Residences for the Governor--Parell--Its Gardens--Profusion of
Roses--Receptions at Government-house--The evening-parties--The
grounds and gardens of Parell inferior to those at Barrackpore--The
Duke of Wellington partial to Parell--Anecdotes of his Grace
in India--Sir James Mackintosh--His forgetfulness of India--The
Horticultural Society--Malabar Point, a retreat in the hot
weather--The Sea-view beautiful--The nuisance of fish--Serious effects
at Bombay of the stoppage of the trade with China--Ill-condition
of the poorer classes of Natives--Frequency of Fires--Houses of the
Parsees--Parsee Women--Masculine air of the other Native Females
of the lower orders who appear in
public--Bangle-shops--Liqueur-shops--Drunkenness amongst Natives
not uncommon here, from the temptations held out--The Sailors'
Home--Arabs, Greeks, Chinamen--The latter few and shabby--Portuguese
Padres--Superiority of the Native Town of Bombay over that of
Calcutta--Statue of Lord Cornwallis--Bullock-carriages--High price and
inferiority of horses in Bombay--Hay-stacks--Novel mode of stacking.
There are three residences for the accommodation of the Governor of Bombay; one, the Castle, situated within the Fort, has been long disused, and appropriated to government-offices; a second, at Malabar Point, is intended as a retreat for the hot weather; Parell, the third, being the mansion most usually occupied.
Though not built in a commanding position, Parell is very prettily situated in the midst of gardens, having a rich back-ground of wood, while, from the upper windows, the eye, after ranging over these luxuriant groves, catches a view of the sea, and is carried away to more remote regions by the waving outline of distant hills, melting into the soft haze until it effaces all their details.
Parell was originally a college of Jesuits, and, after so many alterations and improvements, that its original occupants would be puzzled to recognise it, is now rendered worthy of the purpose to which it is dedicated. The house is an irregular structure, without pretension to architectural design or ornament, but having something noble in its appearance, which is helped out by a fine portico and battlemented roof. The interior is handsome and convenient; two flights of marble stairs, twelve feet broad, lead into a very spacious drawing-room, with galleries on either side, and three smaller drawing-rooms beyond. The terrace over the portico, at the other end, separated from this suite of apartments by a verandah, is easily convertible into a fourth reception-room, it being roofed in by an awning, and furnished with blinds, which in the day-time give a very Italian air to the whole building.
Though I have never been in Italy, the acquaintance gained of it through the medium of illustrating pens and pencils makes me fancy that the island of Bombay, and Parell especially, at this season of the year (the cold weather), may bear a strong resemblance to that fair and sunny land.
The gardens of Parell are perfectly Italian, with their fountains and cypress trees; though regular, they are not sufficiently symmetrical to offend the eye, the nature of the ground and of the building, which runs out at right angles, preventing the formality from being carried beyond its just limit. Price, the most judicious of landscape-gardeners, would scarcely have desired to alter arrangements which have quite enough of the varied and the picturesque to satisfy those who do not contend for eternal labyrinthine mazes and perpetually waving lines. There is one straight avenue in front, but the principal carriage-road has just the kind of curve most desirable, sweeping round some fine trees which group themselves for the purpose of affording an agreeable diversity.
A broad terrace, overlooking a large tank, runs along one side of the garden, and beyond, upon a rising hill, are seen the New Horticultural Gardens, and a part of the picturesque village of Metunga, while the rest is laid out in small lawns, interspersed with rounds and ovals, fountains in the centre, surrounded by flower-beds, and flanked by tall, slender cypresses, and the more rare, delicate, and elegant species of palms: all this is set off by clumps of mangoes, now covered with blossoms of dark gold burnishing their green leaves.
It is, indeed, a fair and stately garden, enriched with many native and foreign productions, both of tree and flower, of great beauty. In one place, two large trees, on either side a broad gravel walk, are united by a splendid festoon, formed by a creeper, which bears in the greatest profusion bell-shaped flowers, at least four inches long, and of the most beautiful pearly whiteness and fragrant scent. I regret that my want of botanical knowledge incapacitates me from giving its name and family. That species of palm which is called the Travellers' Tree, and which, growing in sandy places, contains in its leaves an ample supply of fresh water, is to be found here. It resembles the banana or plantain, in its broad leaves, springing immediately from the stem, but attains a much greater height, and is altogether very striking and singular in its appearance.
