CHAPTER X. THE EAST INDIES - CEYLON.

DEPARTURE FROM SINGAPORE - THE ISLAND OF PINANG - CEYLON - POINTE DE GALLE - EXCURSION INTO THE INTERIOR - COLOMBO - CANDY - THE TEMPLE OF DAGOHA - ELEPHANT HUNT - RETURN TO COLOMBO AND POINTE DE GALLE.

I once more embarked in an English steamer, the "Braganza," of 350 horse power, that left Singapore for Ceylon on the 7th of October. The distance between the two places is 1,900 miles.

The treatment I experienced on board this vessel was, it is true, a little different from that on board the other, although it was nearly as bad. There were four of us in the second cabin; {128} we dined alone, and had a mulatto servant to attend upon us. Unfortunately, he was afflicted with elephantiasis, and his appearance did not at all tend to whet the edge of our appetites.

During the 7th and 8th of October, we held our course through the Strait of Malacca, which separates Sumatra from the peninsula, and during all this time we never lost sight of land. Malacca is, near the coast, merely hilly; but further in the interior the hills swell into a fine mountain range. To our left lay a number of mountainous islands, which completely intercepted our view of Sumatra.

But if the scenery around us was not remarkable, the spectacle on board the vessel itself was highly interesting. The crew was composed of seventy-nine persons, comprising Chinese, Malays, Cingalese, Bengalese, Hindostanese, and Europeans. As a general rule, those of each country generally took their meals separately with their own countrymen. They all had immense plates of rice, and little bowls full of curry; a few pieces of dried fish supplied the place of bread. They poured the curry over the rice, and mixing the whole together with their hands, made it into small balls which they put into their mouths with a small piece of fish; about half their food used generally to fall back again into their plates.

The costume of these people was very simple. Many of them had nothing more than a pair of short trousers on, with a dirty old turban, and even the place of this was sometimes supplied by a coloured rag, or a cast-off sailor's cap. The Malays wore long cloths wound round their bodies, with one end hanging over their shoulder. The Chinese preserved intact their usual costume and mode of life; and the coloured servants of the ship's officers were the only ones who were occasionally well and even elegantly dressed. Their costume consisted of white trousers, wide upper garments, also white, with white sashes, silk jackets, and small embroidered white caps, or handsome turbans.

The manner in which all these poor coloured people were treated was certainly not in accordance with Christian principles. No one ever addressed them but in the roughest manner, and they were kicked and cuffed about on every occasion; even the dirtiest little European cabin-boy on board was allowed to act in the most cruel manner, and play off the most ignoble practical jokes upon them. Unhappy creatures! how is it possible that they should feel any love for Christians?

On the 9th of October we landed on the small island of Pinang. The town of the same name lies in the midst of a small plain, which forms the half of an isthmus. Not far from the town rises a picturesque mountain range.

I received five hours' leave, which I devoted to riding about in all directions through the town in a palanquin, and even going a little distance into the country. All that I could see resembled what I had already seen at Singapore. The town itself is not handsome, but the contrary is the case with the country houses, which are all situated in beautiful gardens. The island is intersected by a great number of excellent roads.

From one of the neighbouring mountains there is said to be a very fine prospect of Pinang, a part of Malacca, and the sea, and, on the road to the mountain, a waterfall. Unfortunately, the few hours at my disposal did not allow me to see everything.

The greatest portion of the population of this island consists of Chinese, who perform all the manual labour, and engross all the retail trade.

On the 11th of October we saw the small island of Pulo-Rondo, which appertains to Sumatra. We now took the shortest line across the Bay of Bengal, and beheld land no more until we came in sight of Ceylon.

On the afternoon of the 17th of October, we neared Ceylon. I strained my anxious eyes to catch a glimpse of it as soon as possible, for it is always described as being a second Eden; some go so far as to affirm that our common father, Adam, settled there on his expulsion from Paradise, and, as a proof of this, adduce the fact of many places in the island, such as Adam's Peak, Adam's Bridge, etc., still bearing his name. I breathed the very air more eagerly, hoping, like other travellers, to inhale the fragrant odours wafted to me from the plantations of costly spices.

It was one of the most magnificent sights I ever beheld, to observe the island rising gradually from the sea, and to mark the numerous mountain ranges, which intersect Ceylon in every direction, becoming every instant more defined, their summits still magically lighted by the setting sun, while the thick cocoa-groves, the hills, and plains lay enveloped in dusky night. The fragrant odours, however, were wanting, and the vessel smelt, as usual, of nothing more than tar, coals, steam, and oil.

About 9 in the evening, we arrived before the harbour at Pointe de Galle, but, as the entrance is very dangerous, we quietly hove-to for the night. On the following morning two pilots came on board and took us safely through the narrow passage of deep water leading into the port.