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DACCA TO FURREEDPOOR.
INUNDATION-GUN-BOAT ATTACKED MUSSULMAN FAKIR-FURREED
POOR-SYSTEM OF ROBBERY- DOMESTIC HABITS OF HINDOOSEXTRACT FROM CALENDAR.
Having preserved these hasty recollections of the past week, 1 return to my journey.
Being anxious to prevent Miss Stowe, who I feared had, on hearing of her poor brother's illness, set out from Calcutta to join him, from coming to Dacca, I did not take the direct northern course by the great Jeels, but sailed eastward across the Delaserry river and a wide tract of flooded country, which offered a strange and dreary spectacle, from the manner in which the wretched villages were huddled together on little mounds of earth, just raised above the level of the inundation, while all the rest was covered with five or six feet water. I thought of Gray's picture of the Egyptian Delta, whose peasants
* On their frail boats to neighbouring cities glide,
Which rise and glitter o'er the ambient tide.”
But these villages do any thing but glitter. At length we passed them all, and entered what might be called a sea of reeds. It was, in fact, a vast jeel or marsh, whose tall rushes rise above the surface of the water, having depth enough for a very large vessel. We sailed briskly on, rustling like a greyhound in a field of corn: while in one place where the reeds were thickest, and I tried the depth with an oar, there was, I should guess, at least ten feet water, besides whatever else there might be of quagmire.
After this we entered a nullab, with rice only partially flooded, and a succession of woods and villages, till at six we halted for the night, in a very pleasant spot, near a large village, named Nawâb Gunge. I should have enjoyed my little walk, if my recollections would have allowed me.
July 23.-We commenced our journey this morning with unusual alertness, but ere long it was interrupted. A sudden turn of the river exposed us, about twelve at noon, to so strong a contrary wind, that after a few trials the men declared they could not proceed, and begged leave to get their dinner, in the hope that the breeze might moderate. I was not sorry for this delay, as I hoped
to receive information from Dacca which might set me at liberty to go directly northward, but letters arrived which to my great sorrow established the fact that Miss Stowe was on her way to Dacca, and made it adviseable for me to push on to meet her as fast as possible. I put, therefore, into immediate force the magic of my own silver sticks, and the potent talisman of brass which adorned the girdle of the Chuprassee whom Mr. Master had ordered to accompany me to Hajygunge, and sent to the jemautdar* of the nearest village a requisition for twenty men to drag my boats, with the information at the same time, that the service would not be, as I fear it often is in this country, gratuitous. No sooner, however, were the messengers seen approaching, than half the village, fearing that it was some Government duty which was required, were seen running away to hide themselves, and it was not till the jemautdar had gone round to explain matters to some of their wives, that any tolerable workmen made their appearance. At last the prescribed number arrived, and we began moving with tolerable rapidity, and continued advancing prosperously till nine o'clock at night, when the twenty men were extremely well satisfied with two rupees among them! and willingly promised to attend next morning, so cheap is labour in this part of India. An event has occurred on the Matabunga since we traversed it, which shows the low state of morality among the peasants of India, and how soon and how surely a sudden temptation will transform the most peaceable into banditti
. A large boat attached to the gun-boats which arrived the other day at Dacca from Calcutta, loaded with ammunition, got aground pretty near the same place where we had the bank cut through. The country people were called in to assist in getting her off, very likely from the same village whose inhabitants we found so diligent and serviceable. The ammunition, however, was packed in cases resembling those in which treasure is usually conveyed in this country, and in consequence as is supposed of this mistake, the boat, being by the accident separated from the fleet, was attacked the following night by (as is said) near three hundred people, armed with spears, bamboos, hoes, and whatever else a tumultuary insurrection usually resorts to. They were repulsed by the sepoys with difficulty, and not till several had been shot. The affair made a great noise in Dacca, nothing of the kind having been heard of for many years in that neighbourhood. A commission had gone to the spot to inquire into the case and one of the small neighbouring Zemindars was said to be in custody. Natives, Mr. Master said, are often pillaged, and travel always in
* This appellation is variously given to a house-servant, the chief man of a village, and to an officer in the army, of a rank corresponding to a lieutenant.--Ed.
more or less danger. But Decoits seldom venture on an European boat, and still more rarely on a vessel in the Company's service, and guarded by soldiers.
In the course of our halt this day a singular and painfully interesting character presented himself in the person of a Mussulman Fakir, a very elegantly formed and handsome young man, of good manners, and speaking good Hindoostanee, but with insanity strongly marked in his eye and forehead. He was very nearly naked, had a white handkerchief tied as an ornament round his left arm, a bright yellow rag hanging loosely over the other, a little cornelian ornament set in silver round his neck, a large chaplet of black beads, and a little wooden cup in his hand. He asked my leave to sit down on the bank to watch what we were doing, and said it gave his heart pleasure to see Englishmen; that he was a great traveller, had been in Bombay, Cabul, &c., and wanted to see all the world, wherein he was bound to wander as long as it lasted. I offered him alms, but he refused, saying, he never took money,—that he had his meal that day, and wanted nothing. He sate talking wildly with the servants a little longer, when I again told Abdullah to ask him if I could do any thing for him; he jumped up, laughed, said “ No pice !" then made a low obeisance, and ran off, singing, “ La Illah ul Allah !" His manner and appearance nearly answered to the idea of the Arab Mejnoun, when he ran wild for Leila.
