Page images
PDF
EPUB

I 21

CHAPTER III.

November 5th, 1866.—THE tale of our journey has now arrived at a point where the thread of further narrative must be resumed exactly six years afterwards. The indulgent reader, who, like Dinarzade, may be anxious to know what befell us next, must prepare himself for a leap over the space of time intervening between the years 1860 and 1866. Happily the month and date happen to agree by a most singular coincidence -the month being the same in the calendar, and the date exactly following the one at which we have broken off. The scene, with which the present chapter has to commence, opens at Toondla Junction,—with the high road to Delhi lying spread before the view in all its length. In the interval of time which has elapsed, the great pathway that was making has been completed and thrown open to the public. Through that pathway men now travel with a speed and safety, defying all the marauding tribes of India. From Toondla then let us start, -turning our face to the quarter towards which the fiery-footed steeds of Phæbus gallop apace with his car. Scarcely less fast speeds on our earthly courser, making his track in minutes and hours through

regions, each of which in days gone by had formed the separate territory of an independent chief, but which have been now all consolidated into a vast unity under one supreme head.

By a bountiful Providence have the seasons been so regulated this year, as trebly to compensate for the scarcity of that which has just gone by. The country on our tract spreads mile after mile in smiling fields, with cultivation up to the road-side. Literally, it is one vast garden from the sea to the mountains.

The first place of note on the route is Hatras-distant about six miles from the station. From a den of robbers and thugs, it has now become one of the busiest and most thriving places in Upper Hindoostan, and a principal mart for the cotton and indigo of the neighbouring districts. The old fortress of Dyaram Thakoor is now all in ruins. In 1817, that stronghold had a ditch ninety feet wide, and seventy-five feet deep. Thete had been collected within its ramparts no less than five hundred pieces of ordnance. The Jaut chief, who from a petty zemindar under Scindia rose to be an independent prince, had strengthened his defences in imitation of the English fort at Allyghurh, with all the latest means and appliances of war. To reduce his castle, the British had to muster the most tremendous artillery which had till then been employed in India, and to burn an enormous quantity of powder. Old Dyaram, finding the place too hot for him, made his escape in the darkness of night, and kept himself in concealment for three years. He was at last compelled by hunger to seek the protection of the English, and dying a stipendiary, bequeathed his pension to the descendant who is rusting in oblivion at Brindabun.

From Hatras to Coel-Allygurh, the journey by rail now takes less than an hour. Coel must be one of the most ancient places on the map of India, as its name indicates it to have been derived from the aboriginal Coels or Coles of the ante-Aryan period. In the days of the Mahabarat, Jarasindh had led up an army and encamped on this spot, to revenge the death of his son-in-law, Kunsa, by an invasion of the territories of Krishna. No doubt exists of its importance in the twelfth century, when it had a fortress that was captured by the Mussulmans. The country around is a level plain, but the town appears to be built upon an elevation,—a fine road leading up to it from the station, with a gradual ascent. The town seems to be considerable and populous, but has little attractions or antique curiosities for the traveller. He is here again more among brick-houses than of stones, which have to be brought from a great way off. The finest feature is a mosque, the domes and minarets of which rise in prominence to break the monotony of a prospect, tame and vacant in the highest degree. This mosque is remarkable as an ancient and noble specimen of Patan architecture. It being the season of Devallee, there is a rubbing and scrubbing and washing and painting of all the Hindoo houses in the town. Dancing-girls, abounding in numbers exceeding all expectation, are all busy in preparing themselves for the occasion. In one small lane,

we heard them practising their tunes and airs from a dozen of shops. They certainly betray the place to be marked by all the vices of an indolent Mahomedan town —the Mahomedans seeming to anticipate the Houris of their Paradise upon earth.

For a long period of years, the country about Coel was notorious for robberies and murders. In Akber's time, heads of peasant robbers, suspended on poles along the road, met the eyes of the traveller. Happily, the robbing trade has become slack, and a very

different state now prevails. The Mahratta free-booter, the murderous Patan, and the Jaut bandit, have settled down to an agricultural life, and honest labour has superseded lawless rapine as an occupation. The district is not only tranquil, but prosperous. Nearly halfa-dozen screws are now working at this place, to send down cotton in half-screwed bales. But it is the Hindoo who appears to be engaged in all the active pursuits of trade. The profligate Mahomedans are sunk in an effeminate indolence, which is the cause of their raggedness and decay throughout the country. Let the alien die out the victim of his own religion—which makes him three parts a ruffian, and the fourth part a voluptuary. The debauchee who will not reform must perish.

Coel is the ancient native name, Allyghur the modern. The place is noted for the mud-fort of Monsieur Perron, Scindia's Commander-in-Chief. In its day, that fort had a fausse deep enough to float a seventy-four, and wide, in some places four hundred feet. It was taken by Lord Lake in 1803, and dismantled by the orders of Lord William Bentinck. The fort is now in ruins, and overgrown with jungles, lying about two miles from the town. From an humble sailor, Perron rose in the service of Scindia to attain that command and power which enabled him to lay the foundations of a virtual French State in the valley of the Jumna. This rival State was ominous of growing with its growth, and strengthening with its strength. The Marquis of Wellesley could not sleep a sound sleep haunted by this nightmare,—and he resolved to smoke Perron out of the land. And literally smoked out he was by a few whiffs from the British artillery, which battered down his fort, shattered his State, and sent him out of the land for ever. It is well that an end was put to this French State in embryo. The fickle and freakish Frenchman has no genius for consolidating an empire, which India wants. If he had stept into the shoes of the Great Mogul, India would have been brought up in sans-culotism under a galling chain of gilded despotism. The Indian then would have been rake-helly after the manner of his conqueror. Under French rule, the staid Hindoo would have been a strange animal with many a vagary in his head. To this day, the words Bourbon and Bonaparte set two Frenchmen to make each other bite the dust, -how little could their own distractions have allowed them the time to look after the welfare of two hundred millions of human beings. Doubtless, the French acknowledge, but fail to act up to the necessity of accommodating the institutions of government to the progress of informa

« PreviousContinue »