« EelmineJätka »
muslin being thrown over her head. She spoke little, but was fond of being talked to and of hearing what was passing; and those of her female attendants who could tell the most news or repeat the longest stories, were always her greatest favourites.
• Having now laid before you, my friend, the particular circumstances of our family, which I have taken the greater pains in doing from their being so entirely dissimilar from every thing witnessed in Europe, I proceed to describe the manner in which I spent my life till I had entered my
at which time I was removed from
Independent of my father's and mother's establishments, I had four or five servants to wait entirely upon me; among these were three women, who used to follow me wherever I went, and administer to all my caprices. I was always dressed as a little native, though in the richest materials which could be procured; and I spent my time in running backwards and forwards between the two bungalows, talking either to the company in my father's sitting-room, or to the servants in the verandah, as suited me best, and displaying my evil qualities, of various kinds, to afford amusement to the latter. totally unacquainted, in the mean time, with the use of a book, or of the English language, while I was too well initiated in most things that are vile and base in the Hindoostaunee language, and the Hindoo modes of life.
“I remember few anecdotes of my childhood worth recording: one day passed with me as another, while I continued to grow in stature though not in grace. One thing, however, I ought to remember with particular thankfulness, which is this,– the frequent escapes
which I had from a sudden and terrible death. The long passage, so often mentioned in the course of my story as extending itself between the bungalows, being in many parts illuminated only by certain air-boles, resembling the arrow-slits to be seen in the towers of old castles, was, in some places, nearly dark; and, indeed, this exclusion of light and air rendered it cool in the hot season; but, in consequence, it became dangerous, as a receptacle for venomous reptiles: and more than once in this passage, (for I think it happened as often as twice while we lived at Cawnpore,) i discerned the dreadful
" It is true,
of his eye.
eyes of a monstrous cobra di capel glaring at me through the obscurity. On both these occasions, I was so struck, so petrified with terror, that I could not move, and should, no doubt, have stood still to meet a horrible death, if the servants had not snatched me away; for these creatures have such a power of fascination, that it is seldom that those escape on whom they fix their deadly gaze.
father caused these serpents to be destroyed, and search was made for their nests throughout the gallery; yet, when I think of the dangers to which, at that period, I was daily exposed from these venomous reptiles, I cannot but feel new motives for praise to Him who hath hitherto kept me as the apple
“ But to dwell no longer on this—the early part of my life, which contains not much either of sweet remembrance or of many tender. domestic passages, I hasten to say, that, when I was just entering my tenth year, a cousin of my father's, whom I accustomed myself to call my aunt, and therefore shall continue so to do, visited us at Cawnpore, and prevailed on my father to let her take me with her to Calcutta, promising, as her own children were gone to Europe, that she would receive me as a daughter, and superintend my education. This lady was the wife of a surgeon in the Company's service, and, consequently, in a situation to live in high respectability. My father was fully sensible that my situation in his house was far from desirable; he therefore gladly closed in with the offer, and I did not hear of any objection made to its being accepted by my mother. .
“I pass over the scenes which took place on my departure. Suffice it to say, that my grief was violent when I was carried on board the boat, but it was soon forgotten; and by the time I arrived at Calcutta, I was perfectly reconciled to my new acquaintance.
“My aunt's habitation was a superb puckah house, in Chouringhee Road; where she lived in a degree of splendour, of which the wife of his Majesty's physician in Europe would hardly have an idea. Here my education was to commence; and my aunt, in consequence, taught me to read, and directed her ayah to instruct me in the use of my needle so far as to make
doll's clothes: but,
as to any religious, or even intellectual acquirements, I was nearly as deficient as ever. My mornings were, indeed, occupied in the presence of my aunt, at least some hours of them; but my evenings were always spent with the ayah, my aunt being continually engaged, at those times, in paying and receiving visits.
“ In the society of this ayah my only improvement consisted in an exchange of my knowledge of the Hindoostaunee spoken up the country for that of the worst Bengalee, and of my acquaintance with the vicious practices of the Hindoos for that of those of the low Europeans or half Anglicised natives with whom Calcutta abounds. I should, however, add to these acquirements, a certain love and insight into the art of dress, which I derived as much from the mistress of the family as from her waiting-maid ; together with such a knowledge of the English tongue, as enabled me to read it imperfectly, and to speak in that clipped and hissing manner in which the Bengalees always pronounce that language.
