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These of course are very apt to suppose that the same is the condition of professing Christians, who do not hesitate to collect revenues and superintend processions for the benefit of Hindoo or Mussulman temples. Sincere Hindoos and sincere Mussulmans, on the other hand, must be shocked with our interference. Nobody but the priest who pockets the money will ever thank us, and he despises us too. Where anything has been undertaken in a distinct Treaty with an as yet independent State, the obligation, however unfortunate, must be discharged: but we should never step one inch beyond what the exact letter of the compact binds us to.
The Suttee was in full vigour when Dr. Henry made the voyage. We must quote one of his shortest descriptions of it:
· This cruel scene took place close to the water's edge, near a huge banyan-tree, whose branches, spreading far and wide, were supported by the vigorous shoots they had sent down into the earth-now grown into strong pillars—like decrepit parents by the piety of their children. It was about ten o'clock at night, and, I suppose, two hundred people were present. The victim was very young---not more than seventeen or eighteen—and though looking a little wild, yet she distributed the flowers and sweetmeats to her friends and relations with a certain degree of composure ; and then mounted the pyre with a firm step, kissed her husband's lips, and lay down beside him. Before this time several fruitless attempts had been made by two of my brother officers and myself to dissuade her from this terrible self-sacrifice-No, no-if she lived she would be an outcast from society-forced to perform the lowest offices lose her high caste (she was a Brahmin) and be contemned and despised henceforward by all her acquaintances, friends, and relatives. Thus artfully have the Hindoo priests intertwined their sanguinary rites with human pride and vanity, and made these cogent principles subservient to their own ambitious and avaricious purposes.
• As soon as this unfortunate woman had placed herself beside her husband, a kind of cage, made of bamboos, was put over them, emeared with ghee, or buffalo-butter, to make it more combustible, and a horrible din of tom-toms, gongs and human voices was set up, evidently for the purpose of stifling the poor creature's cries. A quantity of dry wood, leaves, &c., surrounded the funeral pile, and was now set fire to, and blazed up fiercely at once, so as in all probability to save further suffering, and suffocate the victim in a few seconds. In a short time the whole was one glowing flame, which, when swayed to one side by the wind, gave the spectators a glimpse of the two blackened objects in the centre. It was altogether a dreadful sight-an infernal sacrifice, at the perpetration of which demons might rejoice!'-vol. i. pp. 188, 189
Well may the Doctor exclaim
· When we witness all these horrors in heathen lands, it is scarcely possible for the most thoughtless to avoid reflecting on the infinite obligations our favoured quarter of the globe is under to Christianity, and society generally, in all places peryaded by its influence. Christian
women, too, have been placed under a vast debt of gratitude to this benign religion. Its divine Founder raised them to an equality with the other sex, by his countenance and gracious society when he lived on earth, and by the ennobling influence of his doctrines ever since, and the tone of purity which they have shed over human relations. Fresh triumphs of Christianity in favour of the weaker, but more virtuous sex, are now passing daily before our eyes, amongst which the recent abolition of female infanticide and widow-burnings in the East stand out in strong relief. In the Polynesian Archipelago we also witness the progressive instruction, purification, and elevation of the female savage in the social scale-or rather, we see the elements of society created where all was dark, dismal, and bloody barbarism before.
And well, and zealously, and affectionately, has woman paid her tribute of good works for the benefits her sex has received from Christianity, from the very times of its first promulgation till the present day. Indeed its propagation, under a superintending Providence, was much dependant on the ministry of women, and their powerful suasion with the rougher half of mankind; and amidst multiplied instances of early bad conduct and apostacy amongst men-there is only one solitary case of female guilt amongst the Apostolic converts; and she, Sapphira, acted plainly under the evil influence of her husband. No woman ever slighted, or neglected, or despised, or blasphemed, or betrayed the Author of Christianity, or any of his Apostles-No-no.
"" She ne'er with treacherous kiss her Saviour stung
Nor e'er denied him with unholy tongue:
Last at his cross, and earliest at his grave!” - vol. i. p. 190.
It is not often that our author rises from his easy sensible conversational tone; but passages like this tell all the better for their paucity. Turn a leaf and we find him in his usual veinnarrating how the commanding officer had two pretty maiden sisters on board, and how the surgeon acquitted himself as their courteous squire :
One calm and clear evening, when the fleet had lagowed for the night at a rich mango tope, with smooth velvet turf underfoot, the sisters, the colonel, and myself, strolled along the beautiful bank—the elder on his arm and the younger on mine. The pairs, however, soon separated, and my companion and I sauntered along, following a path through the trees, until sunset: we then discovered that we were two miles from the boats, and the short twilight of the East soon began to darken apace. Hastening home, we left the circuitous path we had come by and tried a near-cut through a field; but here an unforeseen obstacle interposed. A rivulet, which higher up we had crossed by a rustic bridge of a log thrown over it, had become wider and deeper as it approached the Ganges, and now required a good running leap. In this dilemma I proposed to go round by the bridge, but my young friend would not hear of it—“You have no idea how active I am-jump first
and I'll bet you a pair of gloves I'll follow.” Then, after another remonstrance, and the expression of a hope, as delicately as such an idea could be embodied in words, that her under-garments were sufficiently capacious—I jumped over. Angela then took a running leap, following the leader ; but, alas! the petticoats of those days were very circumscribed-the envious muslin clung around, and hampered the active limbs of the unfortunate young lady; who, arrested in mid career, uttered a piercing shriek and plumped into the middle of the torrent.
At first I could not help a slight laugh, but I soon perceived it was no laughing matter, as the stream was six or seven feet deep and running with great rapidity, and I knew not well what to do. Throwing myself in, however gallant and chivalrous, would be useless, as I should also be borne away by the strong current. So, telling Angela there was no danger, I ran down the bank, parallel with the floating and screaming beauty, and waiting for a favourable opportunity to make a snatch, After one or two failures I caught her bonnet, but the riband under the chin gave way, and down the torrent she went, with her loosened hair streaming behind her on the water like a mermaid's. At last, when she had been carried down a hundred yards, I succeeded in seizing a handful of her humid tresses, and brought her safe to land.
· Poor lady, she was sadly frightened ; and as she clung to me more affectionately than was quite comfortable, considering the state of her clothes, I heard such honeyed expressions as “ guardian angel,” “preserver of my life," " debt of everlasting gratitude," uttered, sotto voce ; which, however, I was not bound to hear. She deferred the hysterics until we reached the boat, but then we had them in abundance.'-vol.i. pp. 196-198.
There is a rather un-Hibernian touch of coldness in the Doctor's conduct here, or at least in his way of telling it ; but we beg our fair readers not to be too hasty in their judgment. His uncommon apparent callousness to the grateful exclamations of the rescued damsel is sufficiently accounted for by an incident recorded in the chapter immediately preceding. The staff-surgeon appears throughout his book as one of the most susceptible of his gallant nation; but on this occasion he was armed in proof. A certain part of the human fabric which does not in his case deserve to be considered as merely “one of the larger viscera,' had just undergone a serious laceration, and the wound was now protected by the first hardness of cicatriz formata. In justice to the gentleman we must turn back for a moment to his encampment at Dinapore, which the regiment had reached on the 20th of March.
While here our friend had suffered terribly from heat of the climate in the first instance; and secondly from the bright eyes of a certain Miss S- M. He describes very pleasantly both these sorts of miseries. “There was no moving out of the house except for an hour in the
morning morning and evening; and all day within, existence was little better than a succession of gasps and gapes. : 'Perhaps one's breakfast is the only meal eaten in India ; all the rest are sad piddling work and merely a form. When I returned from my professional duty there was, primo, my shave-and I take some credit for having virtuously resisted all temptations here to soapy-sloth—for I was always my own barber. Secundo, my refreshing shower-bath. Tertio, a breakfast of the first order of merit; and quarto, my hookah. For, ever watchful at his post, behind my arm-chair, there stood Bhastee Rhamm waiting for the close of the meal to hand “ Doctor Saahib ” the incomparable chillum; and to retire, with the usual low salaam, to a reverential distance, until the nod of approbation from his master should make him happy. Then were the feet thrown carelessly upon the table—the odoriferous smoke was slowly inhaled, and the ample bowl of Mandarin tea, its morning accompaniment, sipped voluptuously.
