It is a common thing to stumble over the bodies of dead babies in the streets. In England it is counted murder to kill a babe, but it is thought no harm in China. Yet the Chinese call themselves good. But when you ask a poor man where he expects to go when he dies, he replies, "To hell of course;" and he says this with a loud laugh. His reason for thinking he shall go to hell is, because he has not money enough to give to the gods; for rich people all expect to go to heaven. Mandarins especially expect to go there. If they were to read the Bible, they would see that God will punish kings, and mighty men, and great captains, and all who are wicked.
 These are some of the sentences written in the old books:
"Never say, There is no one who sees me, for there is a wise Spirit who sees all."
"Man no longer has what he had before the fall, and he has brought his children into his misery. O! Heaven, you only can help us. Wipe away the stains of the father, and save his children."
"Never speak but with great care. Do not say, It is only a single word. Remember that no one has the keeping of your heart and tongue but you."
These sentences are like some verses in the Psalms and Proverbs; and, it may be, they were spoken first by some holy men of old.
Here is one more remarkable than all:—
"God hates the proud, and is kind to the humble."
 The means by which the Buddhist religion entered China are remarkable. A certain Chinese emperor once read in the book of Confucius this sentence, "The true saint will be found in the West." He thought a great deal about it; at last he dreamed about it. He was so much struck by his dream that he sent two of his great lords to look for the true religion in the West. When they reached India, they found multitudes worshipping Buddha. This Buddha was a wicked man who had been born in India a thousand years before. The Chinese messengers believed all the absurd histories they heard about Buddha, and they returned to China with a book which had been written about him. Ah! had they gone as far as Canaan they might have heard Paul and Peter preaching the Gospel. Alas! why did they go no further, and why did they go so far, only to return to China with idols!
Any one on hearing this name would guess that the country was like China; and so it is. If you were to go there you would be reminded of China by many of the customs. You would see at dinner small basins instead of plates, chop-sticks instead of knives and forks; you would have rice to eat instead of bread; and rice wine to drink instead of grape wine.
But you would not find all the Chinese customs in Cochin-China: for you would see the women walking about at liberty, and with large feet, that is, with feet of the natural size, and not cramped up like the "golden lilies" of China. Neither would you see the people treated as strictly in Cochin-China as in China. Beatings are not nearly as common there, and behavior is not nearly as good as in China.
The people are very different from the Chinese; for they are gay and talkative, and open and sociable, while the Chinese are just the contrary. However, they resemble the Chinese in fondness for eating. They are very fond of giving grand dinners, and sometimes provide a hundred dishes, and invite a hundred guests. A man is thought very generous who gives such grand dinners. No one in Cochin-China would think of eating his morsel alone, but every one asks those around to partake; and if any one were not to do so, he would be counted very mean. Yet the people of Cochin-China are always begging for gifts; and if they cannot get the things they ask for, they steal them. Are they generous? No, because they are covetous. It is impossible to be at the same time generous and covetous; for what goodness is there in giving away our own things, if we are wishing for other people's things?
And now let us leave the people and look at the land. It is fruitful and beautiful, being watered abundantly by fine rivers: but these rivers, flowing among lofty mountains, often overflow, and drown men and cattle. The grass of such a country must be very rich; and there are cows feeding on it; yet there is no milk or butter to be had. Why? Because the people have a foolish idea that it is wrong to milk cows.
In no country are there stronger and larger elephants; so strong and so large that one can carry thirteen persons on his back at once.
The land is full of idols: for Buddha or Fo is worshipped in Cochin-China, as he is in China.
The idols are sometimes kept in high trees, and priests may be seen mounting ladders to present offerings.
But the people are not satisfied with idols in trees; they have pocket idols, which they carry about with them everywhere.
These two kingdoms belong to the king of Cochin-China; yet all three, Tonquin, Cambodia, and Cochin-China, pay tribute to China, and therefore they must be considered as conquered countries.
They are all very much like China in their customs. There are large cities in them all, and multitudes of people, but very little is known about them in England.
This word Hindostan means "black place," for in the Persian language "hind" is "black," and "stan" is "place." You may guess, therefore, that the people in Hindostan are very dark; yet they are not quite black, and some of the ladies are only of a light brown complexion.
What a large country Hindostan is! Has it an emperor of its own, as China has? No: large as it is, it belongs to the little country called England.
How did the English get it?
They conquered it by little and little. When first they came there, they found there a Mahomedan people, called the Moguls. These Moguls had conquered Hindostan: but by degrees the English conquered them, and became masters of all the land.
There is only one small country among the mountains which has not been conquered by the English, and that place is Nepaul. It is near the Himalaya mountains. See that great chain of mountains in the north: they are the Himalaya—the highest mountains in the world. The word "him," or "hem," means snow—and snowy indeed are those mountains.
There is a great river that flows from the Himalaya called the Ganges. It flows by many mouths into the ocean; yet of all these mouths only one is deep enough for large ships to sail in; the other mouths are all choked up with sand. The deep mouth of the Ganges is called the Hoogley.
It was on the banks of the Hoogley that the first English city was built. It was built by some English merchants, and is called Calcutta. That name comes from the name of a horrible idol called Kalee, of which more will be said hereafter.
Calcutta is now a very grand city; there is the governor's palace, and there are the mansions of many rich Englishmen. It has been called "the city of palaces."
There is another great river on the other side of Hindostan called the Indus. It was from that river that Hindostan got the name of India, or the East Indies.
VILLAGES.—Calcutta is built on a large plain called Bengal. Dotted about this plain are many villages. At a distance they look prettier than English villages, for they are overshadowed with thick trees; but they are wretched places to live in. The huts are scarcely big enough to hold human creatures, nor strong enough to bear the pelting of the storm. When you enter them you will find neither floor nor window, and very little furniture; neither chair, nor table, nor bed—nothing but a large earthen bottle for fetching water, a smaller one for drinking, a basket for clothes, a few earthen pans, a few brass plates, and a mat.
A Hindoo is counted very rich who has procured a wooden bedstead to place his mat upon, and a wooden trunk, with a lock and key, to contain his clothes; such a man is considered to have a well-furnished house.
As you pass through the villages, you may see groups of men sitting under the trees smoking their pipes, while children, without clothes, are rolling in the dust, and sporting with the kids. Prowling about the villages are hungry dogs and whining jackalls, seeking for bones and offal; but the children are too much used to these creatures to be afraid of them. Hovering in the air are crows and kites, ready to secure any morsel they can see, or even to snatch the food, if they can, out of the children's little hands.
What a confused noise do you hear as you pass along! barking, whining, and squalling, loud laughing, and incessant chattering. It is a heathen village, and the sweet notes of praise to God are never sung there.
Yet in every village there is a little temple with an idol, and a priest to take the idol, to lay it down to sleep, and to offer it food, which he eats himself.
The poor people bring the food for the idol with flowers, and place it at the door of the temple.
APPEARANCE.—The Hindoos are pleasing in their appearance, for their features are well-formed, their teeth are white, and their eyes have a soft expression. The women take much pains to dress their long black hair, which is soft as silk: they gather it up in a knot at their heads, and crown it with flowers. They have no occasion for a needle to make their dresses, as they are all in one piece. They wind a long strip of white muslin (called a saree) round their bodies, and fold it over their heads like a veil, and then they are full dressed, except their ornaments, and with these they load themselves; glass rings of different colors on their arms, silver rings on their fingers and toes, and gold rings in their ears, and a gold ring in their nose.
The men wear a long strip of calico twisted closely round their bodies, and another thrown loosely over their shoulders; but this last they cast off when they are at work: it is their upper garment. On their heads they wear turbans, and on their feet sandals. The clothes of both men and women are generally white or pink, or white bordered with red.
FOOD.—The most common food is rice; and with this curry is often mixed to give it a relish. What is curry? It is a mixture of herbs, spices, and oil.
Very poor people cannot afford to eat either rice or curry; and they eat some coarse grain instead. A lady who made a feast for the poor provided nothing but rice, and she found that it was thought as good as roast beef and plum pudding are thought in England. The day after the feast some of the poor creatures came to pick up the grains of rice that were fallen upon the ground.
The rich Hindoos eat mutton and venison, but not beef; this they think it wicked to eat, because they worship bulls and cows.
A favorite food is clarified butter, called "ghee," white rancid stuff, kept in skin bottles to mix with curry.
Water is the general drink, and there could not be a better. Yet there are intoxicating drinks, and some of the Hindoos have learned to love them, from seeing the English drink too much. What a sad thing that Christians should set a bad example to heathens!
PRODUCTIONS.—There are many beautiful trees in India never seen in England, and many nice fruits never tasted here.
The palm-tree, with its immense leaves, is the glory of India. These leaves are very useful; they form the roof, the umbrella, the bed, the plate, and the writing-paper of the Hindoo.
The most curious tree in India is the banyan, because one tree grows into a hundred. How is that? The branches hang down, touch the ground, strike root there, and spring up into new trees—joined to the old. Under an aged banyan there is shade for a large congregation. Seventy thousand men might sit beneath its boughs.
There is a sort of grass which grows a hundred feet high, and becomes hard like wood. It is called the bamboo. The stem is hollow like a pipe, and is often used as a water-pipe. It serves also for posts for houses, and for poles for carriages.
