FRENCH CIRCUMNAVIGATORS, II

On the 2nd March, 1824, the Thetis quitted the roads at Brest to take up at Bourbon her companion, the Espérance, which, having started some time before, had set sail for Rio de Janeiro. A short stay at Teneriffe, where the Thetis was only able to purchase some poor wine and a very small quantity of the provisions needed; a view of the Cape Verd Islands and the Cape of Good Hope in the distance, and a hunt for the fabulous island of Saxemberg, and some rocks no less fictitious, were the only incidents of the voyage to Bourbon, where the Espérance had already arrived.

Bourbon was at this time so familiar a point with the navigators that there was little to be said about it, when its two open roads of St. Denis and St. Paul had been mentioned. St. Denis, the capital, situated on the north of Bourbon, and at the extremity of a sloping table-land, was, properly speaking, merely a large town, without enclosure or walls, and each house in it was surrounded by a garden. There were no public buildings or places of interest worth mentioning except the governor's palace, situated in such a position as to command a view of the whole road; the botanic garden and the "Jardin de Naturalisation," which dates from 1817. The former, which is in the centre of the town, contains some beautiful walks, unfortunately but little frequented, and it is admirably kept. The eucalyptus, the giant of the Australian forests, thePhormium tenax, the New Zealand hemp-plant, the casuarina (the pine of Madagascar), the baobab, with its trunk of prodigious size, the carambolas, the sapota, the vanilla, combined to beautify this garden, which was refreshed by streams of sparkling water. The second, upon the brow of a hill, formed of terraces rising one above the other, to which several brooklets give life and fertility, was specially devoted to the acclimatisation of European trees and plants. The apple, peach, apricot, cherry, and pear-trees, which have thriven well, have already supplied the colony with valuable shoots. The vine was also grown in this garden, together with the tea-plant, and several rarer species, amongst which Bougainville noted with delight the "Laurea argentea," with its bright leaves.

On the 9th June the two vessels left the roads of St. Denis. After having doubled the shoals of La Fortune and Saya de Malha, and passed off the Seychelles, whilst among the atolls to the south of the Maldive Islands, which are level with the surface of the water and covered with bushy trees ending in a cluster of cocoas, they sighted the island of Ceylon and the Coromandel coast, and cast anchor before Pondicherry.

Natives of Pondicherry
Natives of Pondicherry.

 

Ancient idols near Pondicherry
Ancient idols near Pondicherry.
(Fac-simile of early engraving.)

This part of India is far from answering to the "enchantress" idea which the dithyrambic descriptions of writers who have celebrated its marvels have led Europeans to form. The number of public buildings and monuments at Pondicherry will scarcely bear counting, and when one has visited the more curious of the pagodas, and the "boilers," whose only recommendation is their utility, there is nothing very interesting, except the novelty of the scenes met with at every turn. The town is divided into two well-defined quarters. The one called the "white town," dull and deserted in spite of its coquettish-looking buildings, and the far more interesting "black town," with its bazaars, its jugglers, its massive pagodas, and the attractive dances of the bayadères.