« Those who have been in India, will now be able to picture me to themselves such nearly as I was at that period, and will have all my tricks, and ways, and modes of life and manners, before them; but I think I might challenge the whole collected population of untravelled Britons, to form an idea of a creature at once so artful and so seemingly simple, so ignorant and yet so knowing, so truly bold and so affectedly modest, so seemingly gentle and so really obstinate and imperious, as I was at that time, and as many unfortunate young people are who are brought up under such complicated disadvantages.
“When I had been four years, or thereabouts, in Calcutta, I heard of the death of my mother; a circumstance which affected me less at the time than it has done upon subsequent reflection; for to this day, after the lapse of ten years, I continually lament her death, and wish, and O how carnestly do I wish! that her life might have been spared until it had pleased God to give to her worthless daughter a sense of the value of that blessed Saviour, of whom my unhappy parent scarcely knew the
But can the Judge of all the earth do wrong? Almighty Father, I desire to submit my will to thine !
I desire to be able to say, in the fullest sense of the words, 'Thy will, O God, be done!'. But to leave this ever-affecting subject, and to go on with my narrative.
“ It was not probable that the education which I had hitherto received should, humanly speaking, make me a very amiable character. I was, in fact, what is called a very naughty girl; and some of my transgressions about this time, being brought to the knowledge of my aunt, she, in consequence, wrote to my father, proposing that I should be sent to school; adding, as a further argument in favour of this plan, that she expected her daughter from England, and should, therefore, have less time to attend to me.
“My father, in reply, said, that he much approved the plan of my going to school, but wished that I might be sent to a Mrs. Patterson, who kept a seminary of considerable note, in the Circular Road; and the reason he gave for choosing this school was, that a very intimate friend of his, a Colonel Carrisforth, of the Company's service, had a daughter boarding in the house, a young lady of lovely manners and excellent principles, and one who he was assured, if requested so to do, would act the part of a sincere and affectionate friend, guide, and protector to me. Inclosed, he sent a letter from Colonel Carrisforth to his daughter, which I was to carry with me and deliver to the young lady when I was taken to school.
• My aunt lost no time, after the receipt of this letter, in making the due arrangements with Mrs. Patterson ; and one evening within the same week I accompanied her to school.
“I know, my dear friend, that you like to have every new scene exactly brought before you. I shall, therefore, endeavour to take you with me in imagination to the Circular Road, and to make you at home in Mrs. Patterson's house, every nook and corner of which is still painted in lively colours on my fancy, together with the various figures and countenances of the numerous individuals who formed the household.
" It was a foggy evening in the month of November, about six o'clock, when I got into my aunt's coach in Chouringhee Road, to accompany her to Mrs. Patterson's. We passed awhile beneath the walls and gates of the
many puckah houses in that direction; then, turning down the burying-ground road, and going through several noble streets, in which the houses appeared not united together, as in England, but standing in luxuriant gardens, and at considerable distances from each other, we entered into that part of our way which is inclosed on each side by the walls of the burying-ground. Here, for a great length of way, nothing is to be seen but tombs and monuments, of various descriptions, presenting their tall and mournful heads above the walls, and, as the carriage moves along, seeming to pass away before the eye in a long and sad procession, producing in a fanciful mind something like the perception that one sometimes has in dreams, when dark and indistinct visions of sorrow seem to flit before the eye, and that so swiftly, that, apparently, the visual ray can scarcely rest on the form of one before another presents itself. Through this mournful avenue our carriage entered upon the Circular Road, which is a raised causeway carried round the suburbs of Calcutta, and forming a very usual drive for its inhabitants. On each side of this road, at least of that part of it upon which we entered by the buryingground way, is a variety of trees known only in hot climates, such as palm, bamboo, almond, orange, tamarind, and plantain trees; and these, owing to the damp of the Bengal soil, growing with a luxuriance of which the inhabitants of more northern latitudes can scarcely form an idea. In the midst of this thick foliage, but commonly thrown considerably into the back-ground, appear houses of various descriptions, some being small and of dubious character, as if they might belong either to a respectable native or to a poor European; others being decidedly European; and of these last there was also a great variety, some being of almost princely construction, and others more minute and in the cottage style. Over this whole scene, the time of my making these observations being, as I before said, an evening in the month of November, there hung a thick fog, common throughout the evenings during the cold season in Calcutta, and supposed to be exceedingly injurious to the European constitution.
Having proceeded along this road for a considerable time, we arrived at Mrs. Patterson's gate. Her