CHAPTER XIV. JOURNEY FROM DELHI TO BOMBAY.
31st January. Towards noon, we passed through the little town of Balamgalam, in which there is a small English military station, a mosque, and a very recently-erected Hindoo temple. We passed the night in the little town of Palwal.
In this neighbourhood, the peacocks are very tame. Every morning, I saw dozens of these beautiful birds on the trees; they come into the fields, and even into the towns, to fetch food from the good-natured natives.
1st February. Our night's station on this day was the small town of Cossi. We had already been overtaken during the last mile by a number of natives, who were busily hurrying into the town, in and outside of which a considerable cattle-market was being held. This market presented a picture of the greatest confusion; the animals stood on all sides between a multitude of trusses of hay and straw, the sellers crying and praising their wares without cessation, and leading the buyers here and there, partly by persuasion and partly by force, who also made no less noise than the former.
I was most struck by the innumerable cobblers, who set up their simple working implements between the piled-up bundles of hay and straw, consisting of small tables with thread, wire, and leather, and who were busily engaged at their trade, repairing the coverings for the feet. I remarked at this time, as well as on several other occasions, that the natives are by no means so indolent as they are generally represented to be, but, on the contrary, that they avail themselves of every favourable opportunity of earning money. All the caravansaries at the entrance of the town were crowded, and there was no other alternative except to pass through the whole town to the other side. The town-gate had a very promising appearance, rising proudly and boldly into the air; I hoped to see corresponding buildings, and saw instead wretched mud hovels and narrow lanes; so narrow, indeed, that the foot passengers were obliged to step under the entrances of the huts to allow our baili to pass them.
2nd February. A few miles distant from Matara, we turned out of the beaten road which leads from Delhi to Mutra, a town which still remains under English government. Matara is a pretty little town, with a very neat mosque, broad streets, and walled houses, many of which, indeed, are decorated with galleries, columns, or sculptures of red sandstone.
The appearance of the country here is of monotonous uniformity - boundless plains, on which orchards and meadows alternately present themselves, the latter apparently quite scorched up in consequence of the dry season. The corn was already a foot high; but such large quantities of yellow flowers were mixed with it, that there was great difficulty in telling whether corn or weeds had been sown. The cultivation of cotton is of very great importance here. The Indian plant does not, indeed, attain the height and thickness of the Egyptian; however, it is considered that the quality of the cotton does not depend upon the size of the plants, and that the cotton of this country is the finest and the best.
I observed upon these plains little houses here and there, built upon artificially-raised perpendicular mounds of clay, of from six to eight feet high. There are no steps leading to the tops of these mounds, the only means of access being by ladders, which can be drawn up at night. From what I could draw from the explanations of my servants, which, however, I only partially understood, they are used by families, who live in retired places, for security against the tigers, which are here very frequently seen.
3rd February. Baratpoor. We passed a place which was overgrown, in broad patches, with misshapen stunted bushes - a rare occurrence in this part of the country, where wood is scarce. My driver bestowed upon this tangled brushwood the high-sounding name of jungle. I should rather have compared them with the dwarfed bushes and shrubs of Iceland. The country beyond this woody district had a very remarkable appearance; the ground was in many places torn and fissured, as if in consequence of an earthquake.
In the caravansary at Baratpoor there were a great number of natives, soldiers, and particularly some very rough-looking men, of whom I felt inclined to be afraid: I was no longer in the English territories, and alone among all these people. However, they behaved themselves with the greatest civility, and greeted me in the evening and morning with a right hearty salaam. I think that a similar set of men in our own country would scarcely have shown me the same respect.
4th February. On the other side of the town, I saw two fine monuments before the door, round temples with lofty cupolas, and carved stone lattice work in the window openings. The fields and meadows were richly strewed with Indian fig-trees, a thing which I have scarcely met with anywhere else, except in Syria and Sicily; to the right of the road was a low rocky peak, whose highest point was crowned by a fortress. The dwelling-houses of the commanders, instead of being sheltered by the walls, rose high above them, and were tastily surrounded by verandahs; on the terrace of the principal building was a handsome pavilion, supported upon pillars. The outer walls of the fortress extended down into the valley below. We had proceeded about fourteen miles, when we came upon some monuments which had a very unique appearance. On a small spot, shaded by beautiful trees, was a round wall, formed of a number of flagstones of seven feet high and four feet wide; in the middle stood three monuments of a circular form, built of large square stones. The diameter of their tower part was about twelve feet, their height about six. They had no entrance.