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(54) Various kinds of timber, modes of floating them, prices and uses, mango-fruit, and plantations [[268-285]]

[[268]] The best timber for building, in whatever branch, is the sygwam, or teak, but too dear for general use, especially since naval architecture has been so much an object of speculation at Calcutta. Those who build houses of the first class, rarely fail to lay all their tarrases upon teak joists, which are of superior strength, and far less exposed to white ants. This circumstance has been attributed to the quantity of tannin contained in teak wood, and which some assert to be a perfect preventive, or antidote. Yet those noxious insects devour shoes and boots by wholesale, a fact which militates against that opinion.

There is in teak wood evidently some property, hitherto unknown, which repels the white ant, at least for some years, but whose efficacy is doubtless diminished by exposure to the air; as very old teak timbers are more subject to depredation than new ones. The greater part of the teak used in Bengal and at Madras is imported from the Pegu coast, in spars, planks, &c., of all sizes, and in immense beams, measuring from forty to fifty feet in length, and averaging from fifteen to twenty inches in diameter.

It would certainly be attended with considerable benefit to the public, if that property of the teak wood enabling it to resist both the white ant and the river worm, could be ascertained; as it might be possible thus to impregnate, or to saturate other timber. This is the more [[269]] desirable, as there are abundant proofs that mere hardness does not deter those voracious insects, which are found at times even upon lignum vitae. But the principal advantage, so far as relates to naval purposes, is that the teak wood has a very limited portion, if any, of the gallic, or any other acid; since the nails driven into it are never corroded so as to destroy the surrounding wood.

To this decay, called iron sickness, are attributed many losses of ships supposed to have foundered at sea, owing to the starting of planks. This must often happen when the wood round a nail is destroyed by the acid, or by the action of salt water upon the iron. In repairing ships built of oak, many nails are found perfectly insulated, by the wood having been rotted and fallen away, which has never been the case with vessels built of teak.

The generality of apartments being large, the halls measuring from thirty to forty feet in length, and from sixteen to twenty-four in width, and other rooms in proportion, it is evident that very substantial, as well as long, timbers are required to support their flat roofs; for with a few exceptions, truss-roofs are not in use. The mode introduced by Mr. Lyon, the Company's architect at Berhampore, contributed greatly to reduce the quantity of timber in a roof; but it was absolutely necessary that every timber should be perfectly sound.

He exploded burgahs (or smaller battens) from the roofs; and in their stead, threw arches from the centre of one to the centre of the other timber; so that the intervals between the timbers were to appearance grooved, or fluted, longitudinally. This, however, was barely distinguishable, the arches being elliptic, rarely indeed including more than an angle of six degrees, on a circle having full ten feet of radius. Thus the joists were tolerably close, but their diameters admitted of considerable reduction, on account [[270]] of the continuity of such a series of arches, which gave great solidity. From their mutual pressure a joist might be freely removed, without in the least affecting the roof.

The houses built and inhabited by natives have invariably flat roofs. In these the apartments are generally narrow and dark. Where they have verandas, they consist of arcaded fronts, always indented gothic; and pillars either of an hexagonal or an octagonal form, resting on short pedestals, while the arch may be seen to break off rather too suddenly from the shaft, which continues up to baises-mur (or bassimere, as our architects vulgarly call it), and divides the upper part into various compartments, all of which are ornamented with a profusion of carved work.

In almost every Hindoostanee building of this description, there are an odd number of arches, to which others in the main part of the edifice generally correspond. The chambers, if such they may be called, are taken off from the ends of the halls by similar arcades; each of which, like those of the exterior, is furnished with a purdah. These narrow slips have no windows, or, at the best, only small loop-holes. To discover the intention of such oven-like recesses would perplex an European unacquainted with Asiatic customs; till he found that those recesses in the cold season are peculiarly warm, and during those months in which the glare is obnoxious, remain cooler than such as admit more light.

Almost every house is furnished with some means of ascending to the chut (or flat tarras-roof). On this the natives often pass the evening, first abating the heat by several pots of water, which throw up a steam fully indicating the temperature at which the tarras had arrived. The natives are not partial, in general, to upper-roomed houses; though they affect to pride themselves greatly in the possession of doomaulahs (houses having a second [[271]] floor). Ostentation is probably the reason of this predilection in favour of ground floors, as thus all their attendants, &c., may be seen from the level of their compounds (or inclosed areas).

The stairs (unless a very mean boarded ladder is substituted) are narrow, steep, and unsafe. They are almost always built of solid masonry, as far up as the first turn (or landing-place), after which they commonly consist of small bricks laid edgeways in lime mortar, supported by stout timbers, placed at a proper angle, and resting on the nearest joist of the upper floor.

In every Hindoostanee house the doors are very low, and often open into a long arcaded veranda, running the whole length of the interior, as in English inns; while in the front, or towards the road, there is sometimes a hanging balcony, supported on continuations of the joists, of which the extremities are carved into grotesque forms; such as the heads of alligators, tigers, or serpents, and not unfrequently of small and uncouthly-formed human figures.