July 24.-1 met yesterday evening with a severe disappointment. I had left Dacca cheered with the hope that my wife, who had expressed great anxiety to accompany me in the event of Stowe's illness terminating fåtally, would be able to join me with our children at Boglipoor; but I received a letter from her, forwarded by Mr. Master, which made me see that this would be impossible. This news, added to the uncomfortable state of my mind and feelings, kept me awake great part of the night, and I arose ill and unrefreshed.
The labourers were after their time, and the wind being moderate, we set off without them. They overtook us, however, in two boats, in about three miles, and were of very material use in helping us on to the junction of this stream with the great Ganges. Just before we arrived at this point I saw two pinnaces in the offing. In the hope that one might prove to be Miss Stowe's, I immediately brought to, and sent off a letter to prepare her for the sad tidings of her brother's death ; but the boats belonged to another party.
We now proceeded again with the tow-line : the wind was strongly against us, the stream in which we were running almost full south, but the additional coolies did wonders for us. Including the crew, there were no less than twenty-eight men at the rope of
my pinnace, and eight to each of the other boats. About half-past one we reached the place where our stream rejoined the Ganges, which lay before us with its vast expanse of water.
The woods near Hajygunge and Furreedpoor lay like a long dark outline on the horizon, at the distance of about twelves miles, six miles being, I should guess, pretty nearly the width of the river. I here dismissed the country people, but found that though the wind was full south, it was still not over and above favourable, since, though it would carry us up the river, it would effectually prevent our making Furreedpoor. While Mohammed, (the Serang,) and Abdullah were consulting as to what was best to be done, I saw a small pinnace creeping slowly towards us, amid the long reeds, which we hailed ; and as soon as it was ascertained who we were, a young officer jumped into the dingy, and paddled up towards us, whom I soon recognized to be my old shipmate Gresley, who with his companion, Lt. P., dined with me. There were few medical applications which could have done me so much good as a motive for an extra glass of wine, and the lively conversation of two young men, for one of whom I had a sincere regard. We parted soon after four, and I had a very good sail over the river, and might, I soon found, have had a better, had not Mohammed, from his exceeding terror of being carried out of his knowledge, or of being compelled to pass a night at sea, instead of fairly sailing straight for the river on which the villages stand, laboured hard, by keeping his boat as near the wind as her construction allowed, to make the opposite bank as soon as possible. We arrived there in consequence about six o'clock, at least eight miles to the S. of the point we wished for; and, in the neighbourhood of a little village overhung with palms, we made fast to a green meadow. Our people had learnt caution by the recent events on the Matabunga, and Abdullah came to request that I would give orders for two sentries for the night. July 25.— I slept well
, and have seldom wakened with more reason for gratitude. My health, which had been for some time a good deal deranged, appeared renovated, and I felt myself ready to adopt any line of conduct which circumstances might claim from me.
We were obliged to track our boat, the wind having fallen, and it was 10 o'clock before we reached the Hajygunge nullah. Before we had advanced far, a boat came up with a letter from Mr. Warner, the magistrate of these districts, and to my inexpressible delight one from my wife, which Mr. Master had forwarded. Her account of herself was comfortable, but I was again forcibly convinced that it would be impossible for her to join me at Bog. lipoor. My main anxiety therefore was, that she should not fret about a separation which was unavoidable, and that she should
be convinced that I am likely to do extremely well, and travel very safely ; and that, though now alone, I should have companions the greatest part of the way.
Mr. Warner soon after called on me, and I accompanied him to his house, where I found a very well furnished library. At present his house was full of ladies, fugitives from Chittagong ; but, except his own family and inmates, he had no society, no Europeans, not even a medical man being within very many miles. In the evening we walked in the garden, and Mr. Warner pointed out one tree on which two pelicans never failed to roost, and another which had an eagle's nest. Eagles are, he said, very common on all these rivers, and pelicans by no means rare, and he expressed some surprise at learning how few of either I had seen during my progress. A beautiful and fragrant purple flower was shown me as the jalap plant. Mr. Warner then took me a pleasant drive in the carriage, and I had some very interesting conversation with him; on our return to the house I read prayers and a sermon, and then went to my boat. On the whole, between the books I found, the things I saw, and the people I met with, I passed a pleasant, and I trust not unprofitable Sunday.
Mr. Warner told me, that even now I was, in his judgment, a fortnight too late to succeed in getting up to Cawnpoor, but that to Benares I might do very well.
Among Mr. Warner's books I found in a volume of the Edinburgh Annual Register, a dialogue from an ancient Arabic MS. in the Bodleian, translated six years ago by Dr. Nicol, containing a dispute between a Christian monk and certain learned Mussulmans, at the court of one of the Seljuckian Sultans, which I thought so clever, and so evidently authentic, that it greatly delighted me, and I borrowed it for Abdullah, as more likely than most things which I have seen to do him good, and confirm his faith in Christ. The original Arabic ought by all means to be published, if it is not already, and sent out for circulation in the East by the societies interested in such good works. , I here dismissed the police boat and chuprassee with which Mr. Master had furnished me. It is pleasing to see how popular Mr. Master is; he is spoken of here in just the same way as he is at Dacca.
Mr. Warner I find had not heard a word of the alleged attack on the Company's boats on these waters. Such a thing might; he said, have occurred in the Kishnagur district without his hearing of it, but he conceived it must have been greatly exaggerated. He said that the Indians can never tell a story without excessive falsification one way or the other. He had frequently had cases of assault brought before him, in which the plaintiff at first stated that he had been attacked and nearly killed by above a hundred