Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

the fearful yet pleasing persuasion that our Maker is looking on and listening to his creature. A man must do his duty among his fellows but he will do well to go into solitude to think of it. Whether these solitudes have done much for my morals is not for me to say, but I know I have to thank them for much happiness; and amongst the days that live as oases in the desert retrospect my memory shows me, few are clearer than those in which I have gazed from the cliffs, or wandered through the glades of these majestic woods. I know what they have cost membut at this very moment, when I feel but too palpably the decay of my memory, my sensibility and imagination dulled, and my feelings blunted, and know how much of these and other ills I may attribute to my residence in this climate, I do not regret one hour of it that was passed in them. I think with affectionate regret of the bright beams of the East, and the land they beautify, in a home where long absence has almost given the freshness of novelty to the cherished objects of my recollection. I sleep in England or in France, but I dream of the “ strife-breeding clime of the Deckan."*

All who know how power itself palled upon the devil Sakhar, and that he threw Solomon's talisman into the Lake Tiberias, with every prospect to himself of being soon thrown after it, will not think it strange that we looked to our return to the cantonment with something approaching to pleasure. We had duties to bring up, and however little we admired too rigid an attention to minutiæ, which seemed to us distinct from the essential properties of soldiership, we knew they were necessary to its service, and had no wish to be considered wanting even in them. These recreations sent us back to our business with freshly excited energy and interest. It was, however, melancholy to see the dreary look of our trees as the last tent fell, and we were mounting to depart. Nor was our own appearance altogether so fascinating as it had been. “Our gayness and our gilt were all besmirched;" our horses showed their work, and their furniture was cracked, cut, and soiled ; our beards were of patriarchal proportions; our cheeks like roses, or red cabbages; and while few were without stripes of diacolon on various solutions of continuity effected by thorns, date spikes, or tumbles, there was usually some one unfortunate who could parade an anomalous bump about his cranium, which it would have puzzled Dr. Gall himself to have classified. As we passed through the village, we received numerous salams as payment in full for sundry doses of salts which we had administered to the incurables of the commanity. The natives cannot be convinced that all Europeans are not knowing in Galenicals, though I have seen some practice at their expense, that ought to have made this palpable ; and one of our party fostered this idea by giving them harmless doses, and would reprove us with his “ No, don't laugh, imagination does a deal,” as we smiled at the mysterious gravity with which he detailed the manner in which the dissolution of a pinch of Glauber was to be effected.t But there were some well-armed, fine-looking men in the village, whom the various moral lessons they had received had not tutored into civility. They stood erect as we passed, and answered to our inquiry, that they were going to Hydrabad to seek şervice. One would sympathize with the sad but unsubdued expression which characterized the countenances of some of these fellows, did we not know that their quarrel with us was a personal, not a patriotic one-"for why? because the good old rule sufficed them.” Every native soldier is a petty tyrant; and assuredly, if ever war were what my uncle Toby defines it to be," the getting together of quiet and harmless people with their swords in their hands, to keep the ambitious and the turbulent within bounds," it is here.* These men certainly withheld the show of respect; but once only in my long acquaintance with them did I find them, as I have heard they are inclined, to insult us foreigners, and this once was when our fame was getting dim in native eyes by the protracted length of the Burmese war, and our hesitation about Bhurtpore. I was dozing under a tree, waiting for a brother sportsman, and being suddenly roused by an unusual noise, saw two of these sworders flourishing their drawn weapons, and advancing with loud cries to within a dozen paces of me. I jumped up and cocked both barrels of my rifle, the clearness of whose click induced one fellow to sheathe his weapon and walk away ; but the other, cutting a most ungraceful sort of entrechat, made four points at right angles with each other, and declaring we Feringees could only fight with guns, flourished his sword and followed his friend. I could have shot these fellows, and felt some inclination to do so; but they seemed banged ( Anglicè, drunk), and I did not like the responsibility of taking their lives, unless they forced me. The absence of my friend was lucky for them, for his coolness was six years younger than mine. Even in Hydrabad, where we are said to be especially liable to insult, and through which our troops are not allowed to pass, I have rode repeatedly through the streets, when the rising of the river obliged me to do so, and never found the dignity of his Majesty's officer trenched upon, beyond being especially recommended to the Devil, when I had

* So called from its beauty and riches by the Maliometan historians.

of He was, at least, less dangerous than their own faculty. One of these pointed out some ground near Akowlah, covered with plants, and exclaimed to me--" Plenty of physic there, Sir!" “ Yes, Malowm," I said, “ but what's it good for?”–

“ Any body sick, Sir, I give-then I know !" was his reply. I regretted this poor fellow, though I believe balf his acquaintance was saved by it, when, a few months after, he fell a victim either to his own experiments or those of some more orthodox practitioner.

