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TWENTY-ONE DAYS IN INDIA
Or, The Tour Of Sir Ali Baba K.C.B.
and THE TEAPOT SERIES
GEORGE R. ABERIGH-MACKAY
Sometime Principal of the Rajkumar College Indore
Ninth Edition with New Illustrations and Elucidations
[Illustration: THE TRAVELLING M.P.–“The British Lion rampant.”]
In this edition it has been considered advisable to reproduce, verbatim, only the “Twenty-one Days” as originally published in _Vanity Fair_, the additional series of six included in several editions of the book issued after the Author’s death being omitted.
The twenty-one papers in question have been supplemented by contributions to _The Bombay Gazette_, which appeared in that daily newspaper during the whole of the year 1880, the year before the Author’s death, under the _nom de plume_ of “Our Political Orphan;” and the Publishers beg to tender their best thanks to the proprietors of that newspaper for the permission thus generously accorded for their present reproduction.
In carrying out the work of revision many passages previously omitted have been restored to the text. To render such readily apparent to the reader, they have in every case been enclosed in  brackets.
A new series of illustrations has been specially prepared for this edition by Mr. George Darby of Calcutta, and the Publishers venture to think he has succeeded in a marked degree in embodying in his sketches the spirit of the Author’s subjects.
In conclusion it has been the aim of the Publishers to render this new edition of a great work by a very gifted writer as perfect as possible and worthy of acceptance as a standard Anglo-Indian classic.
I. WITH THE VICEROY
II. THE A.-D.-C.-IN-WAITING, AN ARRANGEMENT IN SCARLET AND GOLD
III. WITH THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF
IV. WITH THE ARCHDEACON, A MAN OF BOTH WORLDS
V. WITH THE SECRETARY TO GOVERNMENT
VI. H.E. THE BENGALI BABOO
VII. WITH THE RAJA
VIII. WITH THE POLITICAL AGENT, A MAN IN BUCKRAM
IX. WITH THE COLLECTOR
X. BABY IN PARTIBUS
XI. THE RED CHUPRASSIE; OR, THE CORRUPT LICTOR
XII. THE PLANTER; A FARMER PRINCE
XIII. THE EURASIAN; A STUDY IN CHIARO-OSCURO
XIV. THE VILLAGER
XV. THE OLD COLONEL
XVI. THE CIVIL SURGEON
XVII. THE SHIKARRY
XVIII. THE GRASS-WIDOW IN NEPHELOCOCCYGIA
XIX. THE TRAVELLING M.P., THE BRITISH LION RAMPANT
XXI. ALI BABA ALONE; THE LAST DAY
* * * * *
EXTRACTS FROM “SERIOUS REFLECTIONS AND OTHER CONTRIBUTIONS”
BY “OUR POLITICAL ORPHAN”
_Bombay Gazette Press_, 1881.
THE TEAPOT SERIES:
THE GRYPHON’S ANABASIS
THE ORPHAN’S GOOD RESOLUTIONS
SOME OCCULT PHENOMENA
* * * * *
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS:
THE TRAVELLING M.P.
THE A.D.C. IN WAITING
THE BENGALI BABOO
THE POLITICAL AGENT
THE RED CHUPRASSIE
THE OLD COLONEL
WITH THE VICEROY
[August 2, 1879.]
It is certainly a little intoxicating to spend a day with the Great Ornamental. You do not see much of him perhaps; but he is a Presence to be felt, something floating loosely about in wide epicene pantaloons and flying skirts, diffusing as he passes the fragrance of smile and pleasantry and cigarette. The air around him is laden with honeyed murmurs; gracious whispers play about the twitching bewitching corners of his delicious mouth. He calls everything by “soft names in many a mused rhyme.” Deficits, Public Works, and Cotton Duties are transmuted by the alchemy of his gaiety into sunshine and songs. An office-box on his writing-table an office-box is to him, and it is something more: it holds cigarettes. No one knows what sweet thoughts are his as Chloe flutters through the room, blushful and startled, or as a fresh beaker full of the warm South glows between his amorous eye and the sun.
“I have never known
Praise of love or wine
That panted forth a flood of twaddle so divine.”
I never tire of looking at a Viceroy. He is a being so heterogeneous from us! He is the centre of a world with which he has no affinity. He is a veiled prophet. [He wears many veils indeed.] He who is the axis of India, the centre round which the Empire rotates, is absolutely and necessarily withdrawn from all knowledge of India. He lisps no syllable of any Indian tongue; no race or caste, or mode of Indian life is known to him; all our delightful provinces of the sun that lie off the railway are to him an undiscovered country; Ghebers, Moslems, Hindoos blend together in one indistinguishable dark mass before his eye, [in which the cataract of English indifference has not been couched; most delightful of all–he knows not the traditions of Anglo-India, and he does not belong to the Bandicoot Club, St. James’s Square!]
A Nawab, whom the Foreign Office once farmed out to me, often used to ask what the use of a Viceroy was. I do not believe that he meant to be profane. The question would again and again recur to his mind, and find itself on his lips. I always replied with the counter question, “What is the use of India?” He never would see–the Oriental mind does not see these things–that the chief end and object of India was the Viceroy; that, in fact, India was the plant and the Viceroy the flower.
I have often thought of writing a hymn on the Beauty of Viceroys; and have repeatedly attuned my mind to the subject; but my inability to express myself in figurative language, and my total ignorance of everything pertaining to metre, rhythm, and rhyme, make me rather hesitate to employ verse. Certainly, the subject is inviting, and I am surprised that no singer has arisen. How can any one view the Viceroyal halo of scarlet domestics, with all the bravery of coronets, supporters, and shields in golden embroidery and lace, without emotion! How can the tons of gold and silver plate that once belonged to John Company, Bahadur, and that now repose on the groaning board of the Great Ornamental, amid a glory of Himalayan flowers, or blossoms from Eden’s fields of asphodel, be reflected upon the eye’s retina without producing positive thrills and vibrations of joy (that cannot be measured in terms of _ohm_ or _farad_) shooting up and down the spinal cord and into the most hidden seats of pleasure! I certainly can never see the luxurious bloom of the silver sticks arranged in careless groups about the vast portals without a feeling approaching to awe and worship, and a tendency to fling small coin about with a fine mediaeval profusion. I certainly can never drain those profound golden cauldrons seething with champagne without a tendency to break into loud expressions of the inward music and conviviality that simmer in my soul. Salutes of cannon, galloping escorts, processions of landaus, beautiful teams of English horses, trains of private saloon carriages (cooled with water trickling over sweet jungle grasses) streaming through the sunny land, expectant crowds of beauty with hungry eyes making a delirious welcome at every stage, the whole country blooming into dance and banquet and fresh girls at every step taken–these form the fair guerdon that stirs my breast at certain moments and makes me often resolve, after dinner, “to scorn delights and live laborious days,” and sell my beautiful soul, illuminated with art and poetry, to the devil of Industry, with reversion to Sir John Strachey.
How mysterious and delicious are the cool penetralia of the Viceregal Office! It is the censorium of the Empire; it is the seat of thought; it is the abode of moral responsibility! What battles, what famines, what excursions of pleasure, what banquets and pageants, what concepts of change have sprung into life here! Every pigeon-hole contains a potential revolution; every office-box cradles the embryo of a war or dearth. What shocks and vibrations, what deadly thrills does this little thunder-cloud office transmit to far-away provinces lying beyond rising and setting suns! Ah! Vanity, these are pleasant lodgings for five years, let who may turn the kaleidoscope after us.
A little errant knight of the press who has just arrived on the Delectable Mountains, comes rushing in, looks over my shoulder, and says, “A deuced expensive thing a Viceroy.” This little errant knight would take the thunder at a quarter of the price, and keep the Empire paralytic with change and fear of change as if the great Thirty-thousand-pounder himself were on Olympus.–ALI BABA.
AN ARRANGEMENT IN SCARLET AND GOLD
[Illustration: THE A.D.C.-IN WAITING–“An arrangement in scarlet and gold.”]
[August 9, 1879.]
The tone of the A.D.C. is subdued. He stands in doorways and strokes his moustache. He nods sadly to you as you pass. He is preoccupied with–himself, [some suppose; others aver his office.] He has a motherly whisper for Secretaries and Members of Council. His way with ladies is sisterly–undemonstratively affectionate. He tows up rajas to H.E., and stands in the offing. His attitude towards rajas is one of melancholy reserve. He will perform the prescribed observances, if he cannot approve of them. Indeed, generally, he disapproves of the Indian people, though he condones their existence. For a brother in aiguillettes there is a Masonic smile and a half-embarrassed familiarity, as if found out in acting his part. But confidence is soon restored with melancholy glances around, and profane persons who may be standing about move uneasily away.
An A.D.C. should have no tastes. He is merged in “the house.” He must dance and ride admirably; he ought to shoot; he may sing and paint in water-colours, or botanise a little, and the faintest aroma of the most volatile literature will do him no harm; but he cannot be allowed preferences. If he has a weakness for very pronounced collars and shirt-cuffs in mufti, it may be connived at, provided he be honestly nothing else but the man in collars and cuffs.
When a loud, joyful, and steeplechasing Lord, in the pursuit of pleasure and distant wars, dons the golden cords for a season, the world understands that this is masquerading, skittles, and a joke. One must not confound the ideal A.D.C. with such a figure.
The A.D.C. has four distinct aspects or phases–(1) the full summer sunshine and bloom of scarlet and gold for Queen’s birthdays and high ceremonials; (2) the dark frock-coats and belts in which to canter behind his Lord in; (3) the evening tail-coat, turned down with light blue and adorned with the Imperial arms on gold buttons; (4) and, finally, the quiet disguises of private life.
It is in the sunshine glare of scarlet and gold that the A.D.C. is most awful and unapproachable; it is in this aspect that the splendour of vice-Imperialism seems to beat upon him most fiercely. The Rajas of Rajputana, the diamonds of Golconda, the gold of the Wynaad, the opium of Malwa, the cotton of the Berars, and the Stars of India seem to be typified in the richness of his attire and the conscious superiority of his demeanour. Is he not one of the four satellites of that Jupiter who swims in the highest azure fields of the highest heavens?
Frock-coated and belted, he passes into church or elsewhere behind his Lord, like an aerolite from some distant universe, trailing cloudy visions of that young lady’s Paradise of bright lights and music, champagne, mayonnaise, and “just-one-more-turn,” which is situated behind the flagstaff on the hill.
