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through a hoop, or, to borrow Jack's phrase, “as if the devil kicked you on end!” Of course, with all the speed of intense fear, you close up the gap through which you have shot yourself into your sleeping quarters.
If all these arrangements have been well managed, you may amuse yourself for a while by scoffing at, and triumphing over the clouds of baffled mosquitoes outside, who dash themselves against the meshes of the net, in vain attempts to enter your sanctum. If, however, for your sins, any one of their number has succeeded in entering the place along with yourself, he is not such an ass as to betray his presence while you are flushed with victory, wide awake, and armed with the means of his destruction. Far from this, the scoundrel allows you to chuckle over your fancied great doings, and to lie down with all the complacency and fallacious security of your conquest, and under the entire assurance of enjoying a tranquil night's rest. Alas, for such presumptuous hopes ! Scarcely have you dropped gradually from these visions of the day to the yet more blessed visions of the night, and the last faint effort of your eye-lids has been quite overcome by the gentle pressure of sleep, when, in deceitful slumber, you hear something like the sound of trumpets.
Straightway your imagination is kindled, and your fancy yourself in the midst of a fierce fight, and struggling, not against petty insects, but against armed men and thundering cannon! In the excitement of the moral conflict of your dream, you awake, not displeased, mayhap, to find that you are safe and snug in bed. But in the next instant what is your dismay, when you are again saluted by the odious notes of a mosquito close at your ear! The perilous fight of the previous dream, in which your honour had become pledged, and your life at hazard, is all forgotten in the pressing reality of this waking calamity. You resolve to do or die, and not to sleep, or even attempt to sleep, till you have finally overcome the enemy. Just as you have made this manly resolve, and, in order to de. ceive the foe, have pretended to be fast asleep, the wary mosquito is again heard, circling over you at a distance, but gradually coming nearer and nearer in a spiral descent, and at each turn gaining upon you one inch, till, at length, be almost touches your ear, and, as you suppose, is just about to settle upon it. With a sudden jerk, and full of wrath, you bring up your hand, and give yourself such a box on the ear as would have staggered the best friend you have in the world, and might have crushed twenty thousand mosquitoes, had they been there congregated. Being convinced that you have now done for him, you mutter between your teeth one of those satisfactory little apologies for an oath which indicate gratified revenge, and down you lie again.
In less than ten seconds, however, the very same felon whom you fondly hoped you had executed, is again within hail of you, and you can almost fancy there is scorn in the tone of his abominable hum. You, of course, watch his motions still more intently than before, but only by the ear, for you can never see him. We shall suppose that you fancy he is aiming at your left hand; indeed, as you are almost sure of it, you wait till he has ceased his song, and then you give yourself another smack, which, I need not say, proves quite as fruitless as the first. About this stage of the action you discover, to your horror, that you have been soundly bit in one ear and in both heels, but when or how you cannot tell. These wounds, of course, put you into a fine rage, partly from the pain, and partly from the insidious manner in which they have been inflicted. Up you spring on your knees—not to pray, heaven knows !--but to fight. You seize your horse's tail with spiteful rage, and after whisking it round and round, and cracking it in every corner of the bed, you feel pretty certain you must at last have demolished your friend.
In this unequal warfare you pass the live-long night, alternately scratching and cuffing yourself fretting and fuming to no purpose--feverish, angry, sleepy, provoked, and wounded in twenty different places !
At last, just as the long-expected day begins to dawn, you drop off, quite exhausted, into an unsatisfactory, heavy slumber, during which your triumphant enemy banquets upon your carcass at his convenient leisure. As the sun is rising, the barber enters the room to remove your beard before you step into the bath, and you awaken only to discover the bloated and satiated monster clinging to the top of your bed, an easy, but useless and inglorious prey.---vol. ii. pp. 61–67.