• After an hour spent thus, the rest of the day, it must be confessed, was heavy in hand. There was no reading attentively without headache
-writing involved perspiration to a dissolving extent. Playing backgammon-in addition to the necessity of dry linen every hit or twoburst the tympanum. Playing chess burst the brain. Playing billiards was a labour of Hercules. Thus, were there great difficulties in finding any rational mode of passing the day; and, for want of a better, I thought I might as well fall in love. : 'I by no means wonder that this said inexplicable matter, love, has been so much and so universally lauded in all ages and nations. If it were for no nobler reason than the entire exemption from feeling the little ills and inconveniences of life which a true passion confers—and the gilding which it sheds upon the homely landscapes around us-it would be deserving of all praise. Truly, as Wordsworth expresses itwho no doubt spoke from experience
“ There is a comfort in the strength of love;
'Twill make a thing endurable, which else
Would overset the brain.” When I fell in love, I suddenly found myself proof against all the désagrémens of hot winds, mosquitoes, blue devils, and all that was diabolical in Dinapore. My passion was a conductor through which all atmospherical annoyances and disturbances passed without molestation or injury, after it was once set up. Independent of this subordinate and somewhat selfish consideration, there is no small delight in making yourself agreeable to a pleasing young woman; in discerning daily new chords and harmonies of feeling, and sentiment, and opinion between her and yourself; and in seeing with your own eyes the growing expansion of little buds of amiability into lovely flowers; not to mention the thought that the sweet bouquet they will make is to be worn in your own bosom.'-vol. i. p. 179.
In a word, the Doctor amused himself charmingly during six weeks, and though nothing had ever been said about love, the gentleman had looked it in so many ways, without perceiving any
symptoms symptoms of displeasure, that at any given moment the fatal declaration might be very likely to escape from his lips. We gather that the thing occurred under very pretty circumstances—to wit, at the close of a ball, as he escorted his fair friend to her own door by moonlight. What he said, or what she answered, we are not told; but the lover passed a sleepless night until he had his couch conveyed out into his verandah :
• The graceful form of S-- was painted in my sleeping fancy, dressed in bridal white, and her fair countenance radiant with smiles. She presented me a letter with a myrtle-leaf for the device of the seal, and the words, “Je ne change qu'en mourant,” impressed upon the wax. I seized the letter and opened it. Then, awful sound, a loud clap of thunder awoke me at the instant; not visionary and unreal, but substantial, pealing, atmospheric thunder ; accompanied by the most vivid and incessant lightning, and a deluge of rain, which soon dispelled the beautiful illusion, and sent me into the house wet to the skin."
Unfortunately this hot night, in which I had chosen to sleep al fresco, and to dream all manner of delightful things, was the breaking up of the monsoon, which is always terminated by a terrific storm. The elements continued to roar away without intermission for four or five hours; and the resplendent lightning, as it illuminated the big drops of rain with the brightest prismatic colours, appeared as playful as if it was the most harmless thing in nature.
· The change in the aspect of the vegetable world next morning was most striking; the four months' dust had been washed off the face of the earth; the grass had already begun to show its tender green; the air was cool, clear, and balmy, and the frame felt refreshed as the lungs gulped in the invigorating Anid; and the spirits, long depressed by heat, dust, and other discomforts, recovered their elasticity and cheerfulness.
I breakfasted with the M- s, but S- did not make her appearance. There appeared a gêné and singular air about the whole ménage, especially in the deportment of the host and his wife, much at variance with everything I had before witnessed in that happy and united family. After breakfast M— requested me to walk into the library, and thus addressed me: “My dear fellow, I perceive there has been a sad mistake. We all esteem you highly, and wish for the continuance of your friendship; but-but-S has been for some months engaged to be married to a gentleman in Calcutta.”
'When one cannot adequately express excited feelings on any subject it is wise to be silent; a line of conduct sanctioned by great examples, and convenient on the present occasion.
* Crabbe's graphic pen has described the different appearance of external nature under opposite moods of mind, in the case of a lover visiting his mistress, and returning from the interview.* I cannot approach within a thousand leagues of his inimitable touches, but I can tell in my own homely way how miserable I felt that day. As I returned, the air, so deliciously pure in the morning, felt muggy and unrespirable; the * See the Lover's Journey.