The tail-coat, with gold buttons, velvet cuffs, and light blue silk lining, is quite a demi-official, small-and-early arrangement. It is compatible with a patronising and somewhat superb flirtation in the verandah; nay, even under the pine-tree beyond the _Gurkha_ sentinel, whence many-twinkling Jakko may be admired, it is compatible with a certain shadow of human sympathy and weakness. An A.D.C. in tail-coat and gold buttons is no longer a star; he is only a fire-balloon; though he may twinkle in heaven, he can descend to earth. But in the quiet disguises of private life he is the mere stick of a rocket. He is quite of the earth. This scheme of clothing is compatible with the tenderest offices of gaming or love–offices of which there shall be no recollection on the re-assumption of uniform and on re-apotheosis. An A.D.C. in plain clothes has been known to lay the long odds at whist, and to qualify, very nearly, for a co-respondentship.
In addition to furnishing rooms in his own person, an A.D.C. is sometimes required to copy my Lord’s letters on mail-day, and, in due subordination to the Military Secretary, to superintend the stables, kitchen, or Invitation Department.
After performing these high functions, it is hard if an A.D.C. should ever have to revert to the buffooneries of the parade-ground or the vulgar intimacies of a mess. It is hard that one who has for five years been identified with the Empire should ever again come to be regarded as “Jones of the 10th,” and spoken of as “Punch” or “Bobby” by old boon companions. How can a man who has been behind the curtain, and who has seen _la premiere danseuse_ of the Empire practising her steps before the manager Strachey, in familiar chaff and talk with the Council ballet, while the little scene-painter and Press Commissioner stood aside with cocked ears, and the privileged violoncellist made his careless jests–how, I say, can one who has thus been above the clouds on Olympus ever associate with the gaping, chattering, irresponsible herd below?
It is well that our Ganymede should pass away from heaven into temporary eclipse; it is well that before being exposed to the rude gaze of the world he should moult his rainbow plumage in the Cimmeria of the Rajas. Here we shall see him again, a blinking _ignis fatuus_ in a dark land–“so shines a good deed in a naughty world” thinks the Foreign Office.–ALI BABA.
WITH THE COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF
[August 16, 1879.]
At Simla and Calcutta the Government of India always sleeps with a revolver under its pillow–that revolver is the Commander-in-Chief. There is a tacit understanding that this revolver is not to be let off; indeed, sometimes it is believed that this revolver is not loaded.
[The Commander-in-Chief has a seat in Council; but the Military Member has a voice. This division of property is seen everywhere. The Commander-in-Chief has many offices; in each there is someone other than the Commander-in-Chief who discharges all its duties.
What does the Commander-in-Chief command? Armies? No. In India Commanders-in-Chief command no armies. The Commander-in-Chief only commands respect.]
The Commander-in-Chief is himself an army. His transport, medical attendance, and provisioning are cared for departmentally, and watched over by responsible officers. He is a host in himself; and a corps of observation.
All the world observes him. His slightest movement creates a molecular disturbance in type, and vibrates into newspaper paragraphs.
When Commanders-in-Chief are born the world is unconscious of any change. No one knows when a Commander-in-Chief is born. No joyful father, no pale mother has ever experienced such an event as the birth of a Commander-in-Chief in the family. No Mrs. Gamp has ever leant over the banister and declared to the expectant father below that it was “a fine healthy Commander-in-Chief.” Therefore, a Commander-in-Chief is not like a poet. But when a Commander-in-Chief dies, the spirit of a thousand Beethovens sob and wail in the air; dull cannon roar slowly out their heavy grief; silly rifles gibber and chatter demoniacally over his grave; and a cocked hat, emptier than ever, rides with the mockery of despair on his coffin.
On Sunday evening, after tea and catechism, the Supreme Council generally meet for riddles and forfeits in the snug little cloak-room parlour at Peterhoff. “Can an army tailor make a Commander-in-Chief?” was once asked. Eight old heads were scratched and searched, but no answer was found. No sound was heard save the seething whisper of champagne ebbing and flowing in the eight old heads. Outside, the wind moaned through the rhododendron trees; within, the Commander-in-Chief wept peacefully. He felt the awkwardness of the situation. [He thought of Ali Musjid, and he thought of Isandula; he saw himself reflected in the mirror, and he declared that he gave it up.] An aide-de-camp stood at the door hiccupping idly. He was known to have invested all his paper currency in Sackville Street; and he felt in honour bound to say that the riddle was a little hard on the army tailors. So the subject dropped.
A Commander-in-Chief is the most beautiful article of social upholstery in India. He sits in a large chair in the drawing-room. Heads and bodies sway vertically in passing him. He takes the oldest woman in to dinner; he gratifies her with his drowsy cackle. He says “Yes” and “No” to everyone with drowsy civility; everyone is conciliated. His stars dimly twinkle–twinkle; the host and hostess enjoy their light. After dinner he decants claret into his venerable person, and tells an old story; the company smile with innocent joy. He rejoins the ladies and leers kindly on a pretty woman; she forgives herself a month of indiscretions. He touches Lieutenant the Hon. Jupiter Smith on the elbow and inquires after his mother; a noble family is gladdened. He is thus a source of harmless happiness to himself and to those around him.
If a round of ball cartridge has been wasted by a suicide, or a pair of ammunition boots carried off by a deserter, the Commander-in-Chief sometimes visits a great cantonment under a salute of seventeen guns. The military then express their joy in their peculiar fashion, according to their station in life. The cavalry soldier takes out his charger and gallops heedlessly up and down all the roads in the station. The sergeants of all arms fume about as if transacting some important business between the barracks and their officers’ quarters. Subalterns hang about the Mess, whacking their legs with small pieces of cane and drinking pegs with mournful indifference. The Colonel sends for everyone who has not the privilege of sending for him, and says nothing to each one, sternly and decisively. The Majors and the officers doing general duty go to the Club and swear before the civilians that they are worked off their legs, complaining fiercely to themselves that the Service is going, &c. &c. The Deputy-Assistant-Quartermaster-General puts on all the gold lace he is allowed to wear, and gallops to the Assistant-Adjutant-General–where he has tiffin. The Major-General-Commanding writes notes to all his friends, and keeps orderlies flying at random in every direction.
The Commander-in-Chief–who had a disturbed night in the train–sleeps peacefully throughout the day, and leaves under another salute in the afternoon. He shakes hands with everyone he can see at the station, and jumps into a long saloon carriage, followed by his staff.
“A deuced active old fellow!” everyone says; and they go home and dine solemnly with one another under circumstances of extraordinary importance.
The effect of the Commander-in-Chief is very remarkable on the poor Indian, whose untutored mind sees a Lord in everything. He calls the Commander-in-Chief “the Jungy Lord,” or War-Lord, in contradistinction to the “Mulky-Lord,” or Country-Lord, the appellation of the Viceroy. To the poor Indian this War-Lord is an object of profound interest and speculation. He has many aspects that resemble the other and more intelligible Lord. An aide-de-camp rides behind him; hats, or hands, rise electrically as he passes; yet it is felt in secret that he is not pregnant with such thunder-clouds of rupees, and that he cannot make or mar a Raja. To the Raja it is an ever-recurring question whether it is necessary or expedient to salaam to the Jungy Lord and call upon him. He is hedged about with servants who will require to be richly propitiated before any dusky countryman [of theirs, great or small,] gets access to this Lord of theirs. Is it, then, worth while to pass through this fire to the possible Moloch who sits beyond? Will this process of parting with coin–this Valley of the Shadow of Death–lead them to any palpable advantage? Perhaps the War-Lord with his red right hand can add guns to their salute; perhaps he will speak a recommendatory word to his caste-fellow, the Country-Lord? These are precious possibilities.
A Raja whom I am now prospecting for the Foreign Office asked me the other day where Commanders-in-Chief were ripened, seeing that they were always so mellow and blooming. I mentioned a few nursery gardens I knew of in and about Whitehall and Pall Mall. H.H. at once said that he would like to plant his son there, if I would water him with introductions. This is young ‘Arry Bobbery, already favourably known on the Indian Turf as an enterprising and successful defaulter.
You will know ‘Arry Bobbery, if you meet him, dear Vanity, by the peculiarly gracious way in which he forgives and forgets should you commit the indiscretion of lending him money. You may be sure that he will never allude to the matter again, but will rather wear a piquant do-it-again manner, like our irresistible little friend, Conny B—-. I don’t believe, however, that Bobbery will ever become a Commander-in-Chief, though his distant cousin, Scindia, is a General, and though they talk of pawning the ‘long-shore Governorship of Bombay to Sir Cursinjee Damtheboy.–ALI BABA.
WITH THE ARCHDEACON
A MAN OF BOTH WORLDS
[Illustration: THE ARCHDEACON–“A man of both worlds.”]
[August 23, 1879.]
The Press Commissioner has been trying by a strained exercise of his prerogative to make me spend this day with the Bishop, and not with the Archdeacon; but I disregard the Press Commissioner; I make light of him; I treat his authority as a joke. What authority has a pump? Is a pump an analyst and a coroner?
Why should I spend a day with the Bishop? What claim has the Bishop on my improving conversation? I am not his sponsor. Besides, he might do me harm–I am not quite sure of his claret. I admit his superior ecclesiastical birth; I recollect his connection with St. Peter; and I am conscious of the more potent spells and effluences of his shovel-hat and apron; but I find the atmosphere of his heights cold, and the rarefied air he breathes does not feed my lungs. Up yonder, above the clouds of human weakness, my vertebrae become unhinged, my bones inarticulate, and I collapse. I meet missionaries, and I hear the music of the spheres; and I long to descend again to the circles of the everyday inferno where my friends are.
“These distant stars I can forego; This kind, warm earth, is all I know.”
I am sorry for it. I really have upward tendencies; but I have never been able to fix upon a balloon. The High Church balloon always seems to me too light; and the Low Church balloon too heavy; while no experienced aeronaut can tell me where the Broad Church balloon is bound for; thus, though a feather-weight sinner, here I am upon the firm earth. So come along, my dear Archdeacon, let us have a stroll down the Mall, and a chat about Temporalities, Fabrics, “Mean Whites,” and little Mrs. Lollipop, “the joy of wild asses.”
An Archdeacon is one of the busiest men in India–especially when he is up on the hill among the sweet pine-trees. He is the recognised guardian of public morality, and the hill captains and the semi-detached wives lead him a rare life. There is no junketing at Goldstein’s, no picnic at the waterfalls, no games at Annandale, no rehearsals at Herr Felix von Battin’s, no choir practice at the church even, from which he can safely absent himself. A word, a kiss, some matrimonial charm dissolved–these electric disturbances of society must be averted. The Archdeacon is the lightning conductor; where he is, the leaven of naughtiness passes to the ground, and society is not shocked.
