Page images
[blocks in formation]

nation also. We returned to our pinnace soon after ten.

June 17.—About two o'clock this morning we had a north-wester, accompanied with violent thunder and lightening. It lasted about two hours, and was so severe, that we could not but feel thankful that it had not overtaken us the night before, while we were under sail. I have never heard louder thunder, or seen so vivid and formidable lightening. Happily, our attendant boats were close in shore, under the shelter of the high bank, while our own mariners did their work exceedingly well and quietly, letting go a second anchor, and veering out as much cable as they had on board. After having done all that under such circumstances was to be done, they gave the cry of “ Allah hu Allah!” and went to prayers, a circumstance which, unaccompanied as it was by any marks of confu-. sion or trepidation, gave me a very favourable impression of them, though I afterwards recollected that it was in fact pretty near the hour when that call is uttered from the mosque, which used to thrill me when I heard it in the Crimea, “ Prayer is better than sleep! prayer is better than sleep!” Our boat, with this length of cable, rode well and easily, but we had some troublesome work in closing the cabin windows, as our rooms, and all they contained, were getting a complete cold bath. Indeed, there really ran something like a sea in the channel of the river where we now lay. What passed gave me confidence in the vessel and her crew.

The latter are numerous, sixteen rowers,

[blocks in formation]

four men accustomed to the management of the sails, and the serang, all Mussulmans, and natives of Dacca, and its vicinity. They are wild and odd-looking people, light-limbed, and lean, and very black, but strong and muscular, and all young men, with a fiercer eye, and far less civil manner than the Hindoos of Calcutta, to which expression of character their dress contributes, (when they wear any, which is the case this cool morning) being old uniform jackets of the infantry and artillery, with red caps and dirty turbans wrapped round them. As they sat round the fire this morning, cooking their victuals for breakfast, they might pass for no bad representatives of Malay pirates. The wind, though much abated, continued till after five to blow so hard, that the boatmen declined heaving anchor; but having then shifted to the south again, we set off, and sailed with great rapidity by Chinsura and Hooghly, which form almost one town, with some large and handsome, though deserted-looking, houses. At Chinsura is a Church, and beyond Hooghly, at a place I believe named Banda, is a large Italian-looking church, with what appears to be a convent. The river here contracts very much, the banks are higher and more precipitous, and the view of the channel, with our little fleet in it, extremely picturesque and pretty. I hailed Mr. Corrie, and was glad to hear they had sustained no damage in the storm. The river now again expanded into a broad sheet of water, with rice-grounds on each side, and the villages further removed from each other, but

[blocks in formation]
[blocks in formation]

each marked out by its wood of tall fruit-trees. The country, except that the river is so much wider, is not at all unlike some parts of Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire on the Thames. There are fewer pagodas to be seen, and none so handsome as those we have passed. There is, however, a rather more abundant sprinkling of European-like houses and bungalows, the residences of the indigo planters, as our boatmen tell us. And one of the villages, which has two or three brick houses, and a small low tower attached to one of them, was interesting to us, from the sort of resemblance it offered to some in our own dear England. A little above this village we passed “ a sign of a civilised country," being a gibbet, with two men in chains on it, who were, as our Serang told us, executed two years ago for robbery and murder in this neighbourhood, but not on the river. The district bears a bad name for all sorts of robbery. A mile or two higher up is a large island, which seems to have been recently deserted by the stream, and not yet taken possession of by man, being mostly bare sand, and bordered by long grass and reeds (not bamboos), a very likely place for wild beasts to harbour. It was, indeed, in this neighbourhood that Mrs. Corrie saw the fresh print of a tyger's feet, exactly like those of a cat, but each as large as a good-sized plate. Here again the banks of the river are precipitous, and Southey might have taken the spot as the scene of his Kailyal, and the image of her guardian goddess falling down the crumbling steep into the river. A few miles further



brought us to a broad channel, which diverged to our right hand from the main bed of the river, being in fact a stream flowing into the Hooghly, and itself derived from the Matabunga, a branch of the great Ganges, which flows from the neighbourhood of Jellinghey to the centre of the Sunderbunds. This, when there is water enough to float large vessels, is the most direct communication between Calcutta and Dacca, and we had some reason to hope we might find it navigable at present. We anchored therefore at the mouth, and sent the jolly-boat with the Serang and Abdullah ', to make enquiry at Seebpoor, a place where toll is paid, a little within the entrance. I sent Abdullah, who speaks English, in the belief that an European was stationed there, from whom he was more likely than a dandee to obtain information. In the meantime, and after they had been gone a quarter of an hour, the wind changed two points more westerly, and began to blow harder, so that I perceived we should have some difficulty to avoid going ashore, from which we were scarcely half a cable's length distant. I therefore proposed to the boatmen to weigh anchor, and proceed a little farther, while yet we had the power. They readily assented, and were going to do so, when the return of the Serang put a stop to our proceedings. He, indeed,

1 This man was a Mussulman convert of Mr. Corrie's, who had travelled in Persia with Sir Gore Ousley, and accompanied him to England, from whence he was returning in the Grenville, in a state of great poverty, when the Bishop took him into his service as “ jemautdar,” or head officer of the Peons.-Ed.



immediately called to them, on reaching the vessel, to go on with what they had begun, at the same time sending some men with long bamboos to the stern, to stave the vessel off the shore. This was very necessary, since ashore she went in a few minutes, and the wind freshening, and there being little or no tide to help us here, I concluded that we were to continue fixed till the rising of the river from the rains set us free. To my surprise, however, the matter was settled in a few minutes; all the crew but the Serang, who remained to steer, jumped into the water about as high as their waists. Half the party by main strength and weight of pressure, thrust off the boat from the bank, while as soon as she floated, the rest began to tow a head. They thus carried her merrily along the lee shore for about 200 yards, when the headland being passed, we had again sea-room, and they all swam on board like so many water-rats. This, of course, shews the extreme lightness of our vessel, and how little water boats of her class re-quire. In the meantime I was hearing the report of Abdullah and the Serang, who as it appeared now, had discovered no “ Chokey” or toll-house, nor any thing of the kind. They found, however, two large native boats which had just come down the river, whose crew assured them there was plenty of water for a vessel of greater burthen than ours, while their account was in other respects so favourable as to distance and time saved, that I made up my mind at once to go this way. Accordingly, as Mr. Corrie's budgerow was in sight,

[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »