Letters from India Volume I/To the Hon Mrs Eden 2

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Letters from India, Volume I  (1872)  by Emily Eden
To the Hon. Mrs. Eden

Barrackpore, June 11, 1836.

My dearest Mary,—We sent off yesterday to the ‘Tamerlane,’ which sails in a few days, a most important box addressed to the care of Captain Grindlay, containing all sorts of odds and ends addressed to various people; and, amongst others, there is a small parcel for you, which will puzzle you unless this explanation precedes it. Your Willie, in his letter to me, asked ‘How is your black maid?’ and I told Rosina one of my little nephews had written to ask after her. Besides a mysterious veneration for a letter, which all natives have, the idea of being asked after by a little English boy and my nephew, quite enchanted her. She is very much (as all the uneducated natives are) like a child of three years old in feelings and intellect, and she asked to see Willie’s letter, and to be shown her name, and she, of course, turned it topsy-turvy, and kissed it and cried over it, and then went all over the house to tell all the servants that a little English boy, the Lord Sahib’s nephew, had written about her; and the next day she came to my room with a worked petticoat for the little boy’s mamma, and another for him. I told her that he did not wear frocks, and then she said it was to be for the eldest little girl; and then I told her that, as I could not take any presents, I would buy them of her, and tell you what she had meant to do; but she would not hear of that, but stood salaaming and beseeching—‘No, lady, me no like that. Me send little boy’s mamma frock and sister frock, and then English ladies say “Where you get those pretty frocks,” and they say “Poor Rosina send them,” so nice. Please, lady, send them.’

I have given her a gown since, so it all comes to the same end; but if you had an idea how much natives in general think of spending the smallest fraction of a rupee, and how their whole talk consists of saving pice and annas, or farthings and halfpence, you would be as much surprised at her offering as I am. I do not know what you can do with your petticoat it is so ugly; but it will make a toilet-cover. I have sent you a pair of silver earrings, made as the natives wear them, and a little pair of silver bracelets for Emily. They bend into any shape. About ten of these bracelets on each arm are literally the only clothes worn by the native children till they are seven or eight years old, with perhaps a silver chain round each ankle; and when they are married, which they are at five, or six years old, a large gold ring is put through the noses of the little girls.

I wish I could find anything to send Willie, but I shall in time. I could find heaps of beautiful birds; but, except a friend would offer to take charge of one on the voyage, they are sure to die. However, I shall watch for an opportunity of sending him a pet, probably a lory. I have had a goat given me that is too handsome—an immense creature with white silk hair half a yard and more long. It stalks upstairs and into my room, and is a nice good-humoured animal. If he had not been a present from a near neighbour I should have liked to send him home. He does not smell at all, and is accustomed to carry children on his back.

We had rather a lively afternoon yesterday We came here this week quite alone, and settled to ask nobody all the week, and to wear our common coloured gowns, and not to talk all the morning, and to enjoy little luxuries of that sort, and to have a juggler with snakes; and, above all, to drag one of the large ponds in the park, which we did, and I had not an idea there were so many and such large fish in the Ganges as came to land in the net—such varieties, and thousands of small fish!

Fish is the only thing, except rice, that the natives will eat, and this is the only time I have ever seen our servants excited. There were about two hundred of them round the pobegging for fish, and the instant Captain Byrne gave them leave to help themselves the scramble began; and it was great fun to see some of them running off with great fish three feet long, and others, who could not pick up more than a gudgeon, scolding and gesticulating; and there was Chance yapping about in the water after every fish that escaped, and ——’s tame otter helping himself, and the elks standing wondering what we were doing to their pond. All last night were little fires round the house with the servants cooking their treasure.

We are longing for the rains, which must begin in a week they say, and the preparation for them is awful—such steamy heat!

We are all well.

My new garden will be lovely whenever the rains come.

Yours most affectionately,

E. E.