The wealth of roses at the gardens of Parell seems to exceed all computation, bushels being collected every day without any apparent diminution; indeed it may be questioned whether there is in any part of the world so great a consumption of this beautiful flower as in Bombay. The natives cultivate it very largely, and as comparatively few employ it in the manufacture of rose-water, it is gathered and given away in the most lavish profusion. At Parell, every morning, one of the gardeners renews the flowers which decorate the apartments of the guests; bouquets are placed upon the breakfast-table, which, though formal, are made up after the most approved Parisian fashion, the natives being exceedingly skilful in the arrangement of flowers. Vases filled with roses meet the eye in every direction, flowers which assume their supremacy over all other daughters of Flora, though there are many beautiful specimens, the common productions of the gardens, which are rarely found even in hothouses in England.
The society of Bombay enjoys the great advantage arising from the presence of the ladies of the Governor's family, who have rendered themselves most deservedly popular by the frequency and the agreeableness of their entertainments, and the kind attention which they pay to every invited guest. The slight forms that are kept up at Government-house are just sufficient to give a somewhat courtly air to these parties without depriving them of their sociability. Morning visitors are received once a-week, and upon these occasions Parell assumes a very gay appearance.
The band, which is an excellent one, is stationed in the hall below, playing occasionally the most popular compositions of the day, while its pillared verandah is filled with liveried servants, handsomely dressed in scarlet, white, and gold. The ample staircases are lined with flowers, and as the carriages drive up, the aide-de-camps and other military resident guests are in readiness to receive the visitors, and to usher them up stairs, and introduce them to the ladies of the family.
The morning reception lasts from eleven until two, and the numerous arrivals from distant stations, or from England, officers continually coming down from the army or the dominions of foreign princes, give occasion to conversations of great interest, while it forms a rallying-point to the whole of Bombay. The evening parties are distinguished for the excellence of the music, the band having improved greatly under the stimulating influence of the ladies of the Governor's family, who are all delightful performers, one especially excelling. In addition, therefore, to their own talents, all the musical genius of Bombay is put into requisition, and the result is shown in some very charming episodes between the dancing.
At these evening parties, the brilliance of the lights, and the beauty of the flowers, which in the supper-room especially are very tastefully displayed, render the scene extremely attractive. One very pleasing feature must not be omitted; in the ante-room is placed a large silver salver, filled with bouquets, which are presented, according to the Oriental custom, to every guest. The number and variety of the uniforms, and the large proportion of native gentlemen, add much to the gaiety of the appearance of these parties, and the eye most accustomed to European splendour may find pleasure in roaming over these spacious, well-filled, and brilliantly illuminated apartments.
Nor is it the interior alone that attracts; on the still moonlight nights, which are so beautiful in India, the scenery viewed from the windows assumes a peculiar and almost magical appearance, looking more like a painting than living reality. The trees, so motionless that not a leaf stirs, present a picture of such unbroken repose, that we can scarcely imagine it to be real; the sky seems to be drawn closer to us, while the whole breathes of divine art, suggesting poetry and music and thoughts of Paradise.
In England I remember feeling a longing desire to breathe the delicious balm, and gaze upon the exquisite effects of an Indian night again, with its tone of soft beauty and the silvery mystery of its atmosphere, which adds so great a charm to the rich magnificence of the foliage; and now I fancy that I can never sufficiently drink in a scene, not only lovely in itself, but peculiarly delightful from its contrast to the glare of the day.
The grounds and gardens of Parell, in extent and splendour, will bear no comparison with those of Barrackpore, which are, perhaps, some of the finest in the world, and which must be explored in carriages or on horseback, while the plantations and parterres at this place offer nothing more than agreeable walks, which perhaps, after all, afford superior gratification; at least to those who prefer a feeling of home to the admiration elicited by great splendour.
Not one of the least pleasing sensations excited by a residence at Parell, is the recollection of the distinguished persons who have inhabited the same chambers, and sat in the same halls. The Duke of Wellington is said frequently to have expressed a partiality for Parell, and to look back to the days of his sojourn within its walls with pleasure. Here he reposed after those battles in which he laid the foundation of his future glory, and to which, after long experience, and so many subsequent triumphs as almost to eclipse their splendour, he recurs with peculiar satisfaction. So far from underrating, as is the fashion with many of the military servants of the Crown, the merits of a successful campaign in India, the great captain of the age, than whom there can be no better judge, rates the laurels that he gathered in his earliest fields as highly as those wrested from the soldiers of France, glorying in the title given him by Napoleon, of "the Sepoy General."
Few things can be more agreeable than listening to anecdotes told at the dinner-table at Parell of the Duke of Wellington by officers who have formerly sat at the same board with him, who have served under his command in India, and who delight in recording those early traits of character which impressed all who knew him with the conviction that he was destined to become the greatest man of the age. The Duke of Wellington, though wholly unacquainted with the language spoken in India, was always held in the highest esteem by the natives, with whom, generally speaking, in order to become popular, it is absolutely necessary to be able to converse in their own tongue. He obtained, however, a perfect knowledge of their modes of feeling, thinking, and acting, and by a liberal policy, never before experienced, endeared himself to all ranks and classes. It is recollected at this day that, in times of scarcity, he ordered all the rice sent up for the subsistence of the troops to be sold, at a moderate price, to the starving multitude; and that, while more short-sighted people prophesied the worst results from this measure, it obtained for him abundant supplies, together with a name that will never be forgotten.
A re-perusal at Parell of the "Life of Sir James Mackintosh" also affords interest, though of a different kind. The house which Sir James designates as large and convenient, with two really good rooms, has been much improved since his time. It could not be expected that a man like Sir James Mackintosh would employ many words in the description of a mansion chiefly interesting on account of its former occupants; but that he should have dismissed the whole of the presidency in as summary a manner, seems perfectly unaccountable.
It does not appear that the importance and value of British India ever made any strong impression upon Sir James Mackintosh, who seems to have looked upon its various inhabitants with a cold and careless eye; to have done nothing in the way of making the people of England better acquainted with their fellow-subjects in the East, and never to have felt any desire to assist in the work of their improvement, or to facilitate its progress. During his subsequent career, India appears to have been totally forgotten, or remembered only as the scene of an exile, in which he had found nothing to compensate for the loss of literary society and the learned idling away of time, from which so much was expected, and which produced so little.
The eloquence of Sir James Mackintosh, if exerted in favour of British India, might, years before, have excited that interest in its behalf, which remained dormant until Bishop Heber created a new feeling upon the subject; and in this place especially, I cannot help regretting that the powers of so great a mind should not have been devoted to the promotion of the welfare of a country dependant upon England for intellectual and moral improvement, and which, in the eyes of all reflecting persons, must be looked upon as the strongest support of England's ancient glory.
The garden of the Horticultural Society, which occupies a convenient space of ground near Parell, is yet in an infant state, but bids fair in a short time to add very considerably to the pleasures of those persons who take delight in the cultivation of flowers and fruits. Many gentlemen are stimulating their gardeners to make great exertions for the prizes, which it is expected will be chiefly carried away at the ensuing meeting by exhibitors from the Deccan. Though there are several very good gardens in the island, they are, according to all accounts, greatly excelled in other parts of the presidency.
The system of cultivation carried on by the Horticultural Society will, no doubt, tend very considerably to their improvement, while the new method of conveying plants to and from distant places, in boxes covered with glass, will soon enrich all the gardens, both in India and at home, with interesting exotics. Several of these cases, filled with bulbous and other roots, under the inspection of Messrs. Loddiges, have arrived at Parell, and been planted out in pots; the eases will be returned, filled with equally valuable specimens of Indian products; and thus a continual interchange may be kept up.
I wished much to enrich the collection of foreign plants making by the Royal Botanical Society of London, by some of the most interesting specimens of Indian growth, feeling deeply interested in the success of this institution; but not being a practical gardener myself, I have as yet been unable to fulfil my intentions. I calculated, perhaps, too strongly upon the desire of scientific people in Bombay to promote objects of general utility at home, and see little chance, unless I do every thing relating to the collecting, planting, packing, and transmitting the plants with my own hands, of succeeding in sending any thing to England. Indeed, I find a difficulty in procuring a hortus siccus.
