Letters from India Volume I/To a Friend 12
Thursday, June 17.
Fanny and —— went to Barrackpore in his gig. George and I made a very original plan for ourselves. We drove to the Cossipore Bridge—you know where that is. You have passed it fifty times in your drives, only you never observe anything; and there we found Captains Champneys and Macgregor with our riding-horses, on which we mounted. Sent the carriage on to the half-way house, whereunto we explored our way by by-paths, much to our edification. We then got into the carriage, the gentlemen into their cabriolets, and we arrived at Barrackpore for a late dinner.
Friday, June 18.
Dr. Drummond killed a snake in his bungalow, Captain Macgregor ditto, and Mars killed a very large one in his bedroom in one hour. Very shocking!
George and I took a ride, which was cut short by rain. Dr. Wallich arrived with quantities of more plants for my garden. I was up at five planting it, and in bed again at half-past six.
Saturday, June 19.
We dragged another of the tanks, and just as the net came to land it broke, and hundreds of fish rushed back into the water. It was rather a good thing, for though the last distribution was conducted on the most liberal system, the servants were all jealous, and the susceptible feelings of the tailors were hurt by their being forgotten altogether.
Tuesday, June 22.
I went out visiting, for the first time, after breakfast; and, awfully hot as it was, I went to Mrs. Trevelyan to get her to arrange with some embroiderers from Dacca to embroider a gown in coloured silk for me. I have engaged two Dacca men by the month. They come into the house, settle their frame in my passage, just fornent the tailors, and sit on the ground and work all day. Their work is more beautiful than is desirable for a gown; but they cannot be persuaded to work coarser silks.
We have put off our party this evening, as we have the king’s ball next Monday; and though these balls and parties are all quite delightful (and, for my own part, I can only regret that they do not occur every evening) yet you know that other people might have too much of even such very good society.
Wednesday, June 23.
Miss Fane came when Sir Henry came to Council, and brought one of their jemidars, whose picture she wanted for her album. He is a Hindoo, and not a Mussulman, which most of our servants are, and of high caste, which is marked by quantities of gold leaf on his forehead; and he wears a dagger in his belt, and stands in a grand, swaggering position, and altogether he made rather a good drawing. We dined at Mrs. Shakespear's, and met the Fanes and a few others.
The Calcutta houses seem so small after Government House, and it was a dreadfully hot night.
Thursday, June 24.
We do not go up to Barrackpore this week, as the servants are busy preparing for the ball. —— has set up a small pony-carriage, and now the rain has made the unwatered roads passable, we find out very pretty drives through lanes and by-roads.
Calcutta is altogether (in the part of it inhabited by Europeans) very like the houses in St. John’s Wood; and the drives, barring their being utterly flat, are very pretty, when the weather allows of going off the watered road. We took a beautiful drive in the pony-carriage to-day, and came back by the Kidderpore School, where the orphan girls of Europeans are brought up; and when a tradesman or a noncommissioned officer wants a wife he goes there and chooses one. Formerly he used to choose after a single interview; but, I believe, now it is more delicately managed.
Friday, June 25.
George and I drove to the salt-water lake, about four miles off, through some odd, wild-looking villages, and the lake itself looks like an unfinished bit of creation before the land and sea were put into their proper places.
Sunday, June 27.
We went to the old church: this is only the third Sunday we have passed in Calcutta. They give, by order of the bishop, the whole morning service here. It is much too long for the climate. At Barrackpore it is usually much shorter; but we had a good sermon from the archdeacon, and lived through it all. George and I took a ride in the evening.
Monday, June 28.
A quiet morning. —— and I went out ‘exploring’ in his pony-carriage, and lost ourselves, and came out on the high-road five miles from Government House, nearly at dinner time; but we made great discoveries in the way of mosques, and tanks full of lotus, and ‘noble savages running wild through the woods,’ and as we believe no European ever drove through these lanes before, we thought of putting up our pocket-handkerchiefs on some sticks, and of taking possession of the country; but I know that foolish East India Company would be always fidgetting about our little territories if we made them prosper, so it is as well to say nothing about them.
We dressed after dinner, and at 10 p.m. the company began to arrive, and at quarter past we marched in, in state, with a guard of honour at the end of the ball-room, who drew their swords and nearly cut us down, I believe. However, we escaped, and then the Commander-in-Chief arrived.
We had several very oddly dressed native princes. One enormous man—a nephew of the King of Oude, only twenty-seven, and very like the pictures of Daniel Lambert; and this immense expanse of person was dressed in a thick gold brocade. He would have made a handsome piece of furniture in a large house. The Vakeel came in state, and as he has never been in European society much before, he proposed bringing his three hundred guards up into the ball-room with him, and was with great difficulty persuaded out of it. We went to supper at twelve, and then had an English country dance, and they were all gone before two.