Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/17

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7
EURASIA.

portions. With anything between one and two hundred rupees a month—the rupee being equal to about one shilling and fivepence—he is fairly comfortable, and a person of respectable position. He can afford to occupy the whole of a small house in a back street, to feed and clothe his family tolerably well, and, with the assistance of one of the charitable educational institutions of Calcutta, to educate them. But the Eurasian is improvident to the core, and will marry, taking no thought for the morrow, upon from thirty to forty rupees a month. The young lady of his species is charming in her way, which the young gentleman naturally finds a very captivating way. She develops early all the arts of beguilement; her eyes are liquid brown, her cheeks soft and round, her figure slim and graceful. Her prettiness is weak and transitory, but she possesses it long enough to insure the reward of her desirability. The matter is submitted to her mother, not her father—in Eurasian households the sway is maternal—and the affair is arranged upon the basis of family community. The young man agrees to live with his mother-in-law, to hand over to her his entire monthly talub, and to be provided for, with his wife, much as she thinks fit. His earnings go into a general fund, controlled by the mother-in-law, who is not unfrequently blessed with several married sons and daughters in circumstances that keep them under her roof. She feeds them all and clothes them all, dispensing such luxuries as she may. They increase, but not in riches, and when the multiplication reaches a figure quite disproportionate with that which represents the collective income, the family go over in a body to swell the great piteous majority which forms the Eurasian problem. Their accession to it is often hastened by a peculiarity of temperament on the part of the wage-earner, who is apt upon the slightest provocation to throw up his situation, no matter with what difficulty it has been procured or can be duplicated. His vanity and love of display tempt him to curious extravagances. On the occasion of a wedding or a christening he will spend his last pice with a generous trust in Providence for the commonplaces of food and drink in the days that come after. His family affection is a marked characteristic. Parents cling to their children with a degree of sentiment apt to be common among people who have too many, and often this attachment stands with foolish obstinacy in the way of the welfare of its object.

Notwithstanding their lack of thrift and strength, the most obvious reason for the great poverty and distress among the Eurasians lies in the tremendous competition of the natives. There is almost no department of labor in which it is not felt. The East Indian is particularly fitted by nature and inclination for minor clerkships; and here he finds in the baboo, who also loves an office