The third chapter is devoted to a very curious description of the various boats employed on the Ceylonese coast, the Balsas or Catamarans of South America, and the very singular process of lifting the anchor as it is effected by the native fishermen. This is followed by a highly interesting account of the peculiar difficul. ties which attend any attempt to navigate the surf of Madras ; and of the methods adopted by the Indian boatmen to overcome these obstructions. The chapter, however, in which some of the strange superstitions of the Hindoos are noticed, is more worthy of attention, Riding one day into the country from Madras, his ears were assailed by the sound of drums, called tom-toms, which came from a neighbouring wood. He at last came to an opening which faced the sea, and in this spot was surprised to see about a thousand natives assembled. In the centre of the area occupied by the crowd, a pole or mast was placed, of the height of from thirty to forty feet : it bore across its top a long yard or beam, which was slung nearly in the middle, and which stretched both ways to the distance of forty or fifty feet. This cross beam was drawn down by the men at one end, until it nearly touched the ground, the other end being consequently elevated in proportion. Near the latter extremity, what was the astonishment of our spectator to behold underneath a richly decorated canopy, a human being suspended by two slender cords. The position of the individual was horizontal, and he floated like a bird with his limbs spread out and freely in motion. From his waist was suspended a bag, containing flowers and fruits ; these he scattered amongst the crowd below, who rent the air with acclamations. But if the Captain was surprised at the first appearance of this spectacle, what must have been his horror at finding, on a nearer inspection of the figure, that the creature was actually hanging on the points of two bright hooks, which were fixed in the flesh of his back. He appeared to suffer no pain, but bore all with the greatest cheerfulness. Shortly after the Captain's arrival, the man who was in this horrible situation was lowered down, and getting out of the hooks, gave room
to a second fanatic, who was afterwards succeeeded by four other men. Captain Hall was not only permitted, but actually encou. raged to examine every detail of the ceremony: he says that the candidates for the hooks always advanced to the yard with briskness and cheerfulness; a native priest came forward in each instance, and marked out with the tip of his finger the spots where the hooks were to be inserted ; after this, another priest began thumping and pinching the back in the most violent manner; whilst a third fixed the hooks in the skin at a point just below the shoulder blade. The hooks consisted of highly polished steel, and were of the size of a small shark hook, but had no barb; the thickness of each was something less than that of a man's little finger; their points being extremely sharp, were fixed in the flesh with ease, and with so much skill that no blood escaped. To each hook a strong cotton line was fastened, which, after some ceremonies, was tied to the extremity of the yard arm, and drawn up by ropes. The throwing of the flowers and fruits was carried on in such a way, as to give the same chance of obtaining such desirable relics to every one in the crowd. The devotee sailed, as it were, in a circle, and thus, as he went round, was presented exactly under the same circumstances to each portion of the assemblage. The individuals who undergo these penances are known in India by the title of Sunnyasses, and their motive for courting them is to render honour to their gods, or to comply with some vow. Captain Hall, whilst he admits the obvious necessity of putting down such abuses as these, very sagaciously suggests the utility of carefully choosing the season when the suppression may be most efficiently accomplished. It was only in consequence of the proper selection of the occasion, as he shows, that the agents of the British government succeeded in abolishing the practices of infanticide and suttees.
One of the pleasantest passages in the chapter immediately succeeding the one which we have just been considering, is that which relates to the curious palankeen system of India.
The palankeen is usually kept in the verandah of the house ; and when destined to be put in requisition, is taken up by the bearers in the morning; it is then brushed out, washed, and dried. If the master be not ready at the time appointed, the bearers stretch themselves on the floor to sleep; but when they see him approach, they start up with a promptitude and a determination to do every thing that may be most convenient to him, which are the happy characteristics of servants throughout India. The palankeen bearers are a caste in themselves, are remarkable for diligence and fidelity, and may be safely trusted with any property of value, save and except the brandy bottle. Before making a long journey, the master gives due notice to the bearers, since it is necessary for them to make large preparations, such as stores of torches and oil, rice, curry stuff, and other indispensable articles. The night is the period principally chosen by travellers, who set out after an early,
dinner, and, when darkness comes on, a torch, usually made of bamboo, and at the top, of rags saturated with grease and oil, is lighted and carried before the palankeen. The following is Captain Hall's description of one of these machines :
The palankeen is about six feet long by two and a half wide, and serves at night-time for a bed, in the day-time for a parlour. In the front part of the interior is fitted a broad shelf, underneath which a drawer pulls out, and over the shelf a net is stretched, such as we see in travelling carriages. In the after-part, as a sailor would call it, there is generally fixed a shelf for books, a net for fruit or any loose articles, and hooks for hats, caps, towels, and other things. There are two doors or sliding partitions in each side, fitted with Venetian blinds in the upper pannel; and at each end of the palankeen are placed two little windows. Many travellers choose to have a lamp fixed in one corner, with a glass face turned inwards, but trimmed from without, either for reading or for sleeping by-for your Indian must always have a light to see how to shut his eyes, as Pat said. The bottom, or seat, is made of strips of rattan, like that of a chair, over which is laid a light elastic mattrass, made either of horse hair or, which is still better, I believe, of the small shavings used in dressing the bamboo and rattan.
