Page images
PDF
EPUB

thoroughfare. Finding the shaggy monster loath to remove, the gentleman, at his wits' end, thought proper to get up on the top of the gharry, to make himself scarce from the reach of the foe. In this ticklish position, at a gloomy hour, and amid a gloomy scene, he remained at a stand-still for full twenty minutes. It pleased at last Mr Bruin to get himself upon his legs, and shaking the dust off from his body, to go slowly past down the slope of the road, when way was made to speed on as fast as possible.

Rarely, however, are such unwelcome tenants of the forest now encountered on the road. The frequent resort of men and merchandise have scared them

to the more impervious thickets and deep-retired dells, which they are seldom tempted to quit. The tender care of a paternal Government for the safety of travellers has placed chowkeys and serais at intervals of every two or three miles. There are scouts to watch at night from machauns, or cock-lofts, posted along the road. On these machauns is perched a tiny hut of reeds and leaves, sufficient to admit a man and his bedding—and up there creeps the paharadar after dusk to spend the night in keeping a look-out after the travellers. Indeed, law and police, trade and industry, do far more than people of romantic dispositions will readily admit, to develop in our minds a sense of the wilder beauties of nature. A traveller must be freed from all apprehension of being killed or starved before he can be charmed by the bold outlines and rich tints of the hills.' It shall be a great day for India, when the progress of cultivaA Halting-place.-Dangerous Road.

away

6

215

tion shall extirpate the races of its wild beasts, and when the last tiger roaming the land shall be slain and preserved as a curiosity for posterity.

The mile-stones give as it were a tongue to distance, and the Electric Telegraph, passing through the heart of the forest, carries our voice ‘from Indus to the pole.'

After running for twenty miles in a continuous succession, the hills recede for a time, and are succeeded by an open valley, in which a line of huts is honoured with the name of a serai. Halted to bathe and breakfast. The third tank on this side of Raneegunge is seen in this valley. Towards evening the hills again made their appearance. The alternation of steeps and ravines that now succeeded made the journey very toilsome, and not a little dangerous. The doctor and the tradesman, coming together in one gharry, narrowly escaped a serious accident. They were coming down the road over a declivity. The gharry, which at such places rolls with a partial impetus of its own, forced the horse out of the road, where it had a bend. Fortunately, the driver had presence of mind to rein up the horse, and the servants on the top gave the alarm to jump out of the carriage. Had the gharry rolled into the bottom of the ravine, it would have been all over with our friends. Quite a similar accident befell a native gentleman coming up last year from Calcutta to Benares. He was travelling with his wife and child in the same gharry. Somehow or other it got upset, and slided down into the ravine. Indeed, nobody was actually killed, but the poor lady rose with a fractured shoulder-bone, and the child severely bruised. It is particularly unsafe to cross the causeways slightly protected by fences of stone loosely piled up, not even breast-high, and one foot deep. A prank of the horse on one of these causeways is sure to terminate in a fatal plunge into the awful chasm below.

Some of the spurs, abutting almost on the very road, seemed to obstruct the passage in the distance. It was near the close of the day. But a sunset among

the hills is very different from a sunset behind the fantastic clouds of an autumn evening in the horizon of Calcutta. There, the parting day

Dies like the dolphin, whom each pang imbues
With a new colour as it gasps away,

The last still loveliest, till—’tis gone—and all is gray.' Here, the sun no sooner sinks behind the hills than they throw their tall shadows on the ground, and excluding every ray, envelop the scene in a sudden gloom. The luminary is not allowed to cast 'a longing, lingering look behind.' He sinks plumb down, and all is dark in a minute or two.

Arrived at Belcoopee an hour after nightfall. The place is interesting for some hot-springs, which lie about 300 yards from the road. A Brahmin volunteered to conduct us to the spot. But night was not the proper time for exploration through the jungles. In the opinion of our valiant tradesman, to alight from the carriage in the jungles after dark is to step right into the maw of a tiger.

Burhee.The Dunwah Pass.

217

The Burrakutta is a little naiad which mourns her impoverished urn all summer long.' The 'magnificent topes of mango, banyan, and peepul trees’ at Bursote are probably the remains of an ancient seat of the Buddhists or Jains.

Burhee is the principal station in the hill-districts along the Grand Trunk Road. But we arrived there too late in the night to see anything. Our friends had again fallen a great way off in the rear. Not till after an hour was heard the smack upon smack of a whip in the distance, when their gharry approached most like an apparition in the pale moonlight.

From Burhee the road lies over the Dunuah Pass. The horse needs here the aid of coolies to push up the carriage from its back. The Pass is 1525 feet above the level of the sea. Few prospects surpass in grandeur and loveliness the prospect which is enjoyed from the heights of Dunwah, and one must take care not to miss it, like ourselves.

October 23.—Rising early at dawn, we found ourselves to have cleared the Pass. Out of it, we were also out of the jurisdiction of the hills. These now appeared to have receded far away in the distance. The table-land has terminated here. Stopping to look back, the elevated plateau struck the eye as an impregnable stronghold of nature. The Dunwah Pass is from this side the only inlet—the Thermopylæ—to this inaccessible region. It has lain locked up, while the neighbouring valleys and plains have acknowledged the dominion of man for centuries. Not until pinched by

of ages.

necessity would an overgrown population seek to utilize the resources of this realm. One man to the square mile is at most its present population.

Falling into the open country, the traveller proceeds through the historic lands of ancient Maghada. Under this name the province was known for a series

It first occurs so early as in the AtharvanVed,* and is met with so late as the seventh century, when Chinese pilgrims speak of it under the scarcely intelligible name of Moki-a-to. The present appellation of Behar is from Vihara, or a monastery of the Buddhists, whose most reputed convent was at Behar—the place where Buddha obtained the lau.

Out of the rocky barriers, the country, sloping away imperceptibly, at last resumes its dead level character. Rich prospects open to the view. But no traditions lend a charm to a journey through these regions, townships of consequence occur, -no spot furnishes a legend,—and no river is consecrated by a reminiscence. The plains announce themselves by the crops standing upon them. Bengal is the great country of paddy, Behar of pulse.

Reached Barrakwhere are a bungalow and a serai. The country hereabouts is a flat open plain. But the scarcity of water is a serious evil, which is apparent in the scanty cultivation, and the clotted hairs and dirty

-no

* •We give Takman (a disease) as a messenger, as a treasure to the Gandharis, the Mujavats, to the Angas and Maghadas.' AtharvanVed. The Angas had their abode about Bhagulpore, and the Maghadas in South Behar. At the time this hymn was composed the country beyond the Soane was considered not strictly Indian.

« PreviousContinue »