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110

THE RAJA OMICHUND.

in a line behind him, with their hands respectfully folded. On the other side the Sotaburdar stood behind me; Stowe's servant took place behind him, and Abdullah between us as his interpreter, which function he discharged extremely well, and which was the more necessary, since, in strict conformity with court etiquette, the conversation passed in Persian. I confess I was moved by the apparent poverty of the representative of a house once very powerful, and paid him more attention than I perhaps might have done had his drawing room presented a more princely style. He was exceedingly pleased by my calling him “ Maha-rajah," or Great King, as if he were still a sovereign like his ancestors, and acknowledged the compliment by a smile, and a profound reverence. He seemed, however, much puzzled to make out my rank, never having heard (he said) of any “ Lord Sabib,” except the Governor-General, while he was still more perplexed by the exposition of “ Lord Bishop Sahib,” which for some reason or other my servants always prefer to that of “Lord Padre.” He apologized very civilly for his ignorance, observing that he had not been for many years in Calcutta, and that very few Sahibs ever came that way. I told him that I was going to Dacca, Benares, Delhi, and possibly Hurdwar; that I was to return in nine or ten months, and that should he visit Calcutta again, it would give me great pleasure if he would come to see me.

He said he seldom stirred from home, but as he spoke his sons looked at him with so much earnest and intelligible expression of countenance, that he added that “ his boys would be delighted to see Calcutta, and wait on me.” He then asked very particularly of Abdullah in what street and what house I lived. After a short conversation of this kind, and some allusions on my part to his ancestors and their ancient wealth and splendour, which were well taken, we took leave, escorted to the gate by our two young friends, and thence by a nearer way through the ruins to our pinnace, by an elderly man, who said he was the Raja's “ Muktar," or chamberlain, and whose obsequious courtesy, high reverence for his master's family, and numerous apologies for the unprepared state in which we had found “the court,” reminded me of old Caleb Balderstone.

We had not yet, however, done with our acquaintance. In about an half an hour's time the Muktar returned, and had a conversation with Abdullah, apparently to ascertain what my real rank was, and with directions to act accordingly. At least after receiving satisfaction on the points in question, he desired to see me, and announced that his master intended visiting me. J at first declined the honour, saying that we were travellers, that I was obliged to be off very early in the morning, and that I had no means with me of receiving him as I could wish to do. The

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old man however persisted, saying that his master would come immediately, and that " where there was friendship (joining his hands and cringing almost to the threshold) ceremony was unnecessary;” Stowe was gone to bed, however I made ready to receive them; but the Raja after all excused himself on account of the night air, and only sent his sons, who had by this time completely transformed themselves into eastern beaux, by the addition of white muslin dresses, and turbans of gold brocade. They brought also a present of mangoes, sugar, and pastry, and advanced with the usual nuzzur, after the manner of Calcutta. They sate some time, occasionally answering me in Hindoostanee, but generally preferring Persian, of their acquirements in which they seemed proud, and they expressed some surprise that I did not speak it. They were like most of the young Indians I have seen, very lively, gentlemanly, and intelligent, anxious to obtain information about Europe, and expressing repeatedly the pleasure they expected from a visit to Calcutta. At length as a sign of their “ruksut,” or dismissal, I poured some lavender water on their hands and handkerchiefs, apologizing that I had no attar, and saying that it was “belattee gulab,” (foreign rosewater.) They liked it to all appearance much, and we parted excellent friends. On the whole, I have been greatly pleased with the evening's adventure. It has given me an opportunity of seeing the highest class of Hindoo families, in their undress and daily habits of life. I had heard much of their simplicity, as compared with the Mussulmans; and even in the present instance, I am not quite sure whether it is to this simplicity, or to the poverty which I at first suspected, but which seemed contradicted by the appearance of the boys in the evening, that I am to attribute the sorry appearance of the court,” and the dilapidated state in which the mansion is allowed to continue. I ought to mention, that after the boys were gone, the old Muktar remained for some minutes behind, hoping they had given me satisfaction; regretting that his master had the asthma, and saying, how grand a present would bave been sent, if they had had more notice; and at length, asking permission to accompany his young lords when they came to see me.

So ended the evening, but not so the night. The news had probably spread through the village, that a “burra admee" (a great man) had come to see the Raja, with divers accounts of our riches and splendour ; and about one o'clock an alarm of thieves was given by my sirdar-bearer, who happening to look out of one of the cabin windows, saw three black heads just above the water, cautiously approaching the sides of the vessel. His outcry of " Decoit! Decoit !” alarmed us, but also alarmed them ; they turned rapidly round, and in a moment were seen running up the river banks. Thus we had a specimen of both the good and evil of India.

CHAPTER VI.

SIBNIBASHI TO DACCA.

GIPSIES-WINGED BUGS-MATABUNGA-FISHING-DIFFICULT PASSAGE

IN THE RIVER--BRAHMINY BULLS-TITYBANIA-ORNAMENTED BOATS-STRONG CURRENT-OTTERS AVALANCHES-PAWN-KHYZR

ELEPHANTS BATHING.