• I am no subject of John Company's, and I owe him no gratitude; but reading what I have read, and seeing what I have seen, I cry“ God save King John!” and only wish bis alliance was as great a good as his government. The subsidiary system is a grand political measure, but it secures the impunity of the extravagant and irrational villapies of Asiatic despotisms. The Company, in their own territory, give . security of person and property to the helpless and peaceable millions, who look up to them for protection; and when these millions are capable of enjoying a nobler blessing, like most other people, they will be very apt to take it. But a high degree of sense and courage is indispensable to freemen. Until reason or enthusiasm of some sort elevates the majority of a nation to prefer death to disgrace, they are sure to be slaves ; and until to this is superadded common sense, and confidence in themselves to see through the dazzling but treacherous pretensions of individual ambition, they are most likely to be so. The Hindoos are far from possessing the most vulgar of these essentials, and it is useless to speculate how far the nature of their climate and of their organization seems likely to preclude tbeir eventual attainment of the more intellectual ones.

no fanams to reward the disgusting devotion of a naked and bedaubed Fackeer, and having once rather too pointed an allusion made to me by a ragged and enraged little gentleman :-he was struggling with a bigger boy, and appeared to have had very much the worst of it, when the passing of my horse obliged them to separate; and the urchin raising his head and seeing me, exclaimed triumphantly and bitterly to his antagonist, “ Ah! look, there's your father!" and seemed in the happiness of the hit to find a full and sufficing solace for the threshing he had received. Little occurred to divert us on our return. Our ride was too long to admit of many digressions for sport, and the heavy masses of clouds that came rolling up from the westward, hanging like reflectors in the air, both in the heat they caused and the storm they threatened, held out inducement to us to hurry onward. A halt of an hour, in a tope, sufficed for the demolition of the beer and biscuits that awaited us, as well as for the discussion of a few segars, which our pistols and our shirts (for rag was indispensable, and our handkerchiefs were silk,) enabled us to light. After smashing the bottles with our last bullets, and tightening the girths, we mounted and pushed on, fol. lowed by our horsekeepers, who kept up with our trot. We passed nothing remarkable, but a man at the penance of five fires, four of which were at the corners of the brick stage on which he sat, with the sun for the fifth.* It darkened so rapidly as we neared home, that we found ourselves off that very equivocal concern called the road in India, and wandered about the plain till the flash of the eight o'clock gun showed us the direction, and the seconds we had counted (it was a habit we had) before its report, gave us some idea of the distance of the cantonment. -“Come, we're all right,” exclaimed a voice, and as it continued, “a summer's night in greenwood spent, were but to-morrow's merriment,” we felt assured it was so; for never was this well-known expression of its owner's resignation heard, but wben all chance of the necessity of its practical application was over. We soon reached the road, and galloped on it till we pulled up amongst our friends, secure of a hearty welcome from all and each, and from none more than one grave but good-natured fellow, who reprobated in toto the absurdity of our conduct in.“riding about, roasting ourselves alive, and breaking our collarbones, contrary to the advice of every body.”

• The torrid zone, with its enervating and maddening beat and terrific phenomena, is the genial clime of superstition. But I question if the most unhappy follies I bave seen exhibited to propitiate Heaven shocked me more than to bear “ I'd sooner have a guinea than a one-pound note"-" Calder fair," and other airs of a less ambiguous character, accompanying the movements of the native Christians of our force, when, according to a rather loosely-worded order," they had leave to beat drums, and carry about their idols for three days."

ANNOT

A DREAM FROM THE ANTIPODES.

's Town, New Settlement, Feb. 26, 1829. · My Dear FRIEND, I have all my life been, as you know, an inveterate dreamer ; not a superstitious believer in their import, but an involuntary victim to their influence : those thick-coming fancies of the night being, for some reason or otber, more strongly impressed on the waking recollection of the morning with me than with most men. Whether this arises from the strength of my imagination, or the weakness of my digestion, I am at a loss to decide ; but I should think a substantial indulgence in pickled salmon for supper, had as much to do with it as the immaterial ebullition of my prophetic spirit. But as you have often on this subject both laughed with me and at me, I must give you an account of a dream I had last night, which, in spite of its absurd contradictions and ridiculous improbabilities, is in all its parts as strongly impressed on my memory this morning, as if it had been made up of recorded and acknowledged facts.

