Letters from India Volume I/From the Hon F H Eden for a Friend
I want another letter from you, dear, sadly. I wonder whether I shall ever get it. I just now discovered a monster of a fishy-looking insect inside the glass of that print of you, beginning to eat you up. Insects, here, have a real love for pictures; if I had not discovered that greedy, and I may say, malicious creature, in three more days you would have been eaten up.
Now here’s a thing! I thought four of the aides-de-camp looked pale at breakfast this morning, and it appears that there is a report that the Chitpore Nawâb was not asked to the ball we gave last week in honour of our beloved Monarch’s birthday. You must at once see what a thing that would be. I dare say it has never happened to you, to overlook a Chitpore Nawâb. I’m sure I never missed one when you gave a party. You do things so cleverly. I hope that Chitpore won’t declare war upon us; in fact I hardly know what to hope, or what to fear; for I don’t know where Chitpore is. Probably we have taken possession of it, and meant to pay for it with an invitation to the ball; which seems to me the terms on which we stand with most of the Nawâbs and Rajahs here. The Chitpore Nawâb shall have a ball given on purpose for him, and as he must be shocked at seeing women dance, George and his suite shall run over Pansot’s hornpipe.
We have been out riding this evening, and besides being subjected to a thunderstorm and a shower, we met, in a narrow lane, thirty-three elephants. Half a minute of a shower, here, does the work of drenching so effectually: the effect is like taking a shower-bath on a large scale, horse and all. As to thirty-three elephants and their drivers in a narrow lane; if it should ever happen to you to meet with them about E——, you'll find that it’s pretty unpleasant. None are allowed to come within a certain distance of Calcutta, because nine horses out of ten rear and plunge at the sight of them: mine has a particular objection to them; so has George’s. All the syces (of course you know that the syces are grooms, who run by your horse) set off screaming at once; an operation particularly calculated to soothe the nerves of oneself and horse. I begged, in a tone of the most dignified cowardice, to be allowed to get off; and then, it was rather grand to see the elephants crash through the hedges to hide behind the bamboos while George passed.
I rather like the great animals of this country; I could make a friend of an elephant, and I have my suspicions that if I were to fall in with a stray tiger or alligator, and had time given me to talk to them, they might listen to reason; but the reptile class is a dreadful one. The snakes almost take possession of the place during this month. The other night at that ball at Government House, they killed a centipede close by my foot: as Emily and I are almost the only women of any age who do not dance, I suppose it thought it could not do better. And there is a new horror burst upon me in the shape of spiders. They do say, that there are spiders as large as the palm of a hand, and that those spiders are poisonous, inasmuch, that wherever you are touched by them, large blisters rise.
Do you ever work now? The natives embroider beautifully.
I shall put this up to-day. No more ships yet; and though I know none can bring in later intelligence than we have had overland, there are many details to be filled up. God bless you, dear.
Yours most affectionately,
F. H. Eden.