Saul-wood is used to an immense extent, both in buildings and ships; but is not to be compared, either for toughness, strength, resistance against insects, or durability, with teak. Its price is much in favour of its general use, to which its great size and admirable straightness are valuable recommendations; but it is extremely apt, especially when exposed to the weather, to crack, though not to snap. There is something very peculiar in saul-wood; for it warps, even after having been employed in bulk for many years, riving into large fissures longitudinally; the white ants also devour it with avidity.

Mr. Lyon, already noticed, when he was building the General Hospital at Berhampore, caused an immense copper trough to be made, in which he boiled the beams intended for that edifice. Some were boiled in pure water, [[272]] others with tannin, and some with arsenic; under the hope of seasoning the timber, and also of giving it a repellent or preservative quality. This ingenious and highly praiseworthy experiment was by no means successful; for though in the first instance the timbers, especially those boiled in the solution of arsenic, seemed to defy the white ant, still they were not completely secured from depredation; while, on the other hand, nine in ten rived so dangerously as to demand immediate props, and ultimate removal. Many authors have recommended the boiling of timber, planks, &c. with a view to extract the sap, and thus to season them at once, but they have invariably neglected to communicate the results.

Saul timber, when used in buildings, ought always to have the ends completely open to inspection; both to prevent the white ant from preying upon it under cover, and to insure its being duly aerated; without which, however charred and tarred, it will soon become rotten. This arises from its being bedded in masonry, which, during the rainy season, even under the best roofs, absorbs a large portion of moisture which will infallibly, in time, penetrate into the timber. It must be recollected that not one in hundreds of houses in Calcutta, or that are built on their plan, contains a fire-place. Hence, during several months of the year, the walls will exhibit various indications of moisture, even to their very cornices; though this will often depend on the proper selection of sand for mixing in the plaster.

It is now well known that all sand taken up within the flowing of the tides is strongly impregnated with salt, which will keep the mortar wherein it is mixed constantly subject to dampness: though the tarrases may be flued, or fixed on pots. Several otherwise highly eligible houses [[273]] have been rendered untenable, merely by the incautious use of river sand; which occasioned whatever mats or carpets were laid down to be speedily rotted. The dampness was at first imputed to the vicinity of the river, till it was ascertained that tarrases and mortar, compounded of pit-sand, remained dry and free from so obnoxious a defect.

Nevertheless, the greater part of the buildings in and about Calcutta receive a certain portion of river-sand, taken up within the reach of brackish water. While this practice continues, the walls and tarrases will be subject to occasional moisture; and as daily seen in that city, the plastering will blister, or become mottled and obviously unsound.

Saul-timbers are found in all the forests, ranging under the hills, branching our possessions from Assam up to Hurdwar; more abundant in some parts than in others, but nowhere scarce. Many of these forests present thousands of acres, whereon the saul, sissoo, and other useful timbers grow spontaneously; offering, if water carriage be at hand, the use of an inexhaustible depot. The Indian wood-feller, after lopping and barking the trees, proceeds to launch it into the river, there to be fastened to others, intended to form a raft or float which, being secured to a boat, may glide down with the current to some established market. His expenses are very trifling; for with the exception of some duties, most injudiciously imposed, his adventure will not cost more than two-pence per foot when arrived at the place of destination, where it may commonly be sold, without risk or delay, for full three times that sum.

The mode of floating timber is very different from that employed in England. A common pulwar (or paunch-way) of perhaps thirty feet in length, and six or seven in width, is equipped with two sticks of saul, say forty feet [[274]] long, and two feet in girth. These are placed across her gunwales, at right angles with her length, and about six feet from her centre, and very firmly lashed down. The boat, being in about three feet water, has a tree brought up to each of her sides, where they are respectively lashed to the cross timbers, and thus in succession, till she is judged incapable of receiving more.

In the centre of the boat is a small cabin, either of thatch or of arched bamboo laths, covered with durmah mats. Such rafts should on no account be launched when the river is at the fullest, or the current any way prone to deviate from the deepest channels, as it must do in great floods, during which the waters find, for a while, passages along hollows among the inland parts, beyond their limits in ordinary seasons. When a float of timber once gets over the river's bank, it must be by great good fortune, if the channel is ever regained.

Hence, when the waters are falling, it is common to see very large pinnaces, budjrows, and boats of burden left upon some sand, on which they had struck, but which the rapid ebbing of the floods prevented them from quitting. In such cases, some remain till the ensuing year, when the floods lift them; others are unladen, and by the joint efforts of hundreds of villagers are pushed along the sands to the deep water; while those which appear unequal to such a severe operation, are generally broken up and sold.

When a float of timber is thus situated, it is best to cut the ropes of at least half the exterior sticks on each side, and so to lighten the boat, that she may be carried into a depth suited to receive them again. This operation, though very simple in description, requires great exertion and despatch; the strength of the current, which often runs six or seven miles within the hour, rendering it very difficult to manage such immense logs; especially as [[275]] they are very apt to sink into the sands. Several floats proceed in company with great regularity, