDOOS—HOUSES OF DEATH AND PLACES FOR BURNING THE DEAD—MAHOMEDAN AND EUROPEAN MARRIAGE CEREMONIES.

On the afternoon of the 27th of October I went on board the steamship "Bentinck," of 500 horse-power; but we did not weigh anchor much before evening.

Among the passengers was an Indian prince of the name of Schadathan, who had been made prisoner by the English for breaking a peace he had concluded with them. He was treated with all the respect due to his rank, and he was allowed his two companions, his mundschi, or secretary, and six of his servants. They were all dressed in the Oriental fashion, only, instead of turbans, they wore high, round caps, composed of pasteboard covered with gold or silver stuff. They wore also luxuriant long black hair, and beards.

The companions of the prince took their meals with the servants. A carpet was spread out upon the deck, and two large dishes, one containing boiled fowls, and the other pillau, placed upon it; the company used their hands for knives and forks.

28th October. We still were in sight of the fine dark mountain ranges of Ceylon. Now and then, too, some huge detached groups of rocks would be visible towering above the waves.

29th October. Saw no land. A few whales betrayed their presence by the showers of spray they spouted up, and immense swarms of flying fish were startled by the noise of our engines.

On the morning of the 30th of October we came in sight of the Indian continent. We soon approached near enough to the shore to distinguish that it was particularly remarkable for its beauty, being flat and partly covered with yellow sand; in the back-ground were chains of low hills.

At 1 o'clock, P.M., we anchored at a considerable distance (six miles) from Madras. The anchoring place here is the most dangerous in the world, the ground-swell being so strong that at no time can large vessels approach near the town, and many weeks often pass without even a boat being able to do so. Ships, consequently, only stop a very short time, and there are rarely more than a dozen to be seen riding at anchor. Large boats, rowed by ten or twelve men, come alongside them to take the passengers, letters, and merchandise ashore.

The steamer stops here eight hours, which may be spent in viewing the town, though any one so doing runs a chance of being left behind, as the wind is constantly changing. I trusted to the good luck which had always attended me during my travels, and made one of the party that disembarked; but we had not got more than half way to land when I was punished for my curiosity. It began to rain most fearfully, and we were very soon wet to the skin. We took refuge in the first coffee-house we saw, situated at the water's edge; the rain had now assumed a tropical character, and we were unable to leave our asylum. As soon as the storm had passed by, a cry was raised for us to return as quickly as possible, as there was no knowing what might follow.

A speculative baker of Madras had come out in the first boat that reached the steamer with ice and biscuits for sale, which he disposed of very much to his profit.

The angry heavens at length took compassion on us and cleared up before sunset. We were then enabled to see the palace-like dwellings of the Europeans, built half in the Grecian and half in the Italian style of architecture, stretching along the shore and beautifully lighted by the sun. Besides these, there were others standing outside the town in the midst of magnificent gardens.

Before we left, a number of natives ventured to us in small boats with fruit, fish, and other trifles. Their boats were constructed of the trunks of four small trees, tightly bound together with thin ropes made of the fibres of the cocoa-tree; a long piece of wood served as an oar. The waves broke so completely over them that I imagined every instant that both boats and men were irretrievably lost.

The good people were almost in a state of nature, and seemed to bestow all their care on their heads, which were covered with pieces of cloth, turbans, cloth or straw caps, or very high and peaked straw hats. The more respectable—among whom may be reckoned the boatmen who brought the passengers and mails—were, however, in many cases, very tastily dressed. They had on neat jackets, and large long pieces of cloth wrapped round their bodies; both the cloths and jackets were white, with a border of blue stripes. On their heads they wore tightly fitting white caps, with a long flap hanging down as far as their shoulders. These caps, too, had a blue border. The complexion of the natives was a dark brown or coffee colour.

Late in the evening, a native woman came on board with her two children. She had paid second-class fare, and was shown a small dark berth not far from the first cabin places. Her younger child had, unfortunately, a bad cough, which prevented some rich English lady, who had likewise a child with her, from sleeping. Perhaps the exaggerated tenderness which this lady manifested for her little son caused her to believe that the cough might be catching; but, be that as it may, the first thing she did on the following morning, was to beg that the captain would transfer mother and children to the deck, which the noble-hearted humane captain immediately did, neither the lady nor himself caring in the least whether the poor mother had or had not, even a warm coverlid to protect her sick child from the night cold and the frequent heavy showers.

Would that this rich English lady's child had only been ill, and exposed with her to the foggy night air, that she might herself have experienced what it is to be thus harshly treated! A person of any heart must almost feel ashamed at belonging to a class of beings who allow themselves to be far surpassed in humanity and kindness by those who are termed savages; no savages would have thus thrust forth a poor woman with a sick child, but would, on the contrary, have taken care of both. It is only Europeans, who have been brought up with Christian principles, who assume the right of treating coloured people according as their whim or fancy may dictate.

On the 1st and 2nd of November we caught occasional glimpses of the mainland, as well as of several little islands; but all was flat and sandy, without the least pretensions to natural beauty. Ten or twelve ships, some of them East Indiamen of the largest size, were pursuing the same route as ourselves.

On the morning of the 3rd of November, the sea had already lost its own beautiful colour, and taken that of the dirty yellow Ganges. Towards evening we had approached pretty close to the mouths of this monster river, for some miles previous to our entering which, the water had a sweet flavour. I filled a glass from the holy stream, and drank it to the health of all those near and dear to me at home.

At 5 o'clock in the afternoon, we cast anchor before Kadscheri, at the entrance of the Ganges, it being too late to proceed to Calcutta, which is sixty nautical miles distant. The stream at this point was several miles broad, so that the dark line of only one of its banks was to be seen.

4th November. In the morning we entered the Hoogly, one of the seven mouths of the Ganges. A succession of apparently boundless plains lay stretched along on both sides of the river. Fields of rice were alternated with sugar plantations, while palm, bamboo, and other trees, sprung up between, and the vegetation extended, in wanton luxuriance, down to the very water's edge; the only objects wanting to complete the picture were villages and human beings, but it was not until we were within about five-and-twenty miles of Calcutta that we saw now and then a wretched village or a few half- naked men. The huts were formed of clay, bamboos, or palm branches, and covered with tiles, rice-straw, or palm leaves. The larger boats of the natives struck me as very remarkable, and differed entirely from those I saw at Madras. The front portion was almost flat, being elevated hardly half a foot above the water while the stern was about seven feet high.

The first grand-looking building, a cotton mill, is situated fifteen miles below Calcutta, and a cheerful dwelling-house is attached. From this point up to Calcutta, both banks of the Hoogly are lined with palaces built in the Greco-Italian style, and richly provided with pillars and terraces. We flew too quickly by, unfortunately, to obtain more than a mere passing glimpse of them.

Numbers of large vessels either passed us or were sailing in the same direction, and steamer after steamer flitted by, tugging vessels after them; the scene became more busy and more strange, every moment, and everything gave signs that we were approaching an Asiatic city of the first magnitude.

Previous Part     1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9  10  11  12     Next Part
Home - Random Browse