In the Bishop and the ordinary padre we have far-away people of another world. They know little of us; we know nothing of them. We feel much constraint in their presence. The presence of the ecclesiastical sex imposes severe restrictions upon our conversation. The Lieutenant-Governor of the South-Eastern Provinces once complained to me that the presence of a clergyman rendered nine-tenths of his vocabulary contraband, and choked up his fountains of anecdote. It also restricts us in the selection of our friends. But with an Archdeacon all this is changed. He is both of Heaven and Earth. When we see him in the pulpit we are pleased to think that we are with the angels; when we meet him in a ball-room we are flattered to feel that the angels are with us. When he is with us–though, of course, he is not of us–he is yet exceedingly like us. He may seem a little more venerable than he is; perhaps there may be about him a grandfatherly air that his years do not warrant; he may exact a “Sir” from us that is not given to others of his worldly standing; but there is nevertheless that in his bright and kindly eye–there is that in his side-long glance–which by a charm of Nature transmutes homage into familiar friendship, and respect into affection.
The character of Archdeacons as clergymen I would not venture to touch upon. It is proverbial that Archidiaconal functions are Eleusinian in their mysteriousness. No one, except an Archdeacon, pretends to know what the duties of an Archdeacon are, so no one can say whether these duties are performed perfunctorily and inadequately, or scrupulously and successfully. We know that Archdeacons sometimes preach, and that is about all we know. I know an Archdeacon in India who can preach a good sermon–I have heard him preach it many a time, once on a benefit night for the Additional Clergy Society. It wrung four annas from me–but it was a terrible wrench. I would not go through it again to have every living graduate of St. Bees and Durham disgorged on our coral strand.
From my saying this do not suppose that I am Mr. Whitley Stokes, or Babu Keshub Chundra Sen. I am a Churchman, beneath the surface, though a pellicle of inquiry may have supervened. I am not with the party of the Bishop, nor yet am I with Sir J.S., or Sir A.C. I abide in the Limbo of Vanity, as a temporary arrangement, to study the seamy side of Indian politics and morality, to examine misbegotten wars and reforms with the scalpel, Stars of India with the spectroscope, and to enjoy the society of half-a-dozen amusing people to whom the Empire of India is but a wheel of fortune.
I like the recognised relations between the Archdeacon and women. They are more than avuncular and less than cousinly; they are tender without being romantic, and confiding without being burdensome. He has the private _entree_ at _chhoti hazri_, or early breakfast; he sees loose and flowing robes that are only for esoteric disciples; he has the private _entree_ at five o’clock tea and hears plans for the evening campaign openly discussed. He is quite behind the scenes. He hears the earliest whispers of engagements and flirtations. He can give a stone to the Press Commissioner in the gossip handicap, and win in a canter. You cannot tell him anything he does not know already.
Whenever the Government of India has a merrymaking, he is out on the trail. At Delhi he was in the thick of the mummery, beaming on barbaric princes and paynim princesses, blessing banners, blessing trumpeters, blessing proclamations, blessing champagne and truffles, blessing pretty girls, and blessing the conjunction of planets that had placed his lines in such pleasant places. His tight little cob, his perfect riding kit, his flowing beard, and his pleasant smile were the admiration of all the Begums and Nabobs that had come to the fair. The Government of India took such delight in him that they gave him a gold medal and a book.
With the inferior clergy the Archdeacon is not at his ease. He cannot respect the little ginger-bread gods of doctrine they make for themselves; he cannot worship at their hill altars; their hocus-pocus and their crystallised phraseology fall dissonantly on his ear; their talk of chasubles and stoles, eastern attitude, and all the rest of it, is to him as a tale told by an idiot signifying nothing. He would like to see the clergy merely scholars and men of sense set apart for the conduct of divine worship and the encouragement of all good and kindly offices to their neighbours; he does not wish to see them mediums and conjurors. He thinks that in a heathen country their paltry fetishism of misbegotten notions and incomprehensible phrases is peculiarly offensive and injurious to the interests of civilisation and Christianity. Of course the Archdeacon may be very much mistaken in all this; and it is this generous consciousness of fallibility which gives the singular charm to his religious attitude. He can take off his ecclesiastical spectacles and perceive that he may be in the wrong like other men.
Let us take a last look at the Archdeacon, for in the whole range of prominent Anglo-Indian characters our eye will not rest upon a more orbicular and satisfactory figure.
A good Archdeacon, nobly planned
To warn, to comfort, and command; And yet a spirit gay and bright,
With something of the candle-light.
WITH THE SECRETARY TO GOVERNMENT
[August 30, 1879.]
He is clever, I am told, and being clever he has to be rather morose in manner and careless in dress, or people might forget that he was clever. He has always been clever. He was the clever man of his year. He was so clever when he first came out that he could never learn to ride, or speak the language, and had to be translated to the Provincial Secretariat. But though he could never speak an intelligible sentence in the language, he had such a practical and useful knowledge of it, in half-a-dozen of its dialects, that he could pass examinations in it with the highest credit, netting immense rewards. He thus became not only more and more clever, but more and more solvent; until he was an object of wonder to his contemporaries, of admiration to the Lieutenant-Governor, and of desire to several _Burra Mem Sahibs_[A] with daughters. It was about this time that he is supposed to have written an article published in some English periodical. It was said to be an article of a solemn description, and report magnified the periodical into the _Quarterly Review_. So he became one who wrote for the English Press. It was felt that he was a man of letters; it was assumed that he was on terms of familiar correspondence with all the chief literary men of the day. With so conspicuous a reputation, he believed it necessary to do something in religion. So he gave up religion, and allowed it to be understood that he was a man of advanced views: a Positivist, a Buddhist, or something equally occult. Thus he became ripe for the highest employment, and was placed successively on a number of Special Commissions. He inquired into everything; he wrote hundredweights of reports; he proved himself to have the true paralytic ink flux, precisely the kind of wordy discharge or brain haemorrhage required of a high official in India. He would write ten pages where a clod-hopping collector would write a sentence. He could say the same thing over and over again in a hundred different ways. The feeble forms of official satire were at his command. [He could bray ironically at subordinate officers. He had the inborn arrogance required for official “snubbing.” Being without a ray of good feeling or modesty, he could allow himself to write with ceremonial rudeness of men who in his inmost heart he knew to be in every way his superiors.] He desired exceedingly to be thought supercilious, and he thus became almost necessary to the Government of India, was canonised, and caught up to Simla. The Indian papers chanted little anthems, “the Services” said “Amen,” and the apotheosis was felt to be a success. On reaching Simla he was found to be familiar with the two local “jokes,” planted many years ago by some jackass. One of these “jokes” is about everything in India having its peculiar smell, except a flower; the second is some inanity about the Indian Government being a despotism of despatch-boxes tempered by the loss of the keys. He often emitted these mournful “jokes” until he was declared to be an acquisition to Simla society.
Such is the man I am with to-day. His house is beautifully situated, overlooking a deep ravine, full of noble pine-trees, and surrounded by rhododendrons. The verandah is gay with geraniums and tall servants in Imperial red deeply encrusted with gold. Within, all is very respectable and nice, only the man is–not exactly vile, but certainly imperfect in a somewhat conspicuous degree. With the more attractive forms of sin he has no true sympathy. I can strike no concord with him on this umbrageous side of nature. I am seriously shocked to discover this, for he affects infirmity; but his humanity is weak. In his character I perceive the perfect animal outline, but the colour is wanting; the glorious sunshine, the profound glooms of humanity are not there.
Such a man is dangerous; he decoys you into confidences. Even Satan cannot respect a sinner of this complexion,–a sinner who is only fascinated by the sinfulness of sin. As for my poor host, I can see that he has never really graduated in sin at all; he has only sought the degree of sinner _honoris causa_. I am sure that he never had enough true vitality or enterprise to sin as a man ought to sin, if he does sin. [Of course a man ought not to sin; and the nobler sort try to reduce their sinning to a minimum; but when they do sin I hold that they sin like men. (I have heard it said that a man should sin like a gentleman; but I am much disposed to think that the gentleman nature appears in the non-sinning lucid intervals.)] When I speak of sin I will be understood to mean the venial offences of prevarication and sleeping in church. I am not thinking of sheep-stealing or highway robbery. My clever friend’s work consists chiefly in reducing files of correspondence on a particular subject to one or two leading thoughts. Upon these he casts the colour of his own opinions, and submits the subjective product to the Secretary or Member of Council above him for final orders. His mind is one of the many dense and refractive mediums through which the Government of India looks out upon India.
From time to time he is called upon to write a minute or a note on some given subject, and then it is that his thoughts and words expand freely. He feels bound to cover an area of paper proportionate to his own opinion, of his own importance; he feels bound to introduce a certain seasoning of foreign words and phrases; and he feels bound to create, if the occasion seems in any degree to warrant it, one of those cock-eyed, limping, stammering epigrams which belong exclusively to the official humour of Simla. [In writing thus, the figure of another Secretariat official rises before me with reproachful looks. I see the thought-worn face of that Secretary to whom the Rajas belong, and who is, in every particular, a striking contrast with the typical person whose portrait I sketch. The Secretary in the Foreign Department is a scholar and a man of letters by instinct. Whatever he writes is something more than correct and precise–it is impressed with the sweep and cadence of the sea; it is rhythmical, it is sonorous.]
[But let us return to the prisoner in the dock] I have said that the Secretary is clever, scornful, jocose, imperfectly sinful, and nimble with his pen. I shall only add that he has succeeded in catching the tone of the Imperial Bumbledom; and then I shall have finished my defence.
This tone is an affectation of aesthetic and literary sympathies, combined with a proud disdain of everything Indian and Anglo-Indian.
The flotsam and jetsam of advanced European thought are eagerly sought and treasured up. “The New Republic” and “The Epic of Hades” are on every drawing-room table. One must speak of nothing but the latest doings at the Gaiety, the pictures of the last Academy, the ripest outcome of scepticism in the _Nineteenth Century_, or the aftermath in the _Fortnightly_. If I were to talk to our Secretariat man about the harvest prospects of the Deckan, the beauty of the Himalayan scenery, or the book I have just published in Calcutta about the Rent Law, he would stare at me with feigned surprise and horror.
“When he thinks of his own native land, In a moment he seems to be there;
But, alas! Ali Baba at hand
Soon hurries him back to despair.”
H.E. THE BENGALI BABOO
[Illustration: THE BENGALI BABOO–“Full of inappropriate words and phrases.”]
[September 13, 1879.]
The ascidian[B] that got itself evolved into Bengali Baboos must have seized the first moment of consciousness and thought to regret the step it had taken; for however much we may desire to diffuse Babooism over the Empire, we must all agree that the Baboo itself is a subject for tears.
The other day, as I was strolling down the Mall, whistling Beethoven’s 9th Symphony, I met the Bengali Baboo. It was returning from office. I asked it if it had a soul. It replied that it had not, but some day it hoped to pass the matriculation examination of the Calcutta University. I whistled the opening bars of one of Cherubini’s Requiems, but I saw no resurrection in its eye, so I passed on.
[I have just procured an adult specimen of the Bengali Baboo (it was originally the editor of the _Calcutta Moonshine_), and I have engaged an embryologist, on board wages, to examine and report upon it.
I once found George Bassoon weeping profusely over a dish of artichokes. I was a little surprised, for there was a bottle close at hand and he had a book in his hand. I took the book. It was not Boccaccio; it was not Rabelais; it was not even Swinburne. I felt that something must be wrong. I turned to the title-page. I found it was a poem printed for private circulation by the _Government of India_. It was called “The Anthropomorphous Baboo subtilised into Man.”]
When I was at Lhassa the Dalai Lama told me that a virtuous cow-hippopotamus by metempsychosis might, under unfavourable circumstances, become an undergraduate of the Calcutta University, and that, when patent-leather shoes and English supervened, the thing was a Baboo. [This sounds very plausible; but how about the prehensile tail which the Education Department finds so much in the way of improvement, which indeed is said to preclude all access to the Bengali mind, and which can grasp everything but an idea, even an inquisitorial schoolmaster? “Hereby hangs a tail” is a motto in which Edward Gibbon had no monopoly.]
I forget whether it was the Duke of Buckingham, or Mr. Lethbridge, or General Scindia–I always mix up these C.I.E.’s together in my mind somehow–who told me that a Bengali Baboo had never been known to laugh, but only to giggle with clicking noises like a crocodile. Now this is very telling evidence, because if a Baboo does not laugh at a C.I.E. he will laugh at nothing. The faculty must be wanting.
[The Raja of Fattehpur, Member of the Legislative Council, and commonly known as “Joe Hookham,” says that fossil Baboos have been found in Orissa with the cuckoo-bone, everything that a schoolmaster could wish. Now “Joe” is a palaeontologist not to be sneezed at. This confirms the opinion of General Cunningham that the mounted figure in the neighbourhood of Lahore represents a Bengali washerwoman riding to the _Ghat_ to perform a lustration. Because unless the _os coccyx_ were all right it would be as difficult to ride a bullock as to get educated by the usual process.]
When Lord Macaulay said that what the milk was to the cocoanut, what beauty was to the buffalo, and what scandal was to woman, that Dr. Johnson’s Dictionary was to the Bengali Baboo, he unquestionably spoke in terms of figurative exaggeration; nevertheless, a core of truth lies hidden in his remark. It is by the Baboo’s words you know the Baboo. The true Baboo is full of words and phrases–full of inappropriate words and phrases lying about like dead men on a battlefield, in heaps to be carted away promiscuously, without reference to kith or kin. You may turn on a Baboo at any moment and be quite sure that words, and phrases, and maxims, and proverbs will come gurgling forth, without reference to the subject or to the occasion, to what has gone before or to what will come after. Perhaps it was with reference to this independence, buoyancy, and gaiety of language that Lord Lytton declared the Bengali to be “the Irishman of India.”
You know, dear Vanity, I whispered to you before that the poor Baboo often suffers from a slight aberration of speech which prevents his articulating the truth–a kind of moral lisp. Lord Lytton could not have been alluding to this; for it was only yesterday that I heard an Irishman speak the truth to Lord Lytton about some little matter–I forget what; cotton duty, I think–and Lord Lytton said, rather curtly, “Why, you have often told me this before.” So Lord Lytton must be in the habit of hearing certain truths from the Irish.
It was either Sir Andrew Clarke, Sir Alexander Arbuthnot, or Sir Some-one-else, who understands all about these things, that first told me of the tendency to Baboo worship in England at present. I immediately took steps, when I heard of it, to capitalise my pension and purchase gold mines in the Wynaad and shares in the Simla Bank. (Colonel Peterson, of the Simla Fencibles, supported me gallantly in this latter resolution.) The notion of so dreadful a form of fetishism establishing itself in one’s native land is repugnant to the feelings even of those who have been rendered callous to such things by seats in the Bengal Legislative Council. [I refuse to believe that the Zoological Society has lent its apiary to this movement. It must have been a spelling-bee your informant was thinking of.
Talking of monkey-houses reminds me of] Sir George Campbell, who took such an interest in the development of the Baboo, and the selection of the fittest for Government employment. He taught them in debating-clubs the various modes of conducting irresponsible parliamentary chatter; and he tried to encourage pedestrianism and football to evolve their legs and bring them into something like harmony with their long pendant arms. You can still see a few of Sir George’s leggy Baboos coiled up in corners of lecture-rooms at Calcutta. The Calcutta Cricket Club used to employ one as permanent “leg.” [The Indian Turf Club used to keep a professional “leg,” but now there are so many amateurs it is not required.]
It is the future of Baboodom I tremble for. When they wax fat with new religions, music, painting, Comedie Anglaise, scientific discoveries, they may kick with those developed legs of theirs, until we shall have to think that they are something more than a joke, more than a mere _lusus naturae_, more than a caricature moulded by the accretive and differentiating impulses of the monad[C] in a moment of wanton playfulness. The fear is that their tendencies may infect others. The patent-leather shoes, the silk umbrellas, the ten thousand horse-power English words and phrases, and the loose shadows of English thought, which are now so many Aunt Sallies for all the world to fling a jeer at, might among other races pass into _dummy soldiers_, and from dummy soldiers into trampling, hope-bestirred crowds, and so on, out of the province of Ali Baba and into the columns of serious reflection. Mr. Wordsworth and his friends the Dakhani Brahmans should consider how painful it would be, when deprived of the consolations of religion, to be solemnly repressed by the _Pioneer_–to be placed under that steam-hammer which by the descent of a paragraph can equally crack the tiniest of jokes and the hardest of political nuts, can suppress unauthorised inquiry and crush disaffection.
At present the Baboo is merely a grotesque Bracken shadow, but in the course of geological ages it might harden down into something palpable. It is this possibility that leads Sir Ashley Eden to advise the Baboo to revert to its original type; but it is not so easy to become homogeneous after you have been diluted with the physical sciences and stirred about by Positivists and missionaries. “I would I were a protoplastic monad!” may sound very rhythmical, poetical, and all that; but even for a Baboo the aspiration is not an easy one to gratify.–ALI BABA.
WITH THE RAJA
[September 20, 1879.]
Try not to laugh, Dear Vanity. I know you don’t mean anything by it; but these Indian kings are so sensitive. The other day I was translating to a young Raja what Val Prinsep had said about him in his “Purple India”; he had only said that he was a dissipated young ass and as ugly as a baboon; but the boy was quite hurt and began to cry, and I had to send for the Political Agent to quiet him and put him to sleep. When you consider the matter philosophically there is nothing _per se_ ridiculous in a Raja. Take a hypothetical case: picture to yourself a Raja who does not get drunk without some good reason, who is not ostentatiously unfaithful to his five-and-twenty queens and his five-and-twenty grand duchesses, who does not festoon his thorax and abdomen with curious cutlery and jewels, who does not paint his face with red ochre, and who sometimes takes a sidelong glance at his affairs, and there is no reason why you should not think of such a one as an Indian king. India is not very fastidious; so long as the Government is satisfied, the people of India do not much care what the Rajas are like. A peasant proprietor said to Mr. Caird and me the other day, “We are poor cultivators; we cannot afford to keep Rajas. The Rajas are for the Lord Sahib.”
The young Maharaja of Kuch Parwani assures me that it is not considered the thing for a Raja at the present day to govern. “A really swell Raja amuses himself.” One hoards money, another plays at soldiering, a third is horsey, a fourth is amorous, and a fifth gets drunk; at least so Kuch Parwani thinks. Please don’t say that I told you this. The Foreign Secretary knows what a high opinion I have of the Rajas, and indeed he often employs me to whitewash them when they get into scrapes. “A little playful, perhaps, but no more loyal Prince in India!” This is the kind of thing I put into the Annual Administration Reports of the Agencies, and I stick to it. Playful no doubt, but a more loyal class than the Rajas there is not in India. They have built their houses of cards on the thin crust of British Rule that now covers the crater, and they are ever ready to pour a pannikin of water into a crack to quench the explosive forces rumbling below.
The amiable chief in whose house I am staying to-day is exceedingly simple in his habits. At an early hour he issues from the zenana and joins two or three of his thakores, or barons, who are on duty at Court, in the morning draught of opium. They sit in a circle, and a servant in the centre goes round and pours the _kasumbha_[D] out of a brass bowl and through a woollen cloth into their hands, out of which they lap it up. Then a cardamum to take away the acrid after-taste. One hums drowsily two or three bars of an old-world song; another clears his throat and spits; the Chief yawns, and all snap their fingers, to prevent evil spirits skipping into his throat; a late riser joins the circle, and all, except the Chief, give him _tazim_–that is, rise and salaam; a coarse jest or two, and the party disperses. A crowd of servants swarm round the Chief as he shuffles slowly away. Three or four mace-bearers walk in front shouting, “Raja, Maharaja salaamat ho; niga rakhiyo!” (“Please take notice; to the King, the great King, let there be salutation!”) A confidential servant continually leans forward and whispers in his ear; another remains close at hand with a silver tea-pot containing water and wrapped up in a wet cloth to keep it cool; a third constantly whisks a yak’s tail over the King’s head; a fourth carries my Lord’s sword; a fifth his handkerchief; and so on. Where is he going? He dawdles up a narrow staircase, through a dark corridor, down half-a-dozen steep steps, across a courtyard overgrown with weeds, up another staircase, along another passage, and so to a range of heavy quilted red screens that conceal doors leading into the female penetralia. Here we must leave him. Two servants disappear behind the _parda_ with their master, the others promptly lie down where they are, draw the sheets or blankets which they have been wearing over their faces and feet, and sleep. About noon we see the King again. He is dressed in white flowing robes with a heavy carcanet of emeralds round his neck. His red turban is tied with strings of seed pearls and set off with an aigrette springing from a diamond brooch. He sits on the Royal mattress, the _gaddi_.[E] A big bolster covered with green velvet supports his back; his sword and shield are gracefully disposed before him. At the corner of the _gaddi_ sits a little representation of himself in miniature, complete even to the sword and shield. This is his adopted son and heir. For all the queens and all the grand duchesses are childless, and a little kinsman had to be transplanted from a mud village among the cornfields to this dreamland palace to perpetuate the line. On the corners of the carpet on which the _gaddi_ rests sit thakores of the Royal house, other thakores sit below, right and left, forming two parallel lines, dwindling into sardars, palace officers, and others of lower rank as they recede from the _gaddi_. Behind the Chief stand the servants with the emblems of royalty–the peacock feathers, the fan, the yak tail, and the umbrella (now furled). The confidential servant is still whispering into the ear of his master from time to time. This is durbar. No one speaks, unless to exchange a languid compliment with the Chief. Presently essence of roses and a compound of areca nut and lime are circulated, then a huge silver pipe is brought in, the Chief takes three long pulls, the thakores on the carpet each take a pull, and the levee breaks up amid profound salaams. After this–dinner, opium, and sleep.
In the cool of the evening our King emerges from the palace, and, riding on a prodigiously fat white horse with pink points, proceeds to the place of carousal. A long train of horsemen follow him, and footmen run before with guns in red flannel covers and silver maces, shouting “Raja Maharaja salaamat,” &c. The horsemen immediately around him are mounted on well-fed and richly-caparisoned steeds, with all the bravery of cloth-of-gold, yak-tails, silver chains, and strings of shells; behind are troopers in a burlesque of English uniform; and altogether in the rear is a mob of caitiffs on skeleton chargers, masquerading in every degree of shabbiness and rags, down to nakedness and a sword. The cavalcade passes through the city. The inhabitants pour out of every door and bend to the ground. Red cloths and white veils flutter at the casements overhead. You would hardly think that the spectacle was one daily enjoyed by the city. There is all the hurrying and eagerness of novelty and curiosity. Here and there a little shy crowd of women gather at a door and salute the Chief with a loud shrill verse of discordant song. It is some national song of the Chiefs ancestors and of the old heroic days. The place of carousal is a bare spot near a large and ancient well out of which grows a vast pipal tree. Hard by is a little temple surmounted by a red flag on a drooping bamboo. It is here that the _Gangor_[F] and _Dassahra_[F] solemnities are celebrated. Arrived on the ground, the Raja slowly circles his horse; then, jerking the thorn-bit, causes him to advance plunging and rearing, but dropping first on the near foot and then on the off foot with admirable precision; and finally, making the white monster, now in a lather of sweat, rise up and walk a few steps on his hind legs, the Raja’s performance concludes amid many shouts of wonder and delight from the smooth-tongued courtiers. The thakores and sardars now exhibit their skill in the _manege_ until the shades of night fall, when torches are brought, amid much salaaming, and the cavalcade defiles, through the city, back to the palace. Lights are twinkling from the higher casements and reflected on the lake below; the _gola_[G] slave-girls are singing plaintive songs, drum and conch answer from the open courtyards. The palace is awake. The Raja, we will romantically presume, bounds lightly from his horse and dances gaily to the harem to fling himself voluptuously into the luxurious arms of one of the five-and-twenty queens, or one of the five-and-twenty grand duchesses; and they stand for one delirious moment wreathed in each other’s embraces–
While soft there breathes
Through the cool casement, mingled with the sighs Of moonlight flowers, music that seems to rise From some still lake, so liquidly it rose, And, as it swell’d again at each faint close, The ear could track through all that maze of chords And young sweet voices these impassioned words–
“Ho, you there! fetch us a pint of gin! and look sharp, will you!”
For who, in time, knows whither we may vent The treasure of our tongue, to what strange shores This gain of our best glory shall be sent, To enrich unknowing nations with our stores! What worlds in the yet unformed Orient May come refined with accents that are ours!
But, dear Vanity, I can see that you are impatient of scenes whose luxuries steal, spite of yourself, too deep into your soul; besides, I dread the effect of such warm situations on a certain Zuleika to whom the note of Ali Baba is like the thrice-distilled strains of the bulbul on Bendemeer’s stream. So let us electrify ourselves back to prose and propriety by thinking of the Political Agent; let us plunge into the cold waters of dreary reality by conjuring up a figure in tail-coat and gold buttons dispensing justice while H.H. the romantic and picturesque Raja, G.C.S.I., amuses himself. Yet we hear cries from the gallery of “Vive M. le Raja; vive la bagatelle!”
So say we, in faint echoes, defying the anathemas of the Foreign Office. Do not turn this beautiful temple of ancient days into a mere mill for decrees and budgets; but sweep it and purify it, and render it a fitting shrine for the homage and tribute of antique loyalty–“that proud submission, that subordination of the heart which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom.” With tail-coat and cocked-hat government “the unbought grace of life, the cheap defence of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise is gone.”–ALI BABA.
WITH THE POLITICAL AGENT
A MAN IN BUCKRAM
[Illustration: THE POLITICAL AGENT–“A man in buckram.”]
[September 27, 1879.]
This is a most curious product of the Indian bureaucracy. Nothing in all White Baboodom is so wonderful as the Political Agent. A near relation of the Empress who was travelling a good deal about India some three or four years ago said that he would rather get a Political Agent, with raja, chuprassies,[H] and everything complete, to take home, than the unfigured “mum” of Beluchistan, or the sea-aye-ee mocking bird, _Kokiolliensis Lyttonia_. But the Political Agent cannot be taken home. The purple bloom fades in the scornful climate of England; the paralytic swagger passes into sheer imbecility; the thirteen-gun tall talk reverberates in jeering echoes; the chuprassies are only so many black men, and the raja is felt to be a joke. The Political Agent cannot live beyond Aden.
The Government of India keeps its Political Agents scattered over the native states in small jungle stations. It furnishes them with maharajas, nawabs, rajas, and chuprassies, according to their rank, and it usually throws in a house, a gaol, a doctor, a volume of Aitchison’s Treaties, an escort of native Cavalry, a Star of India, an assistant, the powers of a first-class magistrate, a flag-staff, six camels, three tents, and a salute of eleven or thirteen guns. In very many cases the Government of India nominates a Political Agent to the rank of Son-to-a-Lieut.-Governor, Son-in-Law-to-a-Lieut.-Governor, Son-to-a-member-of-Council, or Son-to-an-agent-to-the-Governor-General. Those who are thus elevated to the Anglo-Indian peerage need have no thought for the morrow what they shall do, what they shall say, or wherewithal they shall be supplied with a knowledge of Oriental language and occidental law. Nature clothes them with increasing quantities of gold lace and starry ornaments, and that charming, if unblushing, female–Lord Lytton begs me to write “maid”–Miss Anglo-Indian Promotion, goes skipping about among them like a joyful kangaroo.
The Politicals are a Greek chorus in our popular burlesque, “Empire.” The Foreign Secretary is the prompter. The company is composed of nawabs and rajas (with the Duke of Buckingham as a “super”). Lord Meredith is the scene-shifter; Sir John, the manager. The Secretary of State, with his council, is in the stage-box; the House of Commons in the stalls; the London Press in the gallery; the East Indian Association, Exeter Hall, Professor Fawcett, Mr. Hyndman, and the criminal classes generally, in the pit; while those naughty little Scotch boys, the shock-headed Duke and Monty Duff, who once tried to turn down the lights, pervade the house with a policeman on their horizon. As we enter the theatre a dozen chiefs are dancing in the ballet to express their joy at the termination of the Afghan War. The political _choreutae_ are clapping their hands, encouraging them by name and pointing them out to the gallery.
The government of a native state by clerks and chuprassies, with a beautiful _faineant_ Political Agent for Sundays and Hindu festivals, is, I am told, a thing of the past. Colonel Henderson, the imperial “Peeler,” tells me so, and he ought to know, for he is a kind of demi-official superintendent of Thugs and Agents. Nowadays, my informant assures me, the Political Agents undergo a regular training in a Madras Cavalry Regiment or in the Central India Horse, or on the Viceroy’s Staff, and if they have to take charge of a Mahratta State they are obliged to pass an examination in classical Persian poetry. This is as it ought to be. The intricacies of Oriental intrigue and the manifold complication of tenure and revenue that entangle administrative procedure in the protected principalities, will unravel themselves in presence of men who have enjoyed such advantages.
When I first came out to this country I was placed in charge of three degrees of latitude and eight of longitude in Rajputana that I might learn the language. The soil was sandy, the tenure feudal (_zabardast_,[I] as we call it in India), and the Raja a lunatic by nature and a dipsomaniac by education. He had been educated by his grandmamma and the hereditary Minister. I found that his grandmamma and the hereditary Minister were most anxious to relieve me of the most embarrassing details of government, so I handed them a copy of the Ten Commandments, underlining two that I thought might be useful, and put them in charge. They were old-fashioned in their methods–like Sir Billy Jones; but the result was admirable. In two years the revenue was reduced from ten to two lakhs of rupees, and the expenditure proportionately increased. A bridge, a summer-house, and a school were built; and I wrote the longest “Administration Report” that has ever issued from the Zulmabad Residency. When I left money was so cheap and lightly regarded that I sold my old buggy horse for two thousand rupees to grandmamma, with many mutual expressions of good-will–through a curtain–and I have not been paid to this day. But since then the horse-market has been ruined in the native states by these imperial _melas_[J] and durbars. A poor Political has no chance against these Government of India people, who come down with strings of three-legged horses, and–no, I won’t say they sell them to the chiefs–I should be having a commission of my _khidmatgars_[K] sitting upon me, like poor Har Sahai, who was beaten by Mr. Saunders, and Malhar Rao Gaikwar, who fancied his Resident was going to poison him.
I like to see a Political up at Simla wooing that hoyden Promotion in her own sequestered bower. It is good to see Hercules toiling at the feet of Omphale. It is good to see Pistol fed upon leeks by Under-Secretaries and women. How simple he is! How boyish he can be, and yet how intense! He will play leap frog at Annandale; he will paddle about in the stream below the water-falls without shoes and stockings; but if you allude in the most distant way to rajas or durbars, he lets down his face a couple of holes and talks like a weather prophet. He will be so interesting that you can hardly bear it; so interesting that you will feel sorry he is not talking to the Governor-General up at Peterhoff.
[But I feel that an Agent to the Governor-General is looking over my shoulder, so perhaps I had better stop; though I know two or three things about Politicals.]–SIR ALI BABA, K.C.B.[L]
WITH THE COLLECTOR
[October 4, 1879.]
Was it not the Bishop of Bombay who said that man was an automaton plus the mirror of consciousness? The Government of every Indian province is an automaton plus the mirror of consciousness. The Secretariat is consciousness, and the Collectors form the automaton. The Collector works, and the Secretariat observes and registers.
To the people of India the Collector is the Imperial Government. He watches over their welfare in the many facets which reflect our civilisation. He establishes schools and dispensaries [for their children], gaols [for their troublesome relations and neighbours], and courts of justice [for the benefit of their brothers who can talk and write]. He levies the rent of their fields, he fixes the tariff, and he nominates to every appointment, from that of road-sweeper or constable, to the great blood-sucking officers round the Court and Treasury. As for Boards of Revenue and Lieutenant-Governors who occasionally come sweeping across the country, with their locust hosts of servants and petty officials, they are but an occasional nightmare; while the Governor-General is a mere shadow in the background of thought, half blended with “John Company Bahadur” and other myths of the dawn.
The Collector lives in a long rambling bungalow furnished with folding chairs and tables, and in every way marked by the provisional arrangements of camp life. He seems to have just arrived from out of the firmament of green fields and mango groves that encircles the little station where he lives; or he seems just about to pass away into it again. The shooting-howdahs are lying in the verandah, the elephant of a neighbouring landowner is swinging his hind foot to and fro under a tree, or switching up straw and leaves on to his back, a dozen camels are lying down in a circle making bubbling noises, and tents are pitched here and there to dry, like so many white wings on which the whole establishment is about to rise and fly away–fly away into “the district,” which is the correct expression for the vast expanse of level plain melting into blue sky on the wide horizon-circle around.
The Collector is a bustling man. He is always in a hurry. His multitudinous duties succeed one another so fast that one is never ended before the next begins. A mysterious thing called “the Joint” comes gleaning after him, I believe, and completes the inchoate work.
The verandah is full of fat black men in clean linen waiting for interviews. They are bankers, shopkeepers, and landholders, who have only come to “pay their respects,” with ever so little a petition as a corollary. The chuprassie-vultures hover about them. Each of these obscene fowls has received a gratification from each of the clean fat men; else the clean fat men would not be in the verandah. This import tax is a wholesome restraint upon the excessive visiting tendencies of wealthy men of colour. [Several little groups of] brass dishes filled with pistachio nuts and candied sugar are ostentatiously displayed here and there; they are the oblations of the would-be visitors. The English call these offerings “dollies”; the natives _dali_. They represent in the profuse East the visiting cards of the meagre West.
Although from our lofty point of observation, among the pine-trees, the Collector seems to be of the smallest social calibre, a mere carronade, not to be distinguished by any proper name; in his own district he is a Woolwich Infant; and a little community of microscopicals,–doctors, engineers, inspectors of schools, and assistant magistrates, look up to him as to a magnate.
They tell little stories of his weaknesses and eccentricities, and his wife is considered a person entitled “to give herself airs” (within the district) if she feels so disposed; while to their high dinners is allowed the use of champagne and “Europe” talk on aesthetic subjects. The Collector is not, however, permitted to wear a chimney-pot hat and gloves on Sunday (unless he has been in the Provincial Secretariat as a boy); a Terai hat is sufficient for a Collector.
A Collector is usually a sportsman; when he is a poet, a co-respondent, or a neologist it is thought rather a pity; and he is spoken of in undertones. Neology is considered especially reprehensible. The junior member of the Board of Revenue, or even the Commissioner of a division (if he be _pukka_)[M], may question the literal inspiration of Genesis; but it is not good form for a Collector to tamper with his Bible. A Collector should have no leisure for opinions of any sort.
I have said that a Collector is usually a sportsman. In this capacity he is frequently made use of by the Viceroy and long-shore Governors, as he is an adept at showing sport to globe-trotters. The villagers who live on the borders of the jungle will generally turn out and beat for the Collector, and the petty chief who owns the jungle always keeps a tiger or two for district officers. A Political Agent’s tiger is known to be a domestic animal suitable for delicate noble Lords travelling for health; but a Collector’s tiger is often [believed to be almost] a wild beast, although usually reared upon buffalo calves and accustomed to be driven. [Of course the tiger which the Collector and his friends shoot is quite an inferior article; a fierce, roaming creature that lives upon spotted deer when it can get them, but is often quite savage from hunger.] The Collector, who is always the most unselfish and hospitable of men, only kills the fatted tiger for persons of distinction with letters of introduction. Any common jungle tiger, even a man-eater, is good enough for himself and his friends.
The Collector never ventures to approach Simla, when on leave. At Simla people would stare and raise their eye-brows if they heard that a Collector was on the hill. They would ask what sort of a thing a Collector was. The Press Commissioner would be sent to interview it. The children at Peterhoff would send for it to play with. So the clodhopping Collector goes to Naini Tal or Darjiling, where he is known either as Ellenborough Higgins, or Higgins of Gharibpur in territorial fashion. Here he is understood. Here he can bubble of his _Bandobast_,[N] his _Balbacha_[O] and his _Bawarchikhana_;[P] and here he can speak in familiar accents of his neighbours, Dalhousie Smith and Cornwallis Jones. All day long he strides up and down the club verandah with his old Haileybury chum Teignmouth Tompkins; and they compare experiences of the hunting-field and office, and denounce in unmeasured terms of Oriental vituperation the new sort of civilian who moves about with the Penal Code under his arm and measures his authority by statute, clause, and section.
In England the Collector is to be found riding at anchor in the Bandicoot Club. He makes two or three hurried cruises to his native village, where he finds himself half forgotten. This sours him. The climate seems worse than of old, the means of locomotion at his disposal are inconvenient and expensive; he yearns for the sunshine and elephants of Gharibpur, and returns an older and a quieter man. The afternoon of life is throwing longer shadows, the Acheron of promotion is gaping before him; he falls into a Commissionership; still deeper into an officiating seat on the Board of Revenue. _Facilis est descensus, etc._ Nothing will save him now; transmigration has set in; the gates of Simla fly open; it is all over. Let us pray that his halo may fit him.–ALI BABA, K.C.B.
BABY IN PARTIBUS
[October 11, 1879.]
The Empire has done less for Anglo-Indian Babies than for any class of the great exile community. Legislation provides them with neither rattle nor coral, privilege leave nor pension. Papa has a Raja and Star of India to play with; Mamma the Warrant of Precedence and the Hill Captains; but Baby has nothing–not even a missionary; Baby is without the amusement of the meanest cannibal.
Baby is debarred from the society of his compatriots. His father is cramped and frozen with the chill cares of office; his mother is deadened by the gloomy routine of economy and fashion; custom lies upon her with a weight heavy as frost and deep almost as life; the fountains of natural fancy and mirth are frozen over; so Baby lisps his dawn paeans in soft Oriental accents, wakening harmonious echoes amongst those impulsive and impressionable children of Nature that masque themselves in the black slough of Bearers and Ayahs; and Baby blubbers in Hindustani.
These Ayah and Bearer people sit with Baby in the verandah on a little carpet; broken toys and withered flowers lie around. They croon to Baby some old-world _katabaukalesis_, while beauty, born of murmuring sound, passes into Baby’s eyes. The squirrel sits chirruping familiarly on the edge of the verandah with his tail in the air and some uncracked pericarp in his uplifted hands, the kite circles aloft and whistles a shrill and mournful note, the sparrows chatter, the crow clears his throat, the minas scream discordantly, and Baby’s soft, receptive nature thus absorbs an Indian language. Very soon Baby will think from right to left, and will lisp in the luxuriant bloom of Oriental hyperbole. [Presently, when Baby grows a little older, Baby will say to the Bearer, through his sweet little nose, “Arreh! Ulu ka bacha, tu kya karta hai?” Which being interpreted, is, “Ah! Child of night’s sweet bird, what dost thou now?” Afterwards Baby will learn to say many other things which it is not good to repeat here.]
In the evening Baby will go out for an airing with the Bearer and Ayah people, and while they dawdle along the dusty road, or sit on kerb-stones and on culvert parapets, he will listen to the extensile tale of their simple sorrows. He will hear, with a sigh, that the profits of petty larceny are declining; he will be taught to regret the increasing infirmities of his Papa’s temper; and portraits in sepia of his Mamma will be observed by him to excite laughter mingled with dark impulsive words. Thus there will pass into Baby’s eyes glances of suspicious questionings, “the blank misgivings of a creature moving about in worlds not realised.”
In the long summer days Baby will patter listlessly about the darkened rooms accompanied by his suite, who will carry a feeding bottle–Maw’s Patent Feeding Bottle–just as the Sergeant-at-Arms carries the mace; and, from time to time, little Mister Speaker will squat down on his dear little hams and take a refreshing pull or two. At breakfast and luncheon time little Mister Speaker will straggle into the dining-room, and fond parents will give him a tidbit of many soft dainties, to be washed down with brandy and water, beer, sherry, or other alcoholic draught. On such broken meals Baby is raised.
The little drawn face, etiolated and weary-looking, recommends sleep; but Baby is a bad sleeper. The Bearer-in-waiting carries about a small pillow all day long, and from time to time Baby is applied to it. He frets and cries, and they brood over him humming some old Indian song, [“Keli Blai,” or “Hillu Milli Pania”]. Still he turns restlessly and whimpers, though they pat him and shampoo him, and call him fond names and tell him soothing stories of bulbuls and flowers and woolly sheep. But Baby does not sleep, and even Indian patience is exhausted. Both Ayah and Bearer would like to slip away to their mud houses at the other end of the compound and have a pull at the fragrant _huqqa_ and a gossip with the _saices;_[Q] but while _Sunny Baba_ is at large, and might at any moment make a raid on Mamma, who is dozing over a novel on a spider-chair near the mouth of the thermantidote, the Ayah and Bearer dare not leave their charge. So _Sunny Baba_ must sleep, and the Bearer has in the folds of his waist-cloth a little black fragment of the awful sleep-compeller, and Baby is drugged into a deep uneasy sleep of delirious, racking dreams.