It was a hot summer's night, one of the most oppressive even of this sultry season, the beginning of February. I had supped satisfactorily off a delicate kangaroo; and had been tossing and tumbling about restlessly for an hour or two after going to bed, when, just as I felt that sort of swimming .confusion in my head, which gave me bopes of sleep, it crossed my mind, amid a jumble of bush-rangers, second crops, packets due, and back settlements, that this must be about the night of the meeting of Parliament in England. I was then too far gone to dwell very rationally on this idea, for at first I thought I felt the military Minister jumping up and down on my chest, like a kangaroo. It must have been my own antipodean situation which suggested the next image, for I fancied that he then determined to throw a somerset, turn topsy-turvy, and appear before Parliament standing on his head, and that he insisted on several of his colleagues (all, I thought, of the AntiCatholic division) doing the same.

The first to whom he suggested it, was the leader of the House of Commons, who, with a self-satisfied smirk, immediately turned over and stood on his head, in doing which his orange hair, of the colour of which he had previously been very proud, was much stained and disfigured by the dirt in which he deposited it. The next to whom be made the proposal was the Lord Chancellor, who said that he had no difficulty in turning over and over again, as often as was wished, but he objected to remaining permanently in that attitude, as it would discompose the dignity of his official wig; but he was reminded that the official wig would be a very comfortable cushion for him whilst standing on his head, and that if he remained as he now was, the same official wig might get kicked off by some of his colleagues, in their efforts to maintain their places in their new position. The Bishops at first complained loudly, that, if they attempted this new manoeuvre, their robes would take a very indecorous and unseemly sit; but it was suggested, that, if they stood by each other, they might, by huddling close together, keep each other's petticoats in proper order; and, as it was added that they would, as a reward, be allowed, by changing amongst each other, advantageous opportunities for refitting, a bunch of them in consequence attempted it. Several others, whose faces I did not recollect as Ministers, though I remembered them on parade, at the word of command “grounded heads" as they would “arms,” though they did not seem afterwards to “ stand at ease.” Very many others (some of whom surprised me much) turned over with most military subordination.

But the physical absurdity of the first part of my dream was nothing to the moral contradictions and discrepancies which followed.

I fancied the D- of W- meant to carry the Catholic Question, at which you may imagine, however little prepared for it by his past conduct, I was highly delighted. But with that singular disability which one has when asleep to see any thing in a straightforward point of view, I thought he first wrote a letter-you will suppose, perhaps, like his predecessor Pitt, to the King, to explain-perhaps, as has sometimes been proposed, to the Pope, to make a bargain—or to the head of the English Church, to propitiate it. No; of all people in the world, to an Irish Catholic Archbishop! You will then say, of course he was so determined that the thing should be done, that he wished at once to announce himself, and to secure without delay the tranquillity of Ireland, by letting her know that her just claims would be granted. Not at all (what nonsense one does dream!) I thought that this letter was calculated to create a directly contrary opinion, and therefore, if it had been written, it could only have been to humbug and render ridiculous a worthy old man, to whom he need not have written at all; but as one could not imagine such an intention, it must, if written, have left an impression that he himself had only subsequently, at the eleventh hour, by the force of circumstances, and upon a choice of difficulties, been driven into that great measure, of which the intentional execution would deserve so much credit. If I had been speculating with my senses about me, instead of vaguely dreaming, the next step, I should have thought, would have been to rally round him those whose concurrence would give credit to his proceedings ; above all, to secure the cordial co-ope. ration of that distinguished individual, the then Lord-Lieutenant, his own former companion in arms, whose liberal and candid mind bad, like his own, adopted upon conviction, and in opposition to former prejudices, his amended opinion on this question : instead of which, I actually imagined that he wrote to this person in the style a country squire would to the bailiff on his estate; at last, too, directing his butler to discharge him! An idea this, the most improbable of all; as people must at once have attributed such an act to mean jealousy of so eminent a partner in the great deed, or have adopted this as a proof in confirmation that, up to the last moment, he was in his own course tossed about by indecision, and only drifted by accident. · I then thought that the bill was at length brought into the House of Commons by that very person who, on one of the last nights before I came out here, I recollect, I heard (when in the gallery with you) declare to the late Mr. Canning, that this was his only difference of opinion with him, and that, but for this insuperable objection, he would have served with him or under him. I remember being then so convinced by the plausibility of his manner, that I said to myself, “ All the conspirators, save only he, did what they did in envy of great Cæsar, &c." And yet I now saw him in my dream, in the same Pharisaical tone, with the same uplifted palms pressed together, pleading, as reasons for his conversion, " the influence of the priests, the power of the Associa

« ElőzőTovább »