Across the palankeen, at the distance of a foot and a half from the end, is hung a flat square cushion, buttoned tightly from side to side, for the travellers back to rest against; while his feet are prevented from slipping forwards by a cross bar, similar in principle to the stretchers in a boat, against which the rowers plant their feet. This bar, which slides up and down in slits cut at the sides of the palankeen, is capable of being shifted nearer to or further from the end, according to the length of the voyagers legs, or to his choice of position. In the space behind the cushion or rest for the back, are stowed away in the day-time, the sheets, blankets, pillow, and other night-things; and in the net above, two or three changes of clothes, in case of any accident separating the traveller from his heavy bag. gage. In the drawers may be kept shaving articles, and such nick-nacks as a compass, thermometer, sketch-book. On the shelf behind, a few books-among which, of course, will be found a road book, and a Hindoostanee vocabulary—jostling with a tea pot and sugar cannister. Under the mattrass, an infinity of small things may be hid, provided they be flattish. In each corner of this moving house are placed little round sockets for bottles and glasses. Many other odds and ends of comforts and conveniences suggest themselves as the journey advances, or may be found cut and dry in expensive palankeens. I speak merely of what mine possessed, and it was a very ordinary affair-cheap and strong, and not too heavy. Along the top, on the outside, is laid a wax cloth cover, which, when not in use, is rolled up; but in rainy weather, or when the night-air becomes chill, this cloth is let so loose as to envelope the whole palankeen.
At each end there is fixed a single strong smooth bar, which rests on the bearers' shoulders. This pole, which is somewhat thicker than a man's arm, is possessed of none of the elasticity which gives such an unpleasant motion to a sedan chair, being secured tightly to the corners of the palankeen by iron rods. To one of these poles there is generally suspended a beautifully-shaped rattan basket, holding a goglet or water pitcher, which is still further defended from injury by an open tracery of split rattans, re. sembling not a little the work in relief on the buttresses and pinnacles of Henry VII.'s chapel in Westminster Abbey. This goglet is hung in front, that the dew which exudes from its pores may be evaporated by the current of air it encounters as the bearers move on; and thus, even in the hottest weather, a cool draught of water may always be obtained. Under the pole behind are hung a tea-kettle, coffee-pot, and a curious but useful kind of wash-hand basin, imported from China, of a cylindrical shape, made of wood highly varnished.
Some people add a brace of pistols to the equipment of their palankeen; but I preferred, if it came to the push, rather to be robbed in peace, than to fight a pitched battle with desperadoes about a trumpery watch, or a handful of pagodas. At the very best one could only hope to repel the boarders, and perhaps put one or two of them to death; in return for which a broken pate, or a slice with a grass-cutter's knife, would remain as lasting evidences of the traveller's prowess in the jungle. As for tigers, I was assured that in ninetynine cases in a hundred, they are quite as glad to make off from man, as man is glad to get off from them; and, in truth, their instinct must be but small, or their hunger inordinately great, if they have not learned by this time, that Mr. Homo is much more than a match for Mr. Brute, with all his claws and teeth. Of this fact I saw ample proofs in the course of my journey, as I shall have occasion presently to relate in describing a great native festival near Seringapatam, where animals really wild, and nut such tame creatures as are to be seen in our misnamed “wild beast" shows, were exhibited and baited for our edification, within twonty-four hours after being caught in the forest.
If the journey to be made in the palankeen be a short one, say thirty or forty miles, it may be run over in the night, with only one stop, during which the bearers light a fire and dress their supper. Including this delay, I have made, between eight in the evening and half-past six in the morning, a journey of full forty miles-- that is, from Madras to the Seven Pagodas, or Mahabalipooram, the city of the great god Bali. On ordinary occasions, for short distances between house and house, when you are going out to dinner, only a couple of men run under each pole, and at such times the palankeen is carried at the rate of four or five miles an hour. But on journeys there are generally three men to each pole, which employs six men out of the twelve, while the others run by their side, ready to relieve their companions at intervals. During the whole time they are in progress, they make a noise which it is not easy to describe. Sometimes it consists of a long, deep, but slightly varied groan, in which the whole party join in correct time. Mostly, however, the men in front use one kind of groan or grunt, which is answered by another from those behind. These sounds often approach to a scream, and frequently include words of warning against stones in the way, or pools of water ; but these are articulated so indistinctly, that it is difficult to catch them. I remember one exclamation frequently used, “ Kurab high!” Occasionally, when it is wished to make a great exertion, the leader of the song suddenly calls out some such word as “ Shabash !" to which every one answers, and away they spring at double speed, while the tone of the music, so to call it, is changed from a dull sort of grumbling bass to an angry and sharp intonation, mixed with something almost insulting or reproachful in its tone.--vol. ii. pp. 161-168.