As every body, who can possibly get away, leaves Bombay during the hot weather and the rains, the residence at Malabar Point, intended as a retreat in the sultry season, is seldom tenanted by the Governor's family. The house, however, is not very often empty, being generally occupied by some great person and his suite, such as newly-arrived commanders-in-chief, who are accommodated at this establishment until they can provide for themselves. The principal residence, and several bungalows attached to it, are erected on the side of a hill overlooking and washed by the sea. The views are beautiful, the harbour affording at all times a scene of great liveliness and interest, while the aerial summits of the hills in the distance, and their purple splendours, complete the charm. The numerous fairy-like skiffs, with their white sails, catching the sunlight, give life and movement to the picture, while the cottages of the fishermen are often placed with happy effect upon the neighbouring shore.
There are, unfortunately, serious drawbacks to the enjoyment which the eye derives from the gliding boats and palm-crowned huts; the amusement of yachting being seriously impeded by the method of spreading nets, for the purpose of capturing the finny tribes, while, in consequence of the immense quantity which is caught, the whole island occasionally smells of fish. The fishermen have certain places secured to them by law, in which they drive immense stakes, usually the trunks of palm-trees, and between these stakes they fasten their nets, any damage done to them by passing boats being punishable by a fine; the navigation of the harbour, to those who wish to visit its beautiful islands, is, in consequence, rather difficult, and would scarcely admit of being carried on by those small steamers, which render every place in the neighbourhood of Calcutta so accessible.
The boats here, with the exception of private yachts, which are not numerous, are a disgrace to a civilized place. Nothing can be easily imagined to be worse than the pattamars usually employed for the conveyance of troops and travellers to distant points; they are dirty, many so low in the roof that the passengers cannot stand upright in them, and filled with insects and vermin.
The abundance and cheapness of fish render it the common food of the lower classes, and consequently its effluvia sometimes pervade the whole atmosphere. The smell of frying fish, with its accompaniment of oil, is sufficiently disagreeable; but this is not all; a much more powerful odour arises from fish drying for future use, while, as it is commonly spread over the fields and employed as manure, the scents wafted by the breezes upon these occasions breathe any thing but perfume.
There are many very delicate kinds of fish, which are held in great esteem, to be seen at European tables; but, to a stranger, the smell of the refuse allowed to decay is quite enough, and habit must reconcile the residents of Bombay to this unpleasant assailant of the olfactory nerves, before they can relish the finest specimens of pomfret or other favourite. As it can always be purchased freshly caught, fish appears at dinner as well as at the breakfast-table in Bombay; the list of shell-fish includes oysters, which, though not so tempting in their appearance as those of England, are of excellent quality.
The fishermen, like those of Europe, leave the sale of their fish to their wives, who are said to be a busy, bustling, active race, quite equal to the tasks which devolve upon them, and, in consequence of the command which their occupation gives them over the pecuniary receipts of the house, exerting a proportionate degree of authority.
Fishermen's huts, though very picturesque, are not usually remarkable for their neatness or their cleanliness, and those of Bombay form no exception to their general appearance. They are usually surrounded by a crowd of amphibious animals, in the shape of tribes of children, who for the most part are perfectly free from the incumbrance of drapery. Many, who have not a single rag to cover them, are, notwithstanding, adorned with gold or silver ornaments, and some ingeniously transform a pocket-handkerchief into a toga, or mantle, by tying two ends round the throat, and leaving the remainder to float down behind, so that they are well covered on one side, and perfectly bare on the other. Amid the freaks of costume exhibited at Bombay, an undue preference seems to be given to the upper portion of the person, which is frequently well covered by a warm jacket with long sleeves, while the lower limbs are entirely unclad.
There is said to be cotton goods to the amount of a million sterling lying in the godowns and warehouses of Bombay, unemployed, in consequence of the stoppage of the China trade, and it seems a pity that the multitudes who wear gold chains about their necks, and gold ear-rings in their ears, could not be prevailed upon to exchange a part of this metal for a few yards of covering of some kind or other, of which apparently they stand much in need.
Great numbers of the poorer classes seem to be ill-fed, ill-lodged, and worse clothed; yet scantiness in this particular is certainly not always the result of poverty, as the redundance of precious ornaments above mentioned can witness. Neither does the wretched manner in which many belonging to the lower orders of Bombay shelter themselves from the elements appear to be an absolute necessity, and it is a pity that some regulations should not be made to substitute a better method of constructing the sheds in which so many poor people find a dwelling-place. The precaution of raising the floor even a few inches above the ground is not observed in these miserable hovels, and their inhabitants, often destitute of bedsteads, sleep with nothing but a mat, and perhaps not even that, between them and the bare earth.
