CHAPTER XIV. JOURNEY FROM DELHI TO BOMBAY.
I also saw a new species of bird today. It was very similar in size and form to the flamingo, with beautiful pinion feathers; its plumage was tinged with a rich whitish grey shade, the head was covered with deep red feathers. We rested this night at the somewhat large town of Hindon. The only object which attracted my notice here was a palace with such small windows, that they seemed more fitted for dolls than for men.
6th February. As I was about to leave the caravansary this morning, three armed men placed themselves before my waggon, and in spite of the exclamations of my people, prevented our starting. At last, I succeeded in understanding that the dispute was about a few pence, for having kept watch before the door of my sleeping-room during the night, which my people would not pay. The caravansary did not appear to the cheprasse very safe, and he had requested a guard in the evening from the serdar (magistrate). The people might have slept quite soundly in some corner of the court-yard, and, perhaps, have dreamt of watching, for although I had looked out several times during the night, there was not one of them to be seen; however, what can one expect for a few pence? I satisfied them with a small present, upon which they made a regular military movement, and allowed us to proceed.
If I had been inclined to be timid, I must have been in continual anxiety for several days from the appearance of the natives.
All of them were armed with sabres, bows and arrows, matchlocks, formidable clubs bound with iron, and even shields of ironplate. These arms were also carried by the cattle tenders in the fields. But nothing disturbed my equanimity, although ignorant of the language, and with only the old cheprasse with me; I always felt as though my last hours were not yet come. Nevertheless, I was glad that we had passed by clear daylight the dangerous ravines and deep gorges through which our road lay for several miles. From these we entered a large valley, at the entrance of which was an isolated mountain, surmounted by a fortress; four miles further on, we came to a small group of trees, in the middle of which was a stone terrace, five feet in height, upon which was a life-size statue of a horse carved in stone. By the side of this a well was dug out; a kind of cistern, built of large blocks of red sandstone, with steps leading up to the water.
Similar wells and cisterns, some of which are much larger, screened by beautiful mango and tamarind trees, are frequently met with in India, especially in districts where, as in the present one, good springs are scarce. The Hindoos and Mahomedans have the good belief that by the erection of works for general benefit, they may more easily attain future happiness. When such water reservoirs and groups of trees have been founded by Hindoos, several sculptured figures of their deities, or red painted stones, are commonly found placed on them. At many of the wells, and cisterns also, a man is placed, whose business it is to draw water for the weary travellers.
However agreeable the erection of these reservoirs may be in many respects, there is one circumstance which detracts from their value; the people always wash and bathe in the same ones from which they must procure their drinking water. But what objections will not thirst silence? I filled my jug as well as the others!
7th February. Dungerkamaluma is a small village at the foot of a low mountain. A short distance from the station lay a true Arabian sand desert, but which was fortunately not of very great extent. The sand plains of India are generally capable of being cultivated, as it is only necessary to dig a few feet deep to reach water, with which to irrigate the fields. Even in this little desert were a few fine-looking wheat fields.
This evening I thought that I should have been obliged to make use of my pistols. My waggoner always wanted every one to give him the road; if they did not do so, he abused them. Today we came upon half a dozen of armed traveller-waggoners, who took no notice of the calls of my driver, upon which he was enraged, and threatened to strike them with his whip. If it had come to blows, we should, no doubt, in spite of my aid, have come off the worst; but they contented themselves with mutual abuse and threats, and the fellows got out of the way.
I have everywhere remarked that the Indians jangle and threaten a great deal, but that they never go beyond that. I have lived a great deal among the people and observed them, and have often seen anger and quarrelling, but never fighting. Indeed, when their anger lasts long, they sit down together. The children never wrestle or pull each other about, either in sport or earnest. I only once saw two boys engaged in earnest quarrel, when one of them so far forgot himself as to give the other a box on the ear, but he did this as carefully as if he received the blow himself. The boy who was struck drew his sleeve over his cheek, and the quarrel was ended. Some other children had looked on from the distance, but took no part in it.
This good nature may partly depend upon the fact that the people eat so little flesh, and, according to their religion, are so extremely kind to all animals; but I think still that there is some cowardice at the bottom of it. I was told that a Hindoo could scarcely be persuaded to enter a dark room without a light; if a horse or ox makes the slightest start, both great and small run frightened and shrieking away. On the other side, again, I heard from the English officers that the sepoys were very brave soldiers. Does this courage come with the coat, or from the example of the English?