There are abundance of nice fruits in India; and of these the mangoe is the best. You might mistake it for a pear when you saw it, but not when you tasted it. Pears cannot grow in India; the sun is too hot for grapes and oranges, excepting on the hills.
The chief productions of India are rice and cotton; rice is the food, and cotton is the clothing of the Hindoo: and quantities of these are sent to England, for though we have wheat for food, we want rice too; and though we have wool for clothing, we want cotton too.
RELIGION.—There is no nation that has so many gods as the Hindoos. What do you think of three hundred and thirty millions! There are not so many people in Hindostan as that. No one person can know the names of all these gods; and who would wish to know them? Some of them are snakes, and some are monkeys!
The chief god of all is called Brahm. But, strange to say, no one worships him. There is not an image of him in all India.
And why not? Because he is too great, the Hindoos say, to think of men on earth. He is always in a kind of sleep. What would be the use of worshipping him?
Next to him are three gods, and they are part of Brahm.
Their names are—
I. Brahma, the Creator. II. Vishnoo, the Preserver. III. Sheeva, the Destroyer.
Which of these should you think men ought to worship the most? Not the destroyer. Yet it is him they do worship the most. Very few worship Brahma the creator. And why not? Because the Hindoos think he can do no more for them than he has done; and they do not care about thanking him.
Vishnoo, the preserver, is a great favorite; because it is supposed that he bestows all manner of gifts. The Hindoos say he has been nine times upon the earth; first as a fish, then as a tortoise, a man, a lion, a boar, a dwarf, a giant; twice as a warrior, named Ram, and once as a thief, named Krishna. They say he will come again as a conquering king, riding on a white horse. Is it not wonderful they should say that? It reminds one of the prophecy in Rev. xix. about Christ's second coming. Did the Hindoos hear that prophecy in old time? They may have heard it, for the apostle Thomas once preached in India, at least we believe he did.
Why do the people worship Sheeva the destroyer? Because they hope that if they gain his favor, they shall not be destroyed by him. They do not know that none can save from the destroyer but God.
The Hindoos make images of their gods. Brahma is represented as riding on a goose; Vishnoo on a creature half-bird and half-man; and Sheeva on a bull.
Sheeva's image looks horribly ferocious with the tiger-skin and the necklace of skulls and snakes; but Sheeva's wife is far fiercer than himself. Her name is Kalee. Her whole delight is said to be in blood. Those who wish to please her, offer up the blood of beasts; but those who wish to please her still more, offer up their own blood.
Her great temple, called Kalee Ghaut, is near Calcutta. There is a great feast in her honor once a year at that temple. Early in the morning crowds assemble there with the noise of trumpets and kettle-drums. See those wild fierce men adorned with flowers. They go towards the temple. A blacksmith is ready. Lo! one puts out his tongue, and the blacksmith cuts it: that is to please Kalee: another chooses rather to have an iron bar run through his tongue. Some thrust iron bars and burning coals into their sides. The boldest mount a wooden scaffold and throw themselves down upon iron spikes beneath, stuck in bags of sand. It is very painful to fall upon these spikes; but there is another way of torture quite as painful—it is the swing. Those who determine to swing, allow the blacksmith to drive hooks into the flesh upon their backs, and hanging by these hooks they swing in the air for ten minutes, or even for half an hour. And WHO all these cruel tortures? To please Kalee, and to make the people wonder and admire, for the multitude around shout with joy as they behold these horrible deeds.
THE CASTES.—The Hindoos pretend that when Brahma created men, he made some out of his mouth, some out of his arms, some out of his breast, and some out of his foot. They say the priests came out of Brahma's mouth, the soldiers came out of his arm, the merchants came out of his breast, the laborers came out of his foot. You may easily guess who invented this history. It was the priests themselves: it was they who wrote the sacred books where this history is found.
The priests are very proud of their high birth, and they call themselves Brahmins.
The laborers, who are told they come out of Brahma's foot, are much ashamed of their low birth. They are called sudras.
You would be astonished to hear the great respect the sudras pay to the high and haughty Brahmins. When a sudra meets a Brahmin in the street, he touches the ground three times with his forehead, then, taking the priest's foot in his hand, he kisses his toe.
The water in which a Brahmin has washed his feet is thought very holy. It is even believed that such water can cure diseases.
A Hindoo prince, who was very ill of a fever, was advised to try this remedy. He invited the Brahmins from all parts of the country to assemble at his palace. Many thousands came. Each, as he arrived, was requested to wash his feet in a basin. This was the medicine given to the sick prince to drink. It cost a great deal of money to procure it; for several shillings were given to each Brahmin to pay him for his trouble, and a good dinner was provided for all. It is said that the prince recovered immediately, but we are quite certain that it was not the water which cured him.
In the holy books, or shasters, great blessings are promised to those who are kind to a Brahmin. Any one who gives him an umbrella will never more be scorched by the sun; any one who gives him a pair of shoes will never have blistered feet; any one who gives him sweet spices will never more be annoyed by ill smells; and any one who gives him a cow will go to heaven.
You may be sure that, after such promises, the Brahmins get plenty of presents; indeed, they may generally be known by their well-fed appearance, as well as by their proud manner of walking. They always wear a white cord hung round their necks.
But we must not suppose that all Brahmins are rich, and all sudras poor; for it is not so. There are so many Brahmins that some can find no employment as priests, and they are obliged to learn trades. Many of them become cooks.
There are sudras as rich as princes; but still a sudra can never be as honorable as a Brahmin, though the Brahmin be the cook and the sudra the master.
But the sudras are not the most despised people. Far from it. It is those who have no caste at all who are the most despised. They are called pariahs. These are people who have lost their caste. It is a very easy thing to lose caste, and once lost it can never be regained. A Brahmin would lose his caste by eating with a sudra; a sudra would lose his by eating with a pariah, and by eating with you—yes, with you, for the Hindoos think that no one is holy but themselves. It often makes a missionary smile when he enters a cottage to see the people putting away their food with haste, lest he should defile it by his touch.
Once an English officer, walking along the road, passed very near a Hindoo just going to eat his dinner; suddenly he saw the man take up the dish and dash it angrily to the ground. Why? The officer's shadow had passed over the food and polluted it.
If you were to invite poor Hindoos to come to a feast, they would not eat if you sat down with them: nor would they eat unless they knew a Hindoo had cooked their food. Even children at school will not eat with children of a lower caste,—or with their teachers, if the teachers are not Hindoos.
There was once a little Hindoo girl named Rajee. She went to a missionary's school, but she would not eat with her schoolfellows, because she belonged to a higher caste than they did. As she lived at the school, her mother brought her food every day, and Rajee sat under a tree to eat it. At the end of two years she told her mother that she wished to turn from idols, and serve the living God. Her mother was much troubled at hearing this, and begged her child not to bring disgrace on the family by becoming a Christian. But Rajee was anxious to save her precious soul. She cared no longer for her caste, for she knew that all she had been taught about it was deceit and folly; therefore one day she sat down and ate with her schoolfellows. When her mother heard of Rajee's conduct, she ran to the school in a rage, and seizing her little daughter by the hair of the head, began to beat her severely. Then she hastened to the priests to ask them whether the child had lost her caste forever. The priests replied, "Has the child got her new teeth?" "No," said the mother. "Then we can cleanse her, and when her new teeth come she will be as pure as ever. But you must pay a good deal of money for the cleansing." Were they not cunning priests? and covetous priests too?
The money was paid, and Rajee was brought home against her will. Dreadful sufferings awaited the poor child. The cleansing was a cruel business. The priests burned the child's tongue. This was one of their cruelties. When little Rajee was suffered to go back to school, she was so ill that she could not rise from her bed.
The poor deceived mother came to see her. "I am going to Jesus," said the young martyr. The mother began to weep, "O Rajee, we will not let you die."
"But I am glad," the little sufferer replied, "because I shall go to Jesus. If you, mother, would love him, and give up your idols, we should meet again in heaven."
An hour afterwards Rajee went to heaven; but I have never heard whether her mother gave up her idols.
THE GANGES.—This beautiful river waters the sultry plain of Bengal. God made this river to be a blessing, but man has turned it into a curse. The Hindoos say the River Ganges is the goddess Gunga; and they flock from all parts of India to worship her. When they reach the river they bathe in it, and fancy they have washed away all their sins. They carry away large bottles of the sacred water for their friends at home.
But this is not all; very cruel deeds are committed by the side of the river. It is supposed that all who die there will go to the Hindoo heaven. It is therefore the custom to drag dying people out of their beds, and to lay them in the mud, exposed to the heat of the broiling sun, and then to pour pails of water over their heads.
One sick man, who was being carried to the water, covered up as if he were dead, suddenly threw off the covering, and called out, "I am not dead, I am only very ill." He knew that the cruel people who were carrying him were going to cast him into the water while he was still alive: but nothing he could say could save him: the cruel creatures answered, "You may as well die now as at any other time;" and so they drowned him, pretending all the while to be very kind.
It is thought a good thing to be thrown into the river after death. The Ganges is the great burying-place; and dead bodies may be seen floating on its waters, while crows and vultures are tearing the flesh from the bones. There would be many more of these horrible sights were it not that many bodies are burned, and their ashes only cast into the river.
Some foolish deceived creatures drown themselves in the Ganges, hoping to be very happy hereafter as a reward. The Brahmins are ready to accompany such people into the water. Some men were once seen going into the river with a large empty jar fastened to the back of each. The empty jar prevented them from sinking; but there was a cup in the hands of each of the poor men, and with these cups they filled the jars, and then they began to sink. One of them grew frightened, and tried to get on shore; but the wicked Brahmins in their boats hunted him, and tried to keep him in the water; however, they could not catch him, and the miserable man escaped. There are villages near the river whither such poor creatures flee, and where they end their days together; for their old friends would not speak to them if they were to return to their homes.
BEGGARS.—As you walk about Hindostan, you will sometimes meet a horrible object, with no other covering than a tiger's skin, or else an orange scarf; his body besmeared with ashes, his hair matted like the shaggy coat of a wild beast, and his nails like birds' claws. The man is a beggar, and a very bold one, because he is considered as one of the holiest of men. Who is he?
A sunnyasee. Who is he?
A Brahmin, who wishing to be more holy than other Brahmins (holy as they are), has left all and become a beggar. As a reward, he expects, when he dies, to go straight to heaven, without being first born again in the world. It is wonderful to see the tortures which a sunnyasee will endure. He will stand for years on one leg, till it is full of wounds, or, if he prefers it, he will clench his fist till the nails grow through the hands.
These holy beggars are found in all parts of India, but they are particularly fond of the most desolate spots. Near the mouth of the Ganges there are some desert places, the resort of tigers, and there many of the sunnyasees live in huts. They pretend not to be afraid of the tigers, and the Hindoos think that tigers will not touch such holy men; but it is certain that tigers have been seen dragging some of these proud men into the woods.
There is another kind of beggars called fakirs; they are just as wicked and foolish as the sunnyasees; but they are Mahomedans and not Brahmins.
ANIMALS.—Some of the fiercest and most disagreeable animals are highly honored in India.
The monkey is counted as a god; the consequence is, that the monkeys, finding they are treated with respect, grow very bold, and are continually scrambling upon the roofs of the houses. In one place there is a garden where monkeys riot about at their pleasure, for all in that garden is for them alone, the delicious fruits, the cool fountains, the shady bowers, all are for the worthless, mischievous monkeys.
But if it be strange for men to worship monkeys, is it not stranger still to worship snakes and serpents? Yet there is a temple in India where serpents crawl about at their pleasure, where they are waited upon by priests, and fed with fruits and every dainty. How much delighted must the old serpent be with this worship!
Kites also, those fierce birds, are worshipped. There is meat sold in shops on purpose for them; and it is bought and thrown up in the air to the great greedy creatures.
There are splendid peacocks flying about in the woods, but the Hindoos do not worship them; they shoot and eat them.
Of all the animals in India there is none which terrifies man so much as the tiger. The Bengal tiger is a fine and fierce beast. Woe to the man or woman on whom he springs! What then do you think must become of the man who falls into his den? These dens are generally hid in jungles, which are places covered with trees, and overgrown with shrubs and tall grass.
A gentleman was once walking through a jungle, when he felt himself sinking into the ground, while a cloud of dust blinded his eyes. Soon he heard a low growling noise. He fancied that he had sunk into a den, and so he had. Beside him lay some little tigers, too young indeed to hurt him; but these tigers had a mother, and she could not be far off, though she was not in the den when the stranger fell in. The astonished man felt there was no time to be lost, for the tigress, he knew, would soon return to her cubs. How could he prepare to meet her? He had neither gun nor sword, nor even stick in his hand. But a thought came into his head. Snatching a silk handkerchief from his neck, and taking another from his pocket, he bound them tightly round his arm up to his elbow; and thus prepared to meet his enemy. She soon appeared, crouching on the ground, and then with a spring leaped upon the stranger. At the same moment the brave man thrust his arm between her open jaws, and seizing hold of her rough tongue, twisted it backwards and forwards with all his might. The beast was now unable to close her mouth, and to bite with her sharp fangs; but she could scratch with her sharp claws; and scratch she did, till the clothes were torn off the man's body, and the flesh from his bones. But the brave man would not loose his hold; and the tigress was tired out first: alarmed,—with a sudden start backward, she jerked her tongue out of the man's hand, and rushed out of the den and out of the jungle.
How glad was the man to escape from a horrible fate! his body was faint and bleeding; but his life was preserved, and his heart overflowed with gratitude to God for his wonderful deliverance. He who delivered Daniel from the lion's den delivered him from the tiger's den. The tiger's mouth, indeed, had not been shut; but his open mouth had not been suffered to devour the Lord's servant.
There is a set of people in India more dangerous than wild beasts. They are called Thugs, that is, deceivers; and well do they deserve the name; for their whole employment is to deceive that they may destroy. Yet they are not ashamed of their wickedness; for they worship the goddess Kalee, and they know that she delights in blood. Before they set out on one of their cruel journeys, they bow down before the image of Kalee, and they ask her to bless the shovel and the cloth that they hold in their hands.
What are they for?
The cloth is to strangle poor travellers, and the shovel to dig their graves.
A Hindoo family were once travelling when they overtook three men on the way. These men seemed very civil and obliging; and they soon got acquainted with the family, and accompanied them on their journey. Who were these men? Alas! they were Thugs. It was very foolish of the family to be so ready to go with strangers. At last they came up to three other men, who were sitting under the shade of a tree, eating sugared rice. These men also were Thugs; and they had agreed with the other Thugs to help them in their wicked plans. But the family thought they were kind and friendly men, and consented to sit down with them in the shade, and to partake of their food. They did not know that with the rice was mixed a sort of drug to cause people to fall asleep. The family ate and fell asleep: and when they were asleep, the Thugs strangled them all with their cloths,—the father, the mother, and the five young people,—and then with their shovels they dug their graves. But before they buried them they stripped them of their garments and their jewels; for it was to get their precious spoils they had committed these dreadful murders. The Thugs went afterwards to the priests of Kalee to receive a blessing, and they rewarded the priests by giving them some of their stolen treasures.
But, after all, these wicked men did not escape punishment; for the English governors heard of their crimes, and caught them, and brought them to justice. Then these murderers confessed the wicked deed just related: but this was not their only crime; for it had been the business of their lives to rob and to destroy.
Do not these Thugs resemble him who is always walking about seeking whom he may devour? Only he destroys the soul as well as the body. He is the great Deceiver, and the great Destroyer. None but God can keep us from falling into his power: therefore we pray, "Deliver us from evil," or from the evil one.
THE HINDOO WOMEN.
It is a miserable thing to be a Hindoo lady. While she is a very little girl, she is allowed to play about, but when she comes to be ten or twelve years old, she is shut up in the back rooms of the house till she is married; and when she is married she is shut up still. She may indeed walk in the garden at the back of the house, but nowhere else.
Hindoo ladies are not taught even those trifling accomplishments which Chinese ladies learn: they can neither paint, nor play music; much less can they read and write. They amuse themselves by putting on their ornaments, or by making curries and sweetmeats to please their husbands: but most of their time they spend in idleness, sauntering about and chattering nonsense. As rich Hindoos have several wives, the ladies are not alone; and being so much together, they quarrel a great deal.
Some English ladies once visited the house of a rich Hindoo. They were led into the court at the back of the house, and shown into a little chamber. One by one some women came in, all looking very shy and afraid to speak; yet dressed very fine in muslin sarees, worked with gold and silver flowers, and they were adorned with pearls and diamonds. At last they ventured to admire the clothes of their visitors, and even to touch them. Then they asked the English ladies to come and see their jewels; and they took them into a little dark chamber with gratings for windows, and displayed their treasures. They talked very loud, and all together and so foolishly, that the ladies reproved them. The poor creatures replied, "We should like to learn to read and work like the English ladies; but we have nothing to do, and so we are accustomed to be idle, and to talk foolishly. Do come again, and bring us books, and pictures, and dolls."
You see what useless, wearisome lives the Hindoo ladies lead. Now hear what hard and wretched lives the poor women lead. The wife of a poor man rises from her mat before it is day, and by the light of a lamp spins cotton for the family clothing. Next she feeds the children, and sweeps the house and yard, and cleans the brass and stone vessels. Then she washes the rice, bruises, and boils it. By this time it is ten o'clock, when she goes with some other women to bathe in the river, or if there be no river near, in a great tank of rain-water. While there, she often makes a clay image of her god, and worships it with prayers, and bowings, and offerings of fruit and flowers, for nearly an hour. On her return home she prepares the curry for dinner: her kitchen is a clay furnace in the yard, and there she boils the rice. When dinner is ready, she dares not sit down with her husband to eat it: no, she places it respectfully before his mat, and then retires to the yard. Her little boys eat with their father; but her little girls dine with her upon the food that is left.
It is not the busy life she leads that makes a poor woman unhappy: it is the ill-treatment she endures. A kind word is seldom spoken to her: but a hard blow is often given. Her own boys are encouraged to insult her because she is only a woman. She is taught to worship her husband as a god, however bad he may be. There is a proverb which shows how much women are despised in India. "How can you place the black rice-pot beside the golden spice-box!" By the rice-box a woman is meant: by the spice-box a man: and the meaning of the proverb is that a wife is unworthy to sit at the same table with her husband.
In this manner a wife is treated: a widow is still more despised. However young she may be, she is not allowed to marry again; but is obliged to live in her father's house, or (if she has no father) in her brother's house, to do the hardest work, and never to eat more than one meal a day, and that meal of the coarsest food. Widows used to burn themselves in a great fire with their husbands' dead bodies; but the English government has forbidden them to do so any more; but their hard-hearted relations make them as miserable as possible.