Day by day Baby grows paler, day by day thinner, day by day a stranger light burns in his bonny eyes. Weird thoughts sweep through Baby’s brain, weird questions startle Mamma out of the golden languors in which she is steeped, weird words frighten the gentle Ayah as she fondles her darling. The current of babble and laughter has almost ceased to flow. Baby lies silent in the Ayah’s lap staring at the ceiling. He clasps a broken toy with wasted fingers. His Bearer comes with some old watchword of fun; Baby smiles faintly, but makes no response. The old man takes him tenderly in his arms and carries him to the verandah; Baby’s head falls heavily on his shoulder.
The outer world lies dimly round Baby; within, strange shadows are flitting by. The wee body is pressing heavily upon the spirit; Baby is becoming conscious of the burthen. He will be quiet for hours on his little cot; he does not sleep, but he dreams. Earth’s joys and lights are fast fading out of those resilient eyes; Baby’s spirit is waiting on the shores of eternity, and already hears “the mighty waters rolling evermore.”
The broken toys are swept away into a corner, a silence and fear has fallen upon the household, black servants weep, their mistress seeks refuge in headache and smelling salts, the hard father feels a strange, an irrepressible welling up of little memories. He loves the golden haired boy; he hardly knew it before. If he could only hear once more the merry laugh, the chatter and the shouting! But he cannot hear it any more; he will never hear his child’s voice again. Baby has passed into the far-away Thought-World. Baby is now only a dream and a memory, only the recollection of a music that is heard no more. Baby has crossed that cloudy, storm-driven bourn of speculation and fear whither we are all tending.
A few white bones upon a lonely sand, A rotting corpse beneath the meadow grass, That cannot hear the footsteps as they pass, Memorial urns pressed by some foolish hand Have been for all the goal of troublous fears, Ah! breaking hearts and faint eyes dim with tears, And momentary hope by breezes framed
To flame that ever fading falls again, And leaves but blacker night and deeper pain, Have been the mould of life in every land.
Baby is planted out for evermore in the dank and weedy little cemetery that lies on the outskirts of the station where he lived and died. Those golden curls, those soft and rounded limbs, and that laughing mouth, are given up to darkness and the eternal hunger of corruption. Through sunshine and rain, through the long days of summer, through the long nights of winter, for ever, for ever, Baby lies silent and dreamless under that waving grass. The bee will hum overhead for evermore, and the swallow glance among the cypress. The butterfly will flutter for ages and ages among the rank flowers–Baby will still lie there. Come away, come away; your cheeks are pale; it cannot be, we cannot believe it, we must not remember it; other Baby voices will kindle our life and love, Baby’s toys will pass to other Baby hands. All will change; we will change.
Yet, darling, but come back to me; Whatever change the years have wrought, I find not yet one lonely thought
That cries against my wish for thee.
ALI BABA, K.C.B.
THE RED CHUPRASSIE
OR, THE CORRUPT LICTOR[R]
[October 18, 1879.]
The red chuprassie is our Colorado beetle, our potato disease, our Home ruler, our cupboard skeleton, the little rift in our lute. The red-coated chuprassie is a cancer in our Administration. To be rid of it there is hardly any surgical operation we would not cheerfully undergo. You might extract the Bishop of Bombay, amputate the Governor of Madras, put a seton in the pay and allowances of the Lieutenant-Governor of Bengal, and we should smile.
The red chuprassie is ubiquitous; he is in the verandah of every official’s house in India, from the Governor-General downwards; he is in the portico of every Court of Justice, every Treasury, every Public Office, every Government School, every Government Dispensary in the country. He walks behind the Collector; he follows the conservancy carts; he prowls about the candidate for employment; he hovers over the accused and accuser; he haunts the Raja; he infests the tax-payer.
He wears the Imperial livery; he is to the entire population of India the exponent of British Rule; he is the mother-in-law of liars, the high-priest of extortioners, and the receiver-general of bribes.
Through this refracting medium the people of India see their rulers. The chuprassie paints his master in colours drawn from his own black heart. Every lie he tells, every insinuation he throws out, every demand he makes, is endorsed with his master’s name. He is the arch-slanderer of our name in India.
[He is not an individual–he is a member of a widely rammified society.] There is no city in India, no mofussil-station, no little settlement of officials far up country, in which the chuprassie does not find sworn brothers and confederates. The cutcherry clerks and the police are with him everywhere; higher native officials are often on his side.
He sits at the receipt of custom in the Collector’s verandah, and no native visitor dare approach who has not conciliated him with money. The candidate for employment, educated in our schools, and pregnant with words about purity, equality, justice, political economy, and all the rest of it, addresses him with joined hands as “Maharaj,” and slips silver into his itching palm. The successful place-hunter pays him a feudal relief on receiving office or promotion, and benevolences flow in from all who have anything to hope or fear from those in power.
[Illustration: THE RED CHUPRASSIE–“The corrupt lictor.”]
In the Native States the chuprassie flourishes rampantly. He receives a regular salary through their representatives or vakils at the agencies, from all the native chiefs round about, and on all occasions of visits or return visits, durbars, religious festivals, or public ceremonials, he claims and receives preposterous fees. The Rajas, whose dignity is always exceedingly delicate, stand in great fear of the chuprassies. They believe that on public occasions the chuprassies have sometimes the power of sicklying them o’er with the pale cast of neglect.
English officers who have become de-Europeanised from long residence among undomesticated natives, or by the habitual performance of petty ceremonial duties of an Oriental hue, employ chuprassies to aggrandise their importance. They always figure on a background of red chuprassies. Such officials are what Lord Lytton calls White Baboos.
[Mr. Whitley Stokes, in his own artless way, once proposed legislating against chuprassies, I am told. His plan was to include them among the criminal classes, and hand them over to Major Henderson, the Director-General of Thuggee and Dacoity; but this functionary, viewing the matter in a different light, made some demi-official representation to the Legal Member under the pseudonym of “Walker,” and the subject dropped.]
A great Maharaja once told me that it was the tyranny of the Government chuprassies that made him take to drink. He spoke of them as “the Pindarries of modern India.” He had a theory that the small pay we gave them accounted for their evil courses. A chuprassie gets about eight pounds sterling a year. He added that if we saw a chuprassie on seven rupees a month living overtly at the rate of a thousand, we ought immediately to appoint him an _attache_ or put him in gaol.
I make a simple rule in my own establishment of dismissing a chuprassie as soon as he begins to wax fat. A native cannot become rich without waxing fat, because wealth is primarily enjoyed by the mild Gentoo as a means of procuring greasy food in large quantities. His secondary enjoyment is to sit upon it. He digs a hole in the ground for his rupees, and broods over them, like a great obscene fowl. If you see a native sitting very hard on the same place day after day, you will find it worth your while to dig him up. Shares in this are better than the Madras gold mines.
In early Company days, when the Empire was a baby, the European writers[S] regarded with a kindly eye those profuse Orientals who went about bearing gifts; but Lord Clive closed this branch of the business, and it has been taken up by our scarlet runners or verandah parasites, in our name. Now, dear Vanity, you may call me a Russophile, or by any other marine term of endearment you like, if I don’t think the old plan was the better of the two. We ourselves could conduct corruption decently; but to be responsible for corruption over which we exercise no control is to lose the credit of a good name and the profits of a bad one.
[Old qui-hyes tell you that there are three things you cannot separate from an “Indian”–venality, perjury, and rupees. Now I totally disagree with the old qui-hyes. In secret I am a great admirer of the Indian, and publicly I always treat him with respect. I have such a regard for him that I never expose him to temptation. I pay him well, I explain to him my eccentric opinions about receiving bribes, and I remind him of the moral and electrifying properties of the different species of cane which Nature has so thoughtfully provided nearly everywhere in India. The consequence is that my chuprassies do not soil their hands with spurious gratifications, and figuratively describe me as their father and mother.]
I hear that the Government of India proposes to form a mixed committee of Rajas and chuprassies to discuss the question as to whether native chiefs ever give bribes and native servants ever take them. It is expected that a report favourable to Indian morality will be the result. Of course Raja Joe Hookham will preside.–ALI BABA, K.C.B.
A FARMER PRINCE
[Illustration: THE PLANTER–“A farmer prince.”]
[October 25, 1879]
The Planter lives to-day as we all lived fifty years ago. He lives in state and bounty, like the Lord of Burleigh. He lives like that fine old English gentleman who had an old estate, and who kept up his old mansion at a bountiful old rate. He lives in a grand wholesale manner; he lives in round numbers; he lives like a hero. Everything is Homeric about him. He establishes himself firmly in the land with great joy and plenty; and he gathers round him all that makes life full-toned and harmonious, from the grand timbre of draught-ale and the organ-thunder of hunting, to the piccolo and tintinnabulum of Poker and maraschino. His life is a fresco-painting, on which some Cyclopaean Raphaelite has poured his rainbows from a fire-engine of a hundred elephant-power.
We paltry officials live meanly in pen-and-ink sketches. Our little life is bounded by a dream of promotion and pension. We toil, we slave; we put by money, we pinch ourselves. We are hardly fit to live in this beautiful world, with its laughing girls and grapes, its summer seas, its sunshine and flowers, its Garnet Wolseleys and bulbuls. We go moping through its glories in green spectacles, befouling it with our loathsome statistics and reports. The sweet air of heaven, the blue firmament, and the everlasting hills do not satisfy our poisoned hearts; so we make to ourselves a little tin-pot world of blotted-paper, debased rupees, graded lists, and tinsel honours; we try to feed our lungs on its typhoidal effluvia. Aroint[T] thee, Comptroller and Accountant-General with all thy grisly crew! Thou art worse than the blind Fury with the abhorred shears; for thou slittest my thin-spun pay-wearing spectacles, thrice branded varlet! [There is a lily on my brow with anguish moist and fever-dew, and on my cheeks a fading rose fast withereth too, and for these emblems of woe thou shalt have to give an answer.]
Dear Vanity, of course you understand that I do not allude to the amiable old gentleman who controls our Accounts Department, who is the mirror of tenderness. The person I would impale is a creation of my own wrath, a mere official type struck in frenzied fancy, [at a moment when Time seems a maniac scattering dust, and Life a Fury slinging flame].
Let us soothe ourselves by contemplating the Planter and his generous, simple life. It calms one to look at him. He is something placid, strong, and easeful. Without wishing to appear obsequious, I always feel disposed to borrow money when I meet a substantial Planter. He inspires confidence. I grasp his strong hand; I take him (figuratively) to my heart, while the desire to bank with him wells up mysteriously in my bosom.