JUNE 19.-We again proceeded, still for the most part in a northerly or north-westerly direction. The river this day was much broader than we have yet seen it, with sandy banks, covered with low silky rushes. Many cormorants, cranes, and porpoises were seen, but no alligators or crocodiles, though these shores I should have thought were well adapted to them. The day was very hot. We anchored at a place called Kishenpol, where the river had a decidedly western course. This place is not marked by Rennel, who is indeed nearly useless here. The neighbourhood is dry, sandy, and open, but with a good many villages in sight, each with its adjacent wood, and the parts near the river cultivated with indigo, which I am told delights in a sandy soil. Some scattered ears of maize were growing among it. The banks were precipitous, and covered with fine long silky rushes, evidently of a kind which would be very valuable for cordage, &c. like the “ espanto” of Spain. Here they are only used as thatch, for which they are reckoned better than straw. This sort of cover is, I understand, the favourite haunt of the tiger, who likes the neighbourhood of water, and the power at the same time of lying dry and clean. Abdullah told us several circumstances about the tiger, which at least were curious, as showing the popular notions respecting him in India : “He not fierce, but very civil when he not provoked or very hungry; he then meddle with nobody. He ascribed to him in fact many of the noble and generous properties, which, perhaps with equal justice, have been ascribed to the lion. He had been, he said, when he was in service before, at one or two tiger hunts. The tiger once wounded never thought of flying afterwards, and except a short little roar when he sprung at his prey or bis enemies, he was always silent both under wounds and in death. On asking, if a tiger should cross our path, what would he do, he steadily repeated, “he do no harm, we not fire at him." « Would he be

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frightened at us?” “Oh, no, he afraid of nothing, and nobody."

On the other side of the river was a large encampment of wretched tents of mats, with a number of little hackeries, panniers, ponies, goats, &c. so like gipsies, that on asking what they were, I was not much surprised to hear Abdullah say they were gipsies ; that they were numerous in the upper provinces, living exactly like the gipsies in England; that he had seen the same people both in Persia and Russia, and that in Persia they spoke Hindoostanee the same as here. In Russia he had had no opportunity of ascertaining this fact; but in Persia, by Sir Gore Ousley's desire, he had spoken with some of the wandering tribes, and found that they understood and could answer him. I told him of Lord Teignmouth's conversation in Hindoostanee with the old gipsy on Northwood, and he said that in Persia it was not every gipsy who spoke it, only old people. He said they were so like each other in all the countries where he had seen them, that they could not be mistaken, though in Persia they were of much better caste, and much richer than here, or in England, or Russia. But he added, " I suppose in Russia, before Peter the Great, all people much like gipsies.” There were many curious circumstances which I deduced from his information : first, the identity of the gipsy race in Europe and India, and their connecting link seemed established by a very observant witness, and certainly one unprejudiced by system. Secondly, on further inquiry, I found the people whom he identified with our gipsies in Persia, were the wandering tribes of Louristan, Curdistan, &c. whom he described with truth as being of “good caste," valiant and wealthy. It therefore follows, that these tribes, whose existence in Persia seens to be traced down from before the time of Cyrus, and whose language is generally understood to differ from the Persians of the plains and cities, resemble in countenance and person the gipsies, and that their ancient language has been a dialect of Hindoostanee. The probability is indeed that Persia, not India, has been the original centre of this nomadic population. In that case, however, it is strange that we do not hear of them sooner in Europe, where they could scarcely have existed in ancient times without being noticed by classical writers. It is no doubt true, indeed, that all the principal nations of Europe are derived from the same source with them ; but still their continued adherence to a very ancient dialect of the common language, and their steady pursuance of nomadic habits, must have always distinguished them from the more settled and civilized branches of the same family. But the time and occasion of their arrival in Europe seem the chief problem in their history.

VOL. I.--15

114

FLYING BUGS-ANTS--BIRDS-FISH.

One of the greatest plagues we have as yet met with in this journey is that of the winged bugs. In shape, size, and scent, with the additional faculty of flying, they resemble the “grabbatic” genus, too well known in England. The night of our lying off Barrackpoor they were troublesome; but when we were off the Raja's palace, they came out like the ghosts of his ancestor's armies, in hundreds and thousands from every bush and every heap of ruins, and so filled our cabins as to make them barely endurable. These unhappy animals crowded round our candles in such swarms, some just burning their feet and wings on the edge of the glass shade, and thus toppling over; others more bold, flying right into the crater, and meeting their deaths there, that we really paid no attention to what was next day a ghastly spectacle, the mighty army which had settled on the wet paint of the ceiling, and remained there, black and stinking, till the ants devoured them. These last swarm in my pinnace: they have eaten up no inconsiderable portion of my provisions, and have taken, I trust to their benefit, a whole box of blue pills; but as they do their best to clear it of all other vermin, I cannot but look on them with some degree of favour.

Besides the “ mucharunga,” a kind of king-fisher, which we had seen before, some other birds, whose appearance is new to me, continue to show themselves. One is a small black cormorant, or curlew, which we see standing with its wet wings spread on the sand-banks and shallows, praised as excellent eating ; another is in colour and size not unlike a blackbird, but with a long tail. Abdullah says, that early in the morning it "reads (meaning sings) very finely.” This equivocal use of the two words I have noticed in other Indians, and it probably arises from the chant in which both the Koran and the religious books of the Hindoos are always read.

The prospect of our little fleet at anchor, of the fires made by the servants and boatmen on the shore, and of a little crowd of villagers who came down, attracted by curiosity, or in the hope of selling milk, was very beautiful this evening, and presented the elements for a picture as perfectly Polynesian as any in Cook's voyages.

June 20.--About ten o'clock, some fishermen brought a very noble fish alongside of us for sale, of exactly the shape and appearance of a chub, but weighing at least 20 or 25 pounds. After a good deal of haggling they sold it for 12 anas, (about eighteen pence.) The khânsaman proposed salting the greater part, but I made the servants very well pleased by saying that I would only have a little boiled for ourselves, and that the rest should be divided among them for their Sunday dinner, an arrangement which seemed to offend no religious prejudices either of Hindoo or

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