MISSIONARIES.—There are hundreds of missionaries in India; but not nearly enough for so many millions of people. The Hindoos call them Padri-Sahibs, which means "Father-Gentlemen," and they give them this name to show their love, as well as respect.
Once a missionary who had been long in India was going back to England for a little while. It was from Calcutta that he set sail. The Christian Hindoos stood in crowds by the river-side to bid him farewell. Among the rest was a little girl with her parents. She was a gracious child, who had turned from idols to serve the living God. The missionary said to her, "Well, my child, you know I am going to England. What shall I bring you from that country?"
"I do not want anything," she modestly replied. "I have my parents, and my brother, and the Padri-Sahibs, and my books, what can I want more?"
"But," said the missionary, "you are only a little girl, and surely you would like something from England. Shall I bring you some playthings?"
"No, thank you," said the child; "I do not want playthings—I am learning to read."
"Come, come," said the missionary, "shall I bring you a playfellow, a white child from England!"
"No, no," answered the little girl, "it would be taking her from her parents."
"Well then," said her friend, "is there nothing I can bring you?"
"Well, if you are so kind as to insist on bringing me something, ask the Christians in England to send me a Bible-book and more PADRI-SAHIBS."
This was a good request indeed, but to get Padri-Sahibs is a hard thing to do. Who can tell how much good they have done already! There are many Christian villages in India, and they are as different from heathen villages as a dove's nest is different from a tiger's den.
Some very wicked men have been converted. You have heard of those proud and hateful beggars, the Sunnyasees and the Fakirs.
One day a missionary, who had gone for his health to the Himalaya Mountains, was walking in the verandah of his house, when he was surprised by a man suddenly throwing himself down at his feet, and embracing his knees. The missionary could not tell who this man was, for a dark blanket covered the man's head and face. But soon the covering was lifted up, and a swarthy and withered countenance was shown; the missionary knew it to be that of an old Fakir he once had known, as the chief priest of a gang of robbers, but now the Mahomedan was become a Christian; and he had travelled six hundred miles, hoping to see once more the face of his teacher; and lo! he had seen it at last.
SCHOOLS.—The Hindoos have schools of their own, but only for boys. The scholars sit in a shed, cross-legged upon mats, and learn to scratch letters with iron pins upon large leaves. But what can they learn from Brahmin teachers but foolish tales about false gods?
Missionaries have far better schools, where the Bible is taught; and missionaries' wives have schools for girls; and sometimes they take pity on poor orphans, and receive them into their houses.
One evening as a Christian lady was returning home, she saw a Hindoo woman lying on the ground, and a little boy sitting by her side. The lady spoke kindly to the sick woman, and then the little boy looked up and said, with tears in his eyes, "My mother is sick, and has nothing to eat; I fear she will die." The lady had compassion on the mother and the child, and hastening home, she sent her servant to fetch them both. They were soon put to rest on a nice clean mat, with a blanket to cover them; but the mother died next morning. The little boy was left an orphan, but not forlorn, nor friendless, for the Christian lady took care of him. He was five years old, thin and delicate, and much fairer than most Hindoo children. He had many winning ways; but he had a proud heart. He was proud of his name, "Ramchunda," because it was the name of a great false god: but when he had learned about the true God, he asked for a new name, and was called "John." His wishing to change his name was a good sign: and there were other good signs in this little orphan; and before he died,—for he died soon,—he showed plainly that he had not a new name only, but a new nature.
Little Phebe was another child received by a missionary's wife. She was not an orphan, yet she was as much to be pitied as an orphan; for her mother told the missionaries that if they did not take the child, she would throw her to the jackals. It was a happy exchange for the infant to leave so cruel a mother to be reared by a Christian lady, who, instead of throwing her to jackals, brought her to Jesus.
She died when only five years old by an accident: when washing her hands in the great tank she fell in, and was drowned.
But some Hindoo children, though carefully instructed, do not grow gentle and loving, like John and Phebe.
The tents of some English soldiers were pitched in a lonely part of India; and the night was dark, when an officer's lady thought she heard the sound of a child crying. The lady sent her servants out to look, and at last they brought in a little girl of four years old. And where do you think they had found her? Buried up to her throat in a bog, her little head alone peeping out. And who do you think had put her there? Her cruel mother. Yes, she had left her there to die.
This child gave a great deal of trouble to the kind lady who had saved her, nor did she show her any love in return for her kindness; and after keeping her about two years, the lady sent her to a missionary's school.
You see how cruelly mothers in India sometimes treat their children. Their religion teaches them to be cruel.
A mother is taught to believe that if her babe is sick, an evil spirit is angry. To please this evil spirit, she will put her babe in a basket, and hang it up in a tree for three days. She goes then to look at it, and if it be alive, she takes it home. But how seldom does she find it alive! Either the ants or the vultures have eaten it, or it is starved to death.
When there is a famine in the land, many mothers will sell their children for sixpence each: and if they cannot sell them, they will leave them to perish.
One missionary received fifty-one poor starving children into his house: they were always crying, "Sahib, roti, roti;" that is, "Master, bread, bread." But the bread came to late too save their lives; for all died except one.
Yet these sick children were very wicked.
One of them stole a brass basin, and sold it for sweetmeats. Though very kindly treated, some of them wished to escape; and to prevent it, the missionary tied them together in strings of fifteen;
There is a tribe in India called Khunds; and they sprinkle their fields with children's blood, and they say this is the way to make the corn grow. The English government once rescued eighty poor children from the Khunds, and sent them to a Christian school. What miserable little creatures they were when they arrived! but they were soon clothed and comforted; and taught to hold a needle, and to know their letters; and, better still, to pronounce the name of Jesus. Like these poor little captives, we were all condemned to die, till Jesus rescued us, and promised everlasting life to those who believe.
THE ENGLISH IN INDIA.
There are many rich English gentlemen living in India: some are judges, and some are merchants, and some are officers in the army. They dwell in large and grand houses, with many windows down to the ground, and a wide verandah to keep off the sun. Instead of glass, there is grass in the windows: the blinds are made of sweet-scented grass, and servants outside continually pour water on the grass to make the air cool. Instead of fires, they have fans. These fans are like large screens hanging from the ceiling, and waving to and fro to refresh the company. Instead of carpets there are mats on the floor; and round the beds gauze curtains are drawn to keep out the insects.
The servants are all Hindoos, and a great number are kept; and this is necessary, because each servant will only do one kind of work.
Each horse has two servants, one to take care of it, and the other to cut grass: even the dog has a boy to look after it alone. The servants do not live in their master's house, but in small huts near. The place where they live is called "the compound."
When English people travel they do not go in carriages, but in palanquins. A palanquin is like a child's cot, only larger; and there a traveller can sleep at his ease.
The men who carry the palanquins are called "Bearers." The nurses are called Ayahs. Babies are carried out of doors by their ayahs, but children of three or four are taken out by the bearers.
There was once a little girl of three years old who taught her bearer to fear God.
Little Mary was walking out in a grove with her heathen bearer. She observed him stop at a small Hindoo temple, and bow down to the stone image before the door.
The lisping child inquired,—"Saamy, what for, you do that?"
"O, missy," said he, "that is my god!"
"Your god!" exclaimed the child, "your god, Saamy! Why your god can no see, no can hear, no can walk—your god stone! My God make you, make me, make everything!" Yet Saamy still, whenever he passed the temple, bowed down to his idol: and still the child reproved him. Though the old man would not mind, yet he loved his baby teacher. Once when he thought she was going to England he said to her,—"What will poor Saamy do when missy go to England? Saamy no father, no mother."
"O Saamy!" replied the child, "if you love God he will be your father, and mother too."
The poor bearer promised with tears in his eyes that he would love God. "Then," said she, "you must learn my prayers;" and she began to teach him the Lord's Prayer. Soon afterwards Mary's papa was surprised to see the bearer enter the room at the time of family prayers, and still more surprised to see him take off his turban, kneel down, and repeat the Lord's Prayer after his master. The lispings of the babe had brought the old man to God: Saamy did not only bow the knee, he worshipped in spirit and in truth, and became a real Christian.
There are three great cities which may be called English cities, though in India: because Englishmen built them, and live in them, and rule over them. Their names are Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay.
The capital city is Calcutta. There the chief governor resides. Part of Calcutta is called the Black Town, and it is only a heap of mud huts crowded with Hindoos. The other part of Calcutta is called the English town; and it consists of beautiful houses by the river-side, each house surrounded by a charming garden and a thick grove.
Madras is built on a plain by the sea, and is adorned by fine avenues of trees, amongst which the English live in elegant villas and gardens. Here also there is a Black town. It is very hard to land at Madras, because there is no harbor.
Bombay has one of the best harbors in the world. It is built on a small island covered with cocoa-nut groves.
Now let us compare these places with each other.
Calcutta boasts of her fine river, but then the ground is flat and marshy; and therefore the air is damp and unhealthy, and there are no grand prospects.
Madras is very dry, and sandy, and dusty; but then there is the sea to enliven and refresh it.
Bombay has the sea also, besides the groves, and at a little distance, high mountains, which look beautiful, and which it is delightful to visit. There are no such mountains near Calcutta or Madras.
These are the chief English cities. I must now speak of the favorite city of the Hindoos.