He lives in a grand old bungalow, surrounded by ancient trees. Large rooms open into one another on every side in long vistas; a broad and hospitable-looking verandah girds all. Everywhere trophies of the chase meet the eye. We walk upon cool matting; we recline upon long-armed chairs; low and heavy punkahs swing overhead; a sweet breathing of wet _khaskhas_ grass comes sobbing out of the thermantidote; and a gigantic but gentle _khidmatgar_ is always at our elbow with long glasses on a silver tray. This man’s name is Nubby Bux, but he means nothing by it, and a child might play with him. I often say to him in a caressing tone, “_Peg lao_”;[U] and he is grateful for any little attention of this sort.
It is near noon. My friend Mr. Great-Heart, familiarly known as “Jamie Macdonald,” has been taking me over the factory and stables. We have been out since early morning on the jumpiest and beaniest of Waler mares. I am not killed, but a good deal shaken. The glass trembles in my hand. I have an absorbing thirst, and I drink copiously, almost passionately. My out-stretched legs are reposing on the arms of my chair and I stiffen into an attitude of rest. I hear my host splashing and singing in his tub.
Breakfast is a meal conceived in a large and liberal spirit. We pass from dish to dish through all the compass of a banquet, the diapason closing full in beer. Several joyful assistants, whose appetites would take first-class honours at any university or cattle show, join the hunt and are well in at the beer. What tales are told! I feel glad that Miss Harriet Martineau, Mrs. Mary Somerville, and Dr. Watts are not present. I keep looking round to see that no bishop comes into the room. It is a comfort to me to think that Bishop Heber is dead. I gave up blushing five years ago when I entered the Secretariat; but if at this moment Sir William Jones were to enter, or Mr. Whitley Stokes with his child-like heart and his Cymric vocabulary, I believe I should be strangely affected.
The day welters on through drink and billiards. In the afternoon more joyful Planters drop in, and we play a rubber. From whist to the polo ground, where I see the merry men of Tirhoot play the best and fastest game that the world can show. At night carousals and potations pottle deep. Next morning sees the entire party in the _khadar_[V] of the river, mounted on Arabs, armed with spears, hunting Jamie Macdonald’s Caledonian boar. These Scotchmen never forget their nationality.
And while these joyful Planters are thus rejoicing, the indigo is growing silently all round. While they play, Nature works for them. So does the patient black man; he smokes his _huqqa_ and keeps an eye on the rising crop.
You will have learnt from Mr. Caird that indigo grows in cakes (the ale is imported); to his description of the process of manufacture I can only add that the juice is generally expressed in the vernacular. You give a cake of the raw material to a coloured servant, you stand over him to see that he doesn’t eat it, and your assistant canes him slowly as he squeezes the juice into a blue bottle. Blue pills are made of the refuse; your female servants use aniline dyes; and there you are. If any one dies in any other way you can refuse him the rites of cremation; fine him four annas; and warn him not to do it again. This is a burning question in Tirhoot and occasions much litigation.
Jamie Macdonald has now a contract for dyeing the Blue ribbons of the Turf; Tommy Begg has taken the blue boars and the Oxford Blues; and Bobby Thomas does the blue-books and the True Blues. It may not be generally known that the aristocracy do not employ aniline dyes for their blue blood. The minor Planters do business chiefly in blue stockings, blue bonnets, blue bottles, blue beards, and blue coats. For more information of this kind I can only refer you to Mr. Caird and the _Nineteenth Century_.
Some Planters grow tea, coffee, lac, mother-of-pearl, pickles, poppadums and curry powder–but now I am becoming encyclopaedic and scientific, and trespassing on ground already taken up by the Famine Commission.
Fewer Planters are killed now by wild camels who roam over the mango fields, but a good deal of damage is still done to the prickly pear-trees. Mr. Cunningham has written an interesting note on this. Rewards have still to be offered for dead tigers and persons who have died of starvation. “When the Government will not give a doit to relieve a lame beggar, they will lay out ten to see a dead Indian.”– ALI BABA, K.C.B.
A STUDY IN CHIARO-OSCURO
[Illustration: THE EURASIAN–“A study in chiaro oscuro.”]
[November 1, 1879.]
The Anglo-Indian has a very fine eye for colour. He will mark down “one anna in the rupee” with unerring certainty; he will suspect smaller coin. He will tell you how he can detect an adulterated European by his knuckles, his nails, his eyebrows, his pronunciation of the vowels, and his conception of propriety in dress, manner, and conduct.
To the thorough-bred Anglo-Indian, whose blood has distilled through Haileybury for three generations, and whose cousins to the fourth degree are Collectors and Indian Army Colonels, the Eurasian, however fair he may be, is a _bete noir_. Mrs. Ellenborough Higgins is always setting or pointing at black blood.
And sometimes the whitey-brown man is objectionable. He is vain, apt to take offence, sly, indolent, sensuous, and, like Reuben, “unstable as water.” He has a facile smile, a clammy hand, a manner either forward or obsequious, a mincing gait, and not always the snowiest linen. [In very dangerous cases he has a peculiar smell.]
Towards natives the Eurasian is cold, haughty, and formal; and this attitude is repaid, with interest, in scorn and hatred. There is no concealing the fact that to the mild Gentoo the Eurasian is a very distasteful object.
But having said this, the case for the prosecution closes, and we may turn to the many soft and gentle graces which the Eurasian develops.
In all the relations of family life the Eurasian is admirable. He is a dutiful son, a circumspect husband, and an affectionate father. He seldom runs through a fortune; he hardly ever elopes with a young lady of fashion; he is not in the habit of cutting off his son with a shilling; and he is an infrequent worshipper in that Temple of Separation where _Decrees Nisi_ sever the Gordian knots of Hymen.
As a citizen he is zealously loyal. He will speak at municipal meetings, write letters about drainage and conservancy to the papers, observe local holidays in his best clothes, and attend funerals.
The Eurasian is a methodical and trustworthy clerk, and often occupies a position of great trust and responsibility in our public offices. He is not bold or original, like Sir Andrew Clarke; or amusing, like Mr. Stokes; but he does what work is given him to do without overstepping the modesty of nature.
[Most Eurasians are Catholics; but some belong to the small Protestant heresies and call themselves Presbyterians, Anabaptists, and what not. To whatever creed they attach themselves, they are faithful and devoted; but the pageantry, the music, the antiquity, and the mystery of the ancient Church, draw forth, with the most potent spells, the fervour of their warm, emotional natures. They are never sceptical: the harder a doctrine is to believe the more they like it; the more improbable a tradition is the more tenaciously they cling to it. They are attracted by the supernatural and the horrible; they would not bate a single saint or devil of the complete faith to rescue all the truths of modern science from the ban of the Church.]
The Eurasian girl is often pretty and graceful; and, if the solution of India in her veins be weak, there is an unconventionality and _naivete_ sometimes which undoubtedly has a charm; and which, my dear friend, J.H—-, of the 110th Clodhoppers (Lord Cardwell’s Own Clodhoppers) never could resist: “What though upon her lips there hung the accents of the tchi-tchi tongue.”
A good many Eurasians who are not clerks in public offices, or telegraph signallers, or merchants, are loafers. They are passed on wherever they are found, to the next station, and thus they are kept in healthy circulation throughout India. They are all in search of employment on the railway; but as a provisional arrangement, to meet the more immediate and pressing exigencies of life, they will accept a small gratuity, [or engage themselves in snapping up unconsidered trifles]. They are mainly supported by municipalities, who keep them in brandy, rice, and railway-tickets out of funds raised for this purpose. Workhouses and Malacca canes have still to be tried.
Bishop Gell’s plan for colonising the Laccadives and Cocos with these loafers has not met with much acceptance at Simla. The Home Secretary does not see from what Imperial fund they can be supplied with bathing-drawers and barrel-organs; but the Home Secretary ought to know that there is a philanthropic society at Lucknow of the disinterested, romantic, Turnerelli type, ready to furnish all the wants of a young colony, from underclothing to Eno’s fruit salt.
A great many wise proposals emanate from Simla as regards some artificial future for the Eurasian. One Ten-thousand-pounder asks Creation in a petulant tone of surprise why Creation does not make the Eurasian a carpenter; another looks round the windy hills and wonders why somebody does not make the Eurasian a high farmer. The shovel hats are surprised that the Eurasian does not become a missionary, or a schoolmaster, or a policeman, or something of that sort. The native papers say, “Deport him”; the white prints say, “Make him a soldier”; and the Eurasian himself says, “Make me a Commissioner, or give me a pension.” In the meantime, while nothing is being done, we can rail at the Eurasian for not being as we are.
“Let us sit on the thrones
In a purple sublimity,
And grind down men’s bones
To a pale unanimity.”
There is no proper classification of the mixed race in India as there is in America. The convenient term _quadroon_, for instance, instead of “four annas in the rupee,” is quite unknown; the consequence is that every one–from Anna Maria de Souza, the “Portuguese” cook, a nobleman on whose cheek the best shoe-blacking would leave a white mark, to pretty Miss Fitzalan Courtney, of the Bombay Fencibles, who is as white as an Italian princess–is called an “Eurasian.”
“Do you know, dear Vanity, that it is not impossible that King Asoka (of the Edict Pillars), the ‘Constantine of Buddhism,’ was an Eurasian? I have not got the works of Arrian, or Mr. Lethbridge’s ‘History of the World’ at hand, but I have some recollection of Sandracottus, or one of Asoka’s fathers or grandfathers, marrying a Miss Megasthenes, or Seleucus. With such memories no wonder they call us ‘Mean Whites.'”–ALI BABA, K.C.B.
“Venio nunc ad voluptates agricolarum, quibus ego” (like the Famine Commissioners) “incredibiliter delector.”
[November 8, 1879.]
I missed two people at the Delhi Assemblage of 1877. All the gram-fed secretaries and most of the alcoholic chiefs were there; but the famine-haunted villager and the delirium-shattered, opium-eating Chinaman, who had to pay the bill, were not present.
I cannot understand why Viceroys and English newspapers call the Indian cultivator a “riot.” He never amounts to a riot if you treat him properly. He may be a disorderly crowd sometimes; but that is only when you embody him in a police force or convert him into cavalry. The atomic disembodied villager has no notion of rioting, _ca-ira_ singing, or any of the tomfooleries of revolution. These pastimes are for men who are both idle and frivolous. When our villager wants to realise a political idea, he dies of famine. This has about it a certain air of seriousness. A man will not die of famine unless he be