At this season of the year, when no rain falls, the palm-branches with which these huts are thatched are so carelessly placed, as to present large apertures, which expose the inmates to sun-beams and to dews, both of which, so freely admitted into a dwelling, cannot fail to produce the most injurious effects. Were these houses raised a foot or two from the ground, and well roofed with the dry palm-branches, which seem to supply so cheap and efficient a material, they would prove no despicable abodes in a country in which only at one season of the year, the rains, very substantial shelter is required.
As it may be supposed, conflagrations are frequent in these hovels; they are fortunately seldom attended with loss of life, or even of much property, since the household furniture and wardrobes of the family can be easily secured and carried off, while the people themselves have nothing to do but to walk out. On these occasions, the rats are seen to decamp in large troops, and gentlemen, returning home from drives or parties, are often arrested by a fire, and by the instructions they afford, do much towards staying the progress of the flames, while the greater number of natives, Parsees in particular, look quietly on, without offering to render the slightest assistance. Whole clusters of huts are in this manner very frequently entirely consumed; the mischief does not spread farther, and would be little to be lamented should it lead to the entire demolition of dwelling-places equally unsightly, and prejudicial to health.
Much to my astonishment, I have seen, in the midst of these very wretched tenements, one superior to the rest placed upon a platform, with its verandah in front, furnished with chairs, and surrounded by all the dirt and rubbish accumulated by its poverty-stricken neighbours, miserable-looking children picking up a scanty subsistence, and lean cats groping about for food. Such houses are, besides, exposed to all the dangers of fire originating in the adjoining premises; but apparently this circumstance has been overlooked, together with the expediency of building a little apart from the horrors of the surrounding abominations. This is the more remarkable, from the contrast it affords to the air of comfort which is so often manifest in the inferior dwellings of the natives of Bombay.
I often, in my drives, come upon a small patch of ground, well cultivated, and boasting vegetables, fruits, and flowers, with a small low-roofed house of unbaked mud in one corner, having a verandah all round, well tiled and supported on bamboos. It is difficult under this sloping roof to get a peep at the interior, but my efforts have been rewarded by the sight of floors cleanly swept, bedsteads, and those articles of furniture which can scarcely be dispensed with without suffering considerable privation.
As yet, I have not been able to discover to what class of persons these kind of dwellings belong, but I suspect that they are tenanted chiefly by Parsees, a money-getting and luxurious race of people, who are sufficiently industrious to exert themselves, with great perseverance, to gain a living, and have the spirit to spend their money upon the comforts and conveniences of life. They are accused of extravagance in this particular, and perhaps do occasionally exceed; but, generally speaking, their style of living is more commendable than that of the Hindus, who carry their thrift and parsimony to an outrageous height.
Near their houses very graceful groups of Parsee women and children are to be seen, who, upon the encouragement afforded by a smile, salaam and smile again, apparently well-pleased with the notice taken of them by English ladies. These women are always well-dressed, and most frequently in silk of bright and beautiful colours, worn as a saree over a tight-fitting bodice of some gay material. The manner in which the saree is folded over the head and limbs renders it a graceful and becoming costume, which might be imitated with great propriety by the Hindu women, who certainly do not appear to study either taste or delicacy in their mode of dress.
I may have made the remark before, for it is impossible to avoid the recurrence of observations continually elicited by some new proofs of the contrast between the women upon this side of India, and their more elegant sisters on the banks of the Hooghly. Here all the women, the Parsees excepted, who appear in public, have a bold masculine air; any beauty which they may have ever possessed is effaced, in the very lower orders, by hard work and exposure to the weather, while those not subjected to the same disadvantages, and who occupy a better situation, have little pretensions to good looks. Many are seen employed in drawing water, or some trifling household work, wearing garments of a texture which shews that they are not indebted to laborious occupation for a subsistence; and while the same class in Bengal would studiously conceal their faces, no trouble whatever of the kind is taken here. They are possibly Mahrattas, which will account for their carelessness; but I could wish that, with superior freedom from absurd restraint, they had preserved greater modesty of demeanour.
The number of shops in the bazaars for the sale of one peculiar ornament, common glass rings for bracelets, and the immense quantities of the article, are quite surprising; all the native women wear these bangles, which are made of every colour. The liqueur-shops are also very common and very conspicuous, being distinguished by the brilliant colours of the beverage shown through bottles of clear white glass. What pretensions this rose and amber tinted fluid may have to compete with the liqueurs most esteemed in Europe, I have not been able to learn. Toddy-shops, easily recognised by the barrels they contain upon tap, and the drinking-vessels placed beside them, seem almost as numerous as the gin-palaces of London, arguing little for the sobriety of the inhabitants of Bombay. In the drive home through the bazaar, it is no very uncommon circumstance to meet a group of respectably-dressed natives all as tipsy as possible.
It is on account of the multitude of temptations held out by the toddy-shops, that the establishment I have mentioned as the Sailors' Home is so very desirable, by affording to those who really desire to live comfortably and respectably, while on shore, the means of doing both. Here they may enjoy the advantages of clean, well-ventilated apartments, apparently, according to what can be seen through the open windows, of ample size; and here they may, if they please, pass their time in rational employment or harmless amusement. Groups of sun-burnt tars, with their large straw hats and honest English faces, are often to be seen mingled with the crowd of Asiatics, of whom every day seems to show a greater variety.
I saw three or four very remarkable figures last evening; one was an extremely tall and handsome Arab, well dressed in the long embroidered vest, enveloping an ample quantity of inner garments, which I have so often seen, but of which I have not acquired the name, and with a gaily-striped handkerchief placed above the turban, and hanging down on either side of his face. This person was evidently a stranger, for he came up to the carriage and stared into it with the strongest expression of surprise and curiosity, our dress and appearance seeming to be equally novel and extraordinary to this child of the desert. Shortly afterwards, we encountered a Greek, with luxuriant black ringlets hanging down from under a very small scarlet and gold cap; the others were Jews, very handsome, well-dressed men, profusely enveloped in white muslin, and with very becoming and peculiar caps on their heads.
I regret to see my old friends, the China-men, so few in number, and so shabby in appearance; yet they are the only shoemakers here, and it ought to be a thriving trade. Their sign-boards are very amusing; one designating himself as "Old Jackson," while a rival, close at hand, writes "Young Jackson" upon his placard; thus dividing the interest, and endeavouring to draw custom from the more anciently established firm.
The Portuguese padres form striking and singular groups, being dressed in long black gowns, fitting tightly to the shape, and descending to their feet. They seem to be a numerous class, and I hope shortly to see the interiors of some of their churches. A very large, handsome-looking house was pointed out to us by one of the servants of whom we made the inquiry, as belonging to a Portuguese padre; it was situated near the cloth bazaar, and I regretted that I could not obtain a better view of it.
My predilection for exploring the holes and corners of the native town is not shared by many of the Anglo-Indian residents of Bombay, who prefer driving to the Esplanade, to hear the band play, or to a place on the sea-shore called the Breach. I hope, however, to make a tour of the villages, and to become in time thoroughly acquainted with all the interesting points in the island, the variety and extent of the rides and drives rendering them most particularly attractive to a traveller, who finds something interesting in every change of scene.
I have accomplished a second drive through the coco-nut gardens on the Girgaum road, a name by which this quarter of the native town is more commonly known; the view thus obtained only excited a desire to penetrate farther into the cross-lanes and avenues; but as I do not ride on horseback, I have little chance of succeeding, since I could not see much from a palanquin, and taun-jauns, so common in Calcutta, are scarcely in use here. The more I see of what is called the Native Town in Bombay, the more satisfied I am of its great superiority over that of Calcutta; and I gladly make this admission, since I have found, and still continue to find, so great a falling-off in the style of the dress, whether it relates to form, material, or cleanliness. I have lately observed a very handsome turban, which seems worn both by the Mohammedans and Hindus, of red muslin, with gold borders, which is an improvement.
A taste for flowers seems universal, plants in pots being continually to be seen on the ledges of the porticoes and verandahs; these are sometimes intermingled with less tasteful ornaments, and few things have struck me as more incongruous than a plaster bust of a modern English author, perched upon the top of a balustrade over the portico of a house in the bazaar; mustachios have been painted above the mouth, the head has been dissevered from the shoulders, and is now stuck upon one side in the most grotesque manner possible, looking down with half-tipsy gravity, the attitude and the expression of the countenance favouring the idea, upon the strange groups thus oddly brought into juxta-position. The exhibition is a droll one; but it always gives me a painful feeling: I do not like to see the effigy of a time-honoured sage abased.
The statue of Lord Cornwallis, on the Esplanade--which, being surrounded by sculptured animals, not, I think, in good taste, might be mistaken for Van Amburgh and his beasts--is close to a spot apparently chosen as a hackney-coach stand, every kind of the inferior descriptions of native vehicles being to be found there in waiting.
Some of the bullock-carriages have rather a classical air, and might, with a little brushing up and decoration, emulate the ancient triumphal car. They are usually dirty and shabby, but occasionally we see one that makes a good picture. The bullocks that draw it are milk-white, and have the hanging dewlap, which adds so greatly to the appearance of the animal; the horns are painted blue, and the forehead is adorned with a frontlet of large purple glass beads, while bouquets of flowers are stuck on either side of the head, after the manner of the rosettes worn by the horses in Europe.
A very small pair of milk-white bullocks, attached to a carriage of corresponding dimensions, merely containing a seat for two persons, is a picturesque and convenient vehicle, which will rattle along the roads at a very good pace. These bullocks usually have bells attached to their harness, which keep up a perpetual and not disagreeable jingle. The distances between the European houses are so great, and the horses able to do so little work, that it seems a pity that bullocks should not be deemed proper animals to harness to a shigram belonging to the saib logue: but fashion will not admit the adoption of so convenient a means of paying morning visits, and thus sparing the horses for the evening drive.
Great complaints are made about the high price and the inferiority of the horses purchaseable in Bombay, a place in which the Arab is not so much esteemed as I had expected. Some difficulty was experienced in obtaining very fine specimens of this far-famed race for the Queen, who gave a commission for them. I had the pleasure of seeing four that are going home in the Paget, destined for her Majesty's stables.
The Imaum of Muscat lately sent a present of horses to Bombay, but they were not of high caste; those I have mentioned, as intended for the Queen, being of a much finer breed. They are beautiful creatures, and are to be put under the care of an English groom, who has the charge of some English horses purchased in London for a native Parsee gentleman. From the extent of the Arab stables, and the number of Arab horse-merchants in Bombay, it would appear easy to have the choice of the finest specimens; but this is not the case, while various circumstances have combined to reduce the numbers of native horses, which were formerly readily procurable. Thus, the fine breed of Kattywar is not now attainable, and the same value does not appear to be set upon horses from Kutch and the Deccan, which in other parts of India are esteemed to be so serviceable. Persian horses are little prized; and those imported from England, though very showy and handsome, will not do much work in this climate, and are therefore only suited to rich people, who can keep them for display. The stud-horses bred near Poonah do not come into the market so freely as in the Bengal presidency, where they are easily procurable, and are sought after as buggy and carriage horses. Old residents, I am told, prefer the Arabs, the good qualities of these celebrated steeds requiring long acquaintance to be justly appreciated, while persons new to the country can see nothing but faults in them.
A novel feature in Bombay, to persons who have only visited the other side of India, is found in the hay-stack, the people having discovered the advantage of cutting and drying the grass for future use. Immense numbers of carts, drawn by bullocks and loaded with hay, come every day into the island; this hay is stacked in large enclosures built for the purpose, and can be purchased in any quantity. There are large open spaces, near tanks or wells, on the road-side, which give the idea of a hay-market; the carts being drawn up, and the patient bullock, always an accompaniment to an Indian rural scene, unyoked, reposing on the ground. The drivers, apparently, do not seek the shelter of a roof, but kindle their cooking-fires on the flats on the opposite side of the road, and sleep at night under the shelter of their carts. The causeway which unites the island of Bombay with its neighbour, Salsette, affords a safe and convenient road, greatly facilitating the carriage of supplies of various kinds necessary for the consumption of so populous a place.
The villagers at Metunga, and other places, make as much hay as their fields will supply for their own use, and have hit upon a singular method of stacking it. They choose some large tree, and lodge the hay in its branches, which thus piled up, assumes the appearance of an immense bee-hive. This precaution is taken to preserve the crop from the depredations of cattle, and, if more troublesome, is less expensive than fencing it round. From the miserably lean condition of many of the unfortunate animals, which their Hindu masters worship and starve, it would appear that, notwithstanding its seeming abundance, they are very scantily supplied with hay. It is a pity that some agriculturist does not suggest the expedience of feeding them upon fish, which, as they are cleanly animals, they would eat while fresh.