It is Benares on the Ganges.
You might go from Calcutta in a boat, and after sailing four hundred miles, you would reach Benares. The Hindoos say that it was built by their god Sheeva, of gold and precious stones; but that, as we are living in a bad time, it appears to be made of bricks and mud, though really very different. They say that Benares is eighty thousand steps nearer heaven than any other city, and that whoever dies there (even though he eat BEEF!) will go to heaven.
A missionary once reported a Hindoo for telling lies. The answer was, "Why, what of that? do I not live at Benares?" The man thought he was quite safe, however wicked he might be.
In walking about Benares a stranger might be surprised to meet every now and then a white bull, with a hump on its back, without a driver or a rider, or any one to keep it in order. You must know that a white bull is said to belong to the chief god of Benares, and it is considered a sacred animal, and is allowed to do as it pleases.
And how does it behave?
It behaves much in the same manner as a child would who had its own way. The white bull helps itself to the fruit and vegetables sold in the streets, and even to the sweetmeats. It has a great taste for flowers; and it cunningly hides itself near the doors of the temples, to watch for the people coming out with their garlands of marigolds round their necks. At these the bull eagerly snatches with its tongue, and swallows them in a moment. Finding it is petted by every one, it grows so bold, as to walk into the houses, and even to go up the stone stairs on to the roof, where it seems to enjoy the cool air, as it quietly chews the cud.
In the spring the white bulls like to wander out in the fields to eat the tender green grass. A farmer finding one of these bulls in his fields, made him get into a boat, and sent him by a man across the river Ganges. But the cunning creature came back in the evening; for he watched till he saw some people setting out in a boat, and then jumped in; and though the passengers tried to turn him out, he would stay there. In this way he got back to the cornfields.
So much respected are these bulls that a Hindoo would sooner lose his own life than suffer one of them to be killed. An English gentleman was just going to shoot one that had broken into his garden, when his Hindoo servant rushed between him and the bull, saying, "Shoot me, sir, shoot me, but let him go." You may be sure that the gentleman did not shoot the servant, and I think it probable he spared the bull's life.
There is one more city to be noticed.
DELHI was once the grandest city in India, and the seat of the great Moguls, those Mahomedans who conquered India before the British came. The ancient palace is still to be seen: it is built of red stone; but its ornaments are gone; where is now the room lined with crystal, the golden palm-tree with diamond fruits, and the golden peacock with emerald wings, overshadowing the monarch's throne?
The Persians have stripped the palace of all its gorgeous splendor.
We have now described the two most numerous nations in the world, China and Hindostan. They contain together more than half the world. In some respects they are alike, and in some respects they are different. In these respects they are different.
IN CHINA. IN HINDOSTAN.
There is one emperor. There is no emperor, and the English govern the country.
There is one language. There are many.
They use chairs, and tables, They sit and sleep on mats. and beds.
They eat with chop-sticks. They eat with their fingers.
They wear shoes. They go barefoot, and wear sandals.
The men shave their heads The men twist up their except one lock. hair with a comb.
They seldom wash themselves. They bathe often.
They eat pigs more than They abhor pigs. any other meat.
They are grave and silent. They are merry and talkative.
They are industrious. They are idle.
The most learned rise to be Every one is high and low great men. according to his caste.
They mind the laws. They care not for laws.
The land is well cultivated. There is much waste land, and many jungles.
Now let us consider in what respects they are alike.
China and Hindostan are alike in these respects. They are both very populous, though China has twice as many inhabitants as Hindostan.
In both rice is the chief food.
In both large grown-up families live together.
In both the women are shut up.
In both foreigners are hated.
In both conjurers are admired.
In both many idols are worshipped.
In both there are ancient sacred books.
In both the people are deceitful, unmerciful to the poor, and in the habit of destroying their own little girls when babies.
In both it is believed that the soul after death goes into another body, and is born over and over again into this world.
Is it not mournful to think that more than half the people in the world have no bright hope to cheer a dying bed? One poor Hindoo was heard to exclaim as he was dying, "Where shall I go last of all?" He asked a wise question. He wanted to know where, after having been born ever so many times, he should be put for ever and ever. That is the great point we all want to know. But the Hindoo and the Chinaman cannot know this: they have never heard of everlasting happiness.
This is not a vast country like China, or Hindostan. It may be called a nook, it is so small compared with some great kingdoms: but it is famous on account of the beauty of the people. They are fair, like Europeans, with handsome features, and fine figures. But their beauty has done them harm, and not good; for the cruel Turks purchase many of the Circassian women, because they are beautiful, and shut them up in their houses. Perhaps you will be surprised to hear that the young Circassians think it a fine thing to go to Turkey—to live in fine palaces and gardens, instead of remaining in their own simple cottages. But I think that when they find themselves confined between high walls, they must sigh to think of their flocks and their farms at home, and more than all, of the dear relations they have left behind.
Circassia is a pleasant country, situated near the noble mountains of Caucasus. The snow on the mountains cools the air, and makes Circassia as pleasant to live in as our own England. Indeed, if you were suddenly to be transported into Circassia, you would be ready to exclaim, "Is not this England? Here are apple-trees, and pear-trees, and plum-trees, like those in my father's garden: those sounds are like the notes of the blackbird and thrush, which sing among the hawthorns in English woods."
But look again, you will see vines interlacing their fruitful branches among the spreading oaks. You do not see such vines in England. But hark! what do I hear? It is a sound never heard in England. It is the yell of jackals.
MANNERS OF THE PEOPLE.—There is no country in the world where the people are as kind to strangers as in Circassia. Every family, however poor, has a guest-house. There is the family-house, with its orchard, and stables, and at a little distance, another house for strangers. This is no more than a large room, with a stable at one end. The walls are made of wicker-work, plastered with clay. There is no ceiling but the rafters, and no floor but the bare earth. Yet there is a wide chimney, where a blazing fire is kept up with a pile of logs. And there is a sofa or divan, covered with striped silk, and many neat mats to serve as beds for as many travellers as may arrive. The wind may whistle through the chinks, and the rain come through the roof, but the stranger is well warmed, and comfortably lodged; and above all, he has the host to wait upon him with more attention than a servant. The supper is served as soon as the sun sets.
But where is the table? There is none. Is the supper placed on the floor? Not so. It is brought in on stools with three legs. They answer the purpose of tables, trays, and dishes, all in one. What is the fare served up? This is the sort of dinner provided. On the first table is placed a flat loaf; the gravy in the middle, and the meat all round. When this is taken away, another table is brought in with cheese-cakes; a third with butter and honey; a fourth with a pie; a fifth with a cream; and last of all, a table, with a wooden bowl of curdled milk. The company have no plates; but each Circassian carries a spoon and a knife in his girdle, and with these he helps himself. The servants who stand by, are not forgotten: a piece of meat or of pie-crust is often given to one of them; it is curious to see the men take it into a corner to eat it there. There are many hungry poor waiting at the door of the guest-house, ready to help the servants to devour the remains of the feast; and there is often a great deal of food left; for there are generally ten tables, and sometimes there are forty tables. The guests are expected to taste the food on each, however many there may be.
Instead of wine, there is a drink called shuat handed to the guests: it is distilled from grain and honey. Vegetables are not much eaten in Circassia: for greens are considered fit only for beasts: and there are no potatoes. Pies, and tarts, and tartlets of various kinds are too well liked, and the finest ladies in the land are skilful in making them.
The family live in a thatched cottage, called "the family-house." It is not divided into rooms. If a man wants several rooms, he builds several houses.
As you approach the dwelling of a Circassian, you hear the barking of dogs, and upon coming nearer, you see women milking cows, and feeding poultry, and boys tending goats, and leading horses.
If you go into the farm-yard, you will see among the animals, the buffalo—but no pig. There are, however, wild boars in the woods.
CIRCASSIAN WOMEN.—They are not shut up as Hindoo, and Chinese, and Turkish ladies are. They do not indeed go into the guest-house to see strangers; but strangers are sometimes invited into the family-house to see them.
An Englishman, who visited a family-house, was introduced to the wife and daughter. They both rose up when he entered: nor would they sit down, till he sat down; and this respect ladies show not only to gentlemen, but even to the poorest peasants. The only furniture in the house was the divan, on which the ladies sat; a pile of boxes, containing the beds, which were to be spread on the floor at night; and a loom for weaving cloth, and spindles for spinning.
The daughter, who was sixteen, was dressed in a skirt of striped silk, with a blue bodice, and silver clasps; and she wore a cap of scarlet cloth, adorned with silver lace—her light hair flowing over her shoulders: yet though so finely arrayed, her feet were bare; for she only put on her red slippers when she walked out. The mother was covered with a loose calico wrapper, and her face was concealed by a thick white veil. The visitor laid some needle-cases at the ladies' feet, for it is not the custom for them to receive presents in their hands.
The needle-cases greatly delighted the young Hafiza, and her mother. The present was well chosen, because the Circassian women are very industrious, supplying their husbands and brothers with all their clothes, from the woollen bonnet to the morocco shoe. The wool, the flax, and the hemp, are all prepared at home by the mothers, and made into clothes by the girls, who first spin the thread, then weave the cloth, and finish by sewing the seams. Some girls are very clever in knitting silver lace for trimming garments. A girl named Dussepli was famous for her skill in this art, indeed her name signifies, "Shining as lace."
An Englishman went to the place where she lived to buy some of her lace. He was shown into the guest-house, and he soon saw Dussepli approaching in a pair of high pattens. At first sight there was nothing pleasing in Dussepli but when she spoke she seemed so kind, and so true, that it was impossible not to like her. By her industry in knitting lace, and dyeing cloth, she helped to support her father, who was poor.
THE CIRCASSIAN MEN.—War is their chief occupation. Working in the fields is left to the women, and the little boys, and the slaves. There is, alas! great occasion for the men to fight, as the land has long been infested with many dangerous enemies.
The Russians are endeavoring to conquer the Circassians: but the Circassians declare they will die sooner than yield. Long ago the enemies must have triumphed, had it not been for the high mountains which afford hiding-places for the poor hunted inhabitants. Every man carries a gun, a pistol, a dagger, and a sword; and the nobles are distinguished by a bow, and a quiver of arrows. The usual dress is of coarse dark cloth, and consists of a tunic, trowsers, and gaiters. The cap or bonnet is of sheep-skin, or goatskin.
The boys are taught from their infancy to be hardy and manly. They are brought up in a singular way. Instead of remaining at home, they are given at three years old, into the care of a stranger: and the reason of this custom is, that they may not be petted by their parents. The stranger is called "foster-father," and he teaches any boy under his care to ride well, and to shoot at a mark. The boy follows his foster-father over the mountains, urging his horses to climb tremendous heights, and to rush down ravines; and appeasing his hunger with a mouthful of honey from the bag, fastened to his girdle. Such is the life he leads, till he is a tall and a strong youth; and then he returns home to his parents. His foster-father presents him with a horse, and weapons of war, and requires no payment in return for all his care.
Men brought up in this manner must be wild, bold, restless, and ignorant. Such are the Circassians. They care not for learning, as the Chinese do, but only for bravery. We cannot wonder at this, when we remember what enemies they have in their land. The Russians have built many strong towers, whence they shoot at all who come near. But, not satisfied with this, they often come forth and rob the villages.
There was a Circassian, (and he may be still alive,) called Guz Beg; and he gained for himself the name of the "Lion of Circassia." He was always leading out little bands of men to attack the Russians. One day he found some Russian soldiers reaping in the fields, and when he came near they ran away in terror, leaving two hundred scythes in the field, which he seized. But a great calamity befel this Lion. He had an only son. When he first led the boy to the wars, he charged him never to shrink from the enemy, but to cut his way through the very midst. One day Guz Beg had ridden into the thick of the Russian soldiers, when suddenly a ball pierced his horse, and he was thrown headlong on the ground. There lay the Lion among the hunters. In another moment he would have been killed, when suddenly a youthful warrior flew to his rescue;—it was his own son. But what could one do among so many! A troop of Circassian horse rushed to the spot, and bore away Guz Beg; but they were too late to save his son. They bore away the body only of the brave boy. Guz Beg was deeply grieved; but he continued still to fight for his country.
See those black heaps of ashes. In that spot there once lived a prince named Zefri Bey, with his four hundred servants; but his dwellings were burned to the ground by the Russians. That prince fled to Turkey to plead for help. What would have become of his wife, and little girls, if a kind friend had not taken them under his care? This friend was hump-backed, but very brave. Some English travellers went to visit him, and were received in the guest-house and regaled with a supper of many tables. Next day the little girls came to the guest-house and kissed their hands. The daughter of the hump-backed man accompanied them. The children were delighted with some toys the traveller gave them, and the kind young lady accepted needles and scissors. But where was the wife of Zefri Bey? A servant was sent to inquire after her, and found her in rags, lying on a mat, without even a counterpane, and weeping bitterly. Had no one given her clothes, and coverings? Yes, but she gave everything away, for she had been used, as a princess, to make presents, and now she cared for nothing. Such are the miseries which the Russians bring upon Circassia.
THE GOVERNMENT.—There is no king of Circassia; but there are many princes.
The people pay great respect to these princes, standing in their presence, and giving them the first place at feasts, and in the battle-field. But though the people honor them, they do not obey them.
There is a parliament in Circassia, but it does not meet in a house, but in a grove. Every man who pleases may come, but only old men may speak. If a young man were to give his opinions, no attention would be paid. The warriors sit on the grass, and hang up their weapons of war on the boughs above their heads, while they fasten their horses to the stems of the trees.
The speakers are gentle in their tones of voice and behavior. The Circassians admire sweet winning speeches. They say there are three things which mark a great man; a sharp sword, a sweet tongue, and forty tables. What do they mean by these? By a sharp sword they mean bravery, by a sweet tongue they mean soft speeches, and by forty tables they mean giving plentiful suppers to neighbors and to strangers. Are the Circassians right in this way of thinking? No—for though bravery is good, and speaking well is good, and giving away is good, these are not the greatest virtues: and people may be brave, and speak well, and give away much, and yet be wicked: for they may be without the love of God in their hearts. What are the greatest virtues? These three, Faith, Hope, and Charity. These are graces which come from God.
SERVANTS.—There are slaves in Circassia, called serfs. But they are so well treated, that they are not like the slaves of other countries. They live in huts round their master's dwelling; they work in the fields, and wait upon the guests, and share in the good fare on the little tables.
When a Circassian takes a Russian prisoner, he makes him a slave, and gives him the hardest work to do. Yet the Russians are much happier with their Circassian masters than in their own country.
Once a Circassian said to his Russian slave, "I am going to send you back to Russia." The man fell at his master's feet, saying, "Rather than do so, use me as your dog; beat me, tie me up, and give me your bones to pick." The master then told him that he had not spoken in earnest, and that he would not send him away, and then the poor fellow began to shout, and to jump with joy.
BROTHERHOODS.—There is a very remarkable plan in Circassia, unlike the plans in other countries. A certain number of men agree to call themselves "brothers." These brothers help each other on every occasion, and visit at each other's houses frequently. They are not received in the guest-house, but in the family-house, and are treated by all the family as if they were really the brothers of the master.
A brotherhood sometimes consists of two thousand, but sometimes of only twenty persons.
RELIGION.—Circassia, though beautiful, is an unhappy country. The Russians keep the people in continual fear; this is a great evil. But there is another nation who have done the Circassians still greater harm. I mean the Turks. And what have they done to them? They have persuaded them to turn Mahomedans. The greatest harm that can be done to any one, is to give him a false religion. There are no grand mosques in Circassia, because there are no towns: but in every little village there is a clay cottage, where prayers are offered up in the name of Mahomet. There can be no minaret to such a miserable mosque: so the man who calls the hours of prayer, climbs a tall tree, by the help of notches, and getting into a basket at the top, makes the rocks and hills resound with his cry. How different shall be the sound one day heard in every land; when all people shall believe in Jesus. "Then shall the inhabitants of the rocks sing—then shall they shout from the top of the mountains, and give glory unto the Lord" and not to Mahomet. (Is. xlii. 11, 12.)
But though the Circassians call themselves Mahomedans, they keep many of their old customs, and these customs show that they once heard about Christ.
It is their custom to dedicate every boy to God: but not really to God, for in truth they dedicate him to the cross. Let me give you an account of one of the feasts of dedication.
The place of meeting was a green, shaded by spreading oak-trees. In the midst stood a cross. Each family who came to the feast, brought a little table, and placed it before the cross; and on each table, there were loaves, and a sort of bread called "pasta." There was a blazing fire on the green, round which the elder women sat, while the younger preferred the shade of a thicket. The priest took a loaf of bread in one hand, and in the other, a large cup of shuat, (a kind of wine) and holding them out towards the cross, blessed them. While he did this, men, women, and children, knelt around, and bowed their heads to the ground. Afterwards, the shuat and the bread were handed about amongst the company. But this was only the beginning of the feast. Afterwards, a calf, a sheep, and two goats were brought to the cross to be blessed. Then a little of their hair was singed by a taper, and then they were taken away to be slaughtered. Now the merriment began: some moved forward to cut up the animals, and to boil their flesh in large kettles on fires kindled on the green; many young men amused themselves with racing, leaping, and hurling stones, while the elder people sat and talked. When the meat was boiled, it was distributed among the sixty tables, and then the priest blessed the food. And then the feasting began. Does it not seem as if the Circassians must once have learned about Jesus crucified, and about his supper of bread and wine, and about the Jewish feasts and sacrifices? Once, perhaps, they knew the true religion, but they soon forgot it, and though they still remember the Cross, they have forgotten Christ; and though they still bless the bread and the cup, they know nothing of redeeming love. Do you not long to send missionaries to Circassia? Well, some good Scotch missionaries went there some years ago, but alas! the Russians sent them away. Their thatched cottages may still be seen, and their fruitful orchards, but they themselves are gone. There are, however, a few German Christians in Circassia. They are not missionaries, but only farmers, therefore the Russians allow them to remain. They have a little church, where the Bible is read, and God is worshipped. You will be glad to hear a few Circassians may be seen amongst the congregation; they were converted by the Scotch missionaries, and they have remained faithful amongst their heathen neighbors.
Circassia is situated between two seas:—
The Black Sea, and
The Caspian Sea.
What a wonderful place is the Caspian Sea. It is like a lake, only so immensely large, that it is called a sea. The waters of lakes are fresh, like those of rivers; but the waters of the Caspian are salt, but not so salt as the salt sea. The shores of the Caspian are flat, and unwholesome. You might think as you stood there, that you were by the great ocean, for there are waves breaking on the sands, and water as far as the eye can reach, but there is no freshness in the air as by the real sea.
The mountains of Caucasus run through Circassia. They are quite low compared to the Himalaya; they are about the height of the Alps, and the tops are covered with snow. But the valleys between these mountains, are not like the Swiss valleys, which are broad and pleasant; but these valleys are narrow, and dark, and not fit to live in, yet they are of great use as hiding-places for the Circassians. When pursued by a Russian, a Circassian will urge his horse to dash down the dark valley, and lest his horse should be alarmed by the sight of the dangerous depth below, he will cover the animal's eyes with his cloak. Thus, many a bold rider escapes from a cruel soldier.
When you hear of Circassia, you will generally hear of Georgia too, for the countries lie close together, and resemble one another in many respects. But though so near, their climate is different; for Circassia lies beyond the mountains of Caucasus, and is therefore, exposed to the cold winds of the north. But Georgia lies beneath the mountains, and is sheltered from the chill blasts. Georgia is, therefore, far more fruitful than Circassia, the people, too, are less fair, and less industrious. The sides of the hills are clothed with vines, and houses with deep verandahs are scattered among the vineyards, and women wrapped in long white sheets may be seen reposing in the porticoes, enjoying the soft air, and lovely prospect. While Circassian ladies are busy weaving and milking, the Georgian ladies loll upon their couches, and do nothing. Which do you think are the happier? These Georgian ladies, too, though very handsome, are much disfigured by painted faces, and stained eyebrows. Their countenances, too, are lifeless, and silly, as might be expected, since they waste their time in idleness. Over their foreheads, they wear a kind of low crown, called a tiara.
There is no country where so much wine is drank as in Georgia, even a laborer is allowed five bottles a day. The grapes are exceedingly fine, quite different from the little berries called grapes in Circassia. The casks are very curious, they are the skins of buffaloes, and as the tails and legs are not cut off, a skin filled with wine looks like a dead, or a sleeping buffalo.
And what is the religion of Georgia? It is the Russian religion, because the Russians have conquered the country. They cannot conquer the brave, and active Circassians, but they have conquered the soft, and indolent Georgians. The Georgians are called Christians, but the Greek Church, which is the Russian religion, is a Christianity, laden with ceremonies and false doctrines.
There is but one town in Georgia. It is beautifully situated on the steep banks of a river, with terraces of houses, embosomed in vineyards. So little do the people care for reading, that there is not a bookseller's shop in the town, and it is very seldom that a bookcase is seen in a house; for the Georgians love show, and entertainments, and idleness, but not study.
This is one of the largest countries in the world, yet it does not contain as many people as the small land of France. How is this? You will not be surprised that many people do not live there, when you hear what sort of a country it is.
Fancy a country quite flat, as far as eye can see, except where a few low sand-hills rise; a country quite bare, except where the coarse grass grows;—a country quite dry, except where some narrow muddy streams run. Such is Tartary. What is a country without hills, without trees, without brooks? Can it be pleasant? This flat, bare, dry plain, is called the steppes of Tartary. In one part of Tartary, there is a chain of mountains, and there are a few towns, and trees, but very few. You may travel a long while without seeing one.
Nothing can be so dreary as the steppes appear in winter time. The high wind sweeping along the plain, drives the snow into high heaps, and often hurls the poor animals into a cold grave. Sledges cannot be used, because they cannot slide on such uneven ground. But if the white ground looks dreary in winter, the black ground looks hideous in summer; for the hot sun turns the grass black, and fills the air with black dust, and there are no shady groves, no cool hills, no refreshing brooks. There must, indeed, be a little shade among the thistles, as they grow to twice the height of a man; but how different is such shade from the shade of spreading oaks like ours! Instead of nice fruit, there is bitter wormwood growing among the grass, and when the cows eat it, their milk becomes bitter.
WILD ANIMALS.—The most common, is a pretty little creature called the sooslik. It is very much like a squirrel.
But can it live where squirrels live,—in the hollows of trees? Where are the trees in the steppe? The sooslik makes a house for itself by digging a hole in the ground, just as rabbits do in England. Will it not surprise you to hear that wolves follow the same plan, and even the wild dogs? The houses the dogs make are very convenient, for the entrance is very narrow, and there is plenty of room below.
There are some very odious animals on the steppe. Snakes and toads. Yes, showers of toads sometimes fall. But neither snakes nor toads are as great a plague as locusts. These little animals, not bigger than a child's thumb, are more to be dreaded than a troop of wolves. And why? Because they come in such immense numbers. The eggs lie hid in the ground all the winter. O if it were known where they were concealed, they would soon be destroyed. But no one knows where they are till they are hatched. In the first warm days of spring the young animals come forth, and immediately they begin crawling on the ground in one immense flock, eating up all the grass as they pass along; in a month they can fly, and then they darken the air like a thick cloud; wherever any green appears, they drop down and settle on the spot. The noise they make in eating can be heard to a great distance, and the noise they make in flying is like the rustling of leaves in a forest. They cannot be destroyed: but there are two things they hate,—smoke and noise,—and by these they are sometimes scared and induced to fly away.
PEOPLE AND CUSTOMS.—Besides the wild animals, there are tame animals, who inhabit the steppe with men and women who take care of them. They are all wanderers, both men and beasts. You can easily guess why they wander. It is to find sufficient grass for the cattle.
Every six weeks the Tartars move to a new place. Yet one place is so like another, that no place appears new;—there is always the same immense plain—without a cottage, or an orchard, a green hill, or running brook, to make any spot remembered. It is great labor to the Tartar women to pack up the tents and to place them on the backs of the camels, and then to unpack and to pitch the tents. It is a great disgrace to the men to suffer the women to work as hard as they do: but the men are very idle, and like to sit by their tents smoking and drinking, while their wives are toiling and striving with all their might. The women have the care of all the cattle: and the men attend only to the horses. Perhaps they would not even do this, were it not that they are very fond of riding; and such riders as the Tartars are seldom seen.
To give you an idea how they ride, I will describe one scene that took place on the steppe.
Some travellers from Europe were on a visit to a Tartar prince: (for there are princes in the desert,) and they were taken to see a herd of wild horses. The prince wished to have one of these wild horses caught. It is not easy to do this. But Tartars know the way. Six men mounted a tame horse, and rushed into the midst of the wild horses. Each of the men had a great noose in his hand. They all looked at the prince to know which horse he would have caught. When they saw the prince give a sign, one of the men soon noosed a young horse. The creature seemed terrified when it found that it was caught: his eyes started out, his nostrils seemed to smoke. Presently a man came running up, sprang upon the back of the wild horse, and by cutting the straps round his neck, set him at liberty. In an instant the horse darted away with the swiftness of an arrow; yet the man firmly kept his seat. The animal seemed greatly alarmed at his strange burden, and tried every plan to get rid of it;—now suddenly stopping,—now crawling on the grass like a worm,—now rolling,—now rearing,—now dashing forward in a fast gallop through the midst of the herd; yet all would not do; the rider clung to the horse as closely as ever.
But how was the rider ever to get off his fiery steed? That would be difficult indeed; but help was sent to him by the prince. Two men on horseback rode after him, and between them they snatched away the man from the trembling and foaming horse. The animal, surprised to find his load suddenly gone, stood stupefied for a moment, and then darted off to join his companions. What this man did,—many Tartars can do: and even little boys will mount wild horses, and keep on by clinging to their manes: women, too, will gallop about on wild horses.
In Circassia the customs are very different; for though men ride so well, women there never ride at all; and surely it is far better not to ride than to be as bold as a Tartar woman.
FOOD.—What can be the food of the Tartars? Not bread, (for there is no corn,) nor fruit, nor vegetables. The flocks and herds are the food. The favorite meat is horse-flesh; though mutton and beef are eaten also. Then there is plenty of milk—both cow's milk and sheep's milk. As there is milk, there is butter and cheese. But it is very unwholesome to live on meat and milk without bread and vegetables. The water, too, is very bad; for it is taken from the muddy rivers, and not from clear springs. It is a comfort for the Tartar that he can procure tea from China. Their tea is indeed very unlike the tea brought to England; for it comes to Tartary in hard lumps, shaped like bricks. It is boiled in a saucepan with water, and then mixed with milk, butter, and salt. Thus you see the Tartar needs neither tea-kettle, teapot, nor sugar basin.
It would be well if tea and milk were the only drinks in Tartary; but a sort of spirit is distilled by the Tartars from mare's milk; and brandy also is brought from Russia.
TENTS.—A Tartar tent is very unlike an Arab tent.
It is in the shape of a hut, for the sides are upright, and the roof only is slanting, and there is a small hole at the top to let the smoke escape. Neither is it made of skins, but of thick woollen stuff, called felt, which keeps the cold out. At night the entrance is closed, and the family sleep on mats around the fire in the midst.
APPEARANCE.—The Tartars are not handsome like the Turks and Circassians. They are short and thick; their faces are broad and bony, their eyes very small, and only half open; their noses flat, their lips thick, their chins pointed, their ears large and flapping, and their skin dark and yellow.
Their dress is warm, and well suited for riding in the desert. Different tribes have different dresses: this is the dress of the Kalmuck Tartar. He wears a yellow cloth cap trimmed with black lamb-skin; wide trowsers, a tight jacket, and over all a loose tunic, fastened round the waist. His boots are red, with high heels. The women dress like the men; but they let their hair grow in two long tresses, while the men shave part of their heads, and keep only one lock of hair hanging on their shoulders.
You see that the Tartars are much like the Chinese in their persons and dress; but they are a much stronger, bolder people, and much more ignorant. No wonder, therefore, that many years ago the Tartars got over the Chinese wall, and took possession of the Chinese throne. You must not forget that the Emperor of China is a Tartar.
GOVERNMENT.—To whom does Tartary belong? Has it a king of its own? No. Once it had many kings, called khans; but now the khans have lost their power, and are only called khan to do them honor. Now Tartary belongs to the great empires on each side of it,—Russia and China. Part of Tartary is called Russian Tartary, and part—Chinese Tartary. There is only a small part that is not conquered; and it is called Independent Tartary.
There are many different tribes, and each tribe keeps to a certain part of the land, and never ventures to wander beyond its own bounds.
RELIGION.—The religion is the same as that which is so common in China,—the religion of Buddha; but in some parts of Tartary there is the religion of Mahomet. It is sad to think that far more people in the world worship Buddha, the deceiver, than Jesus, the Son of God. The Tartars think to please their false god by making a loud noise. It would astonish a stranger to hear their jingling bells, shrill horns, squeaking shells, bellowing trumpets, and deafening drums. How unlike is their senseless noise to the sweet sound of a Christian hymn!
The Tartars think also to please their gods by glaring colors; so their priests dress in red and yellow, and bear flags, adorned with strips of gay silk. A band of priests looks something like a regiment of soldiers.
The chief priest is called the Lama, and he is worshipped as a god; but his situation is not very pleasant; for he is not allowed to walk without help. Whenever he attempts to walk, he is held up by a man on each side, as if he were an infant; and usually he is drawn in a car, or carried in a palanquin. From want of exercise, he becomes very weak and helpless. When he dies, his body is burned, and the ashes are gathered up and made into an idol. Thus he continues to be a god after he is dead. Another Lama is chosen by one of the princes. There are many Lamas in Tartary for the various tribes.
As the Tartars are always moving about, a tent serves for a temple; and the idols are carried in great chests. They cannot walk, therefore they must be carried. What use are such gods?
The Tartars have found out a way of praying without any trouble; and it is a way that suits idols very well. They get some prayers written, and place them in a drum, and then turn the drum round and round with a string. This they call praying; and while they are thus praying, they can be chattering, smoking, and even quarrelling. The princes have a still easier way of offering up prayers. They write prayers upon a flag, and then place it before their tents for the wind to blow it about.
This is their way of praying to their gods.
And what, my dear child, is your way of praying to your God?
Have missionaries visited the Tartars?
Yes; I will tell you of two German missionaries, who tried to convert a tribe of Tartars called the Kalmucks, living near the Caspian Sea and the river Volga. These good men were treated with great contempt by the Tartars. The missionaries translated the Gospel of St. Matthew into the Tartar language. One of the Tartars, instead of thanking them, observed, "I wonder you should take so much trouble to prepare a book that we shall never read." When the precious books were given to the Tartars, some of them returned the books; and when it was read to them, they scornfully said, as they turned away, "It is only the history of Jesus."
At last one Tartar, named Sodnom, believed in Jesus. He said to the missionaries, "Now the Tartars, from my example, may turn to the Lord: for as, when sheep are to be washed, each is afraid to enter the water till one has been in, so it may be with my countrymen."
Sodnom read every evening in the Testament to his family in the tent. At first his wife was displeased, and said that her husband wasted the fire-wood in making a light to read a book that was of no use. But afterwards she listened, and made the children keep quiet. The neighbors also listened, and twenty-two turned to the Lord!
Then the prince and the priests grew angry, and said the Christians must leave the camp. Where could the Christians go? There was a village called Sarepta, where some Germans lived. There they determined to go, though it was two hundred miles off. One of the missionaries led the way on horseback; the Tartars followed on foot: then came camels bearing the tents and the women, while a bullock-cart contained the young children. The flocks and herds were driven by the bigger children.
The good Germans in Sarepta received the Tartars with great joy. One gray-headed man of eighty-three came to meet them, leaning upon his staff. He said he had been praying that he might see a Christian Tartar before he died. He heard these Tartars sing hymns to the praise of Jesus, and he felt his prayers were answered. Two days afterwards he died. Like old Simeon, he might have said, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation."
The Christians went to live in a small island in the river Volga. When the river was frozen, the Germans went over the ice to visit them. Sodnom gave them tea mixed with fat in a large wooden bowl; and to please him, the kind Germans drank some, though they did not like it. Many Tartars assembled in Sodnom's tent, and seated on the ground smoking their pipes, talked together about heavenly things; and before they parted, they put away their pipes, and folding their hands, sang hymns in their own language. The Germans, in taking leave, divided a large loaf among the company; for bread is considered quite a dainty by the Tartars.
The change that had taken place in these Tartars filled the Germans with joy; and more missionaries would have gone to teach the heathen Kalmucks, had not the Emperor of Russia forbidden them.
This city is on the Caspian Sea. It is very unpleasant, on account of the heat and the gnats.
Not only Tartars dwell there, but many people of all nations, Russians, Hindoos, and Armenians. The chief trade of Astracan is in the fish of the sea, and in the salt on the shores.
BOKHARA (IN TARTARY).
This is a kingdom in the midst of Tartary. It lies at the south of the Caspian Sea. It is not like the rest of Tartary, for it is a sweet green spot. Travellers have said that it is the most beautiful spot in the world, but that is not true. The reason that travellers have said so, is that, after passing through a great desert, they have been charmed at seeing again running streams, and shady groves.
But though Bokhara is a beautiful place, it is a wicked place.
The king is one of the greatest tyrants in the world. He is called the Amir.
The city where he dwells is called Bokhara (which is also the name of the whole country). His palace is on a high mound, in the midst of splendid mosques, and mansions. Amongst these grand buildings is the prison, a place of horrible cruelty. There the prisoners lie in the dark, and the damp. One use of the prison is to keep water cool for the king in summer; it feels therefore just like a cellar.
But the worst dungeon, is filled with stinging insects, called "ticks," reared on purpose to torment prisoners. In order to keep the ticks alive when no prisoners are there, raw meat is thrown into the place. There is also a deep pit into which men are let down with ropes; as once the holy Jeremiah was in Jerusalem.
Once a fortnight the prisoners are judged by the Amir. Even when the ground is covered with snow they stand with bare feet, waiting for hours till the Amir appears.
Can so cruel a monarch be happy? No. He lives in constant fear of his life.
He is afraid of drinking water, lest it should be poisoned. All that he drinks is brought from the river in skins, and sealed, and guarded by two officers; it is then taken to the chief counsellor, called the Vizier, and tasted by him, and his servants; it is then sealed again, and sent to his majesty.
The Amir's dinner when it is ready, is not placed on the royal table, but locked up in a box, and taken to the Vizier to be tasted, before it is served up in the palace.
But it is not the Amir only who is afraid of poison. No one will accept fruit from another, unless that other tastes it first. It must be very terrible to live in the midst of such murderers as the people of Bokhara seem to be.
The Amir is so much afraid of people making plans to destroy him, that he chooses to see all the letters that are written by his subjects; if a husband write to his wife, the letter must first be shown to the Amir. There are boys, too, going about the city listening to all that is said, that they may let the Amir know, if any one speak against him.
But while the Amir is watching his people, they are watching him; for his chief officers hire men to listen to the Amir's conversation, that they may know if he intends to kill them. Yet every person appears to approve all the Amir does, saying on every occasion, "It is the act of a king; it must be good." They are such people as Jeremiah describes in the Bible. "Their tongue is as an arrow shot out, it speaketh deceit; one speaketh peaceably to his neighbor, but in his heart he lieth his wait."—(Jer. ix. 8.)
APPEARANCE.—The people in Bokhara are much handsomer than other Tartars; their complexions are fairer, and their hair is of a lighter color. They wear large white turbans, and several dark pelisses with high-heeled boots. These high heels prevent their walking well, and most people, both men and women, ride; but the ladies always hide their faces with a veil of black hair cloth.
The large court of the palace is filled from morning to night with a crowd of noisy people, most of them mounted on horses and donkeys.
In the midst of the court is the fruit market. It is wonderful to behold the quantity, and beauty of the fruits. The same fruits grow in Bokhara as in England, only they are much finer. Such grapes, plums, and apricots, mulberries, and melons, are never seen in Europe, and they are made more refreshing by being mixed with chopped ice. Large piles of ice stand all the summer long in the market-place, and even beggars drink iced water. But hot tea is preferred before any other drink. In every corner of the market there are large urns of hot tea, and small bowls of rich milk, surrounded all day by a thirsty crowd. How much better is this sight than the gin palaces of London!
But there is one great inconvenience in Bokhara, for which all its fruits can scarcely make amends. There is bad water. For Bokhara is not built on the banks of a river, or among running brooks: all the water is brought by canals, from a small stream near the town, and when the canals are dried up by the heat, there is no water, except in the tanks where it is kept. This stagnant water produces a disease called the Guinea worm. In this complaint the skin is covered with painful swellings, and when they burst, a little flat worm is discovered in each, which must be drawn out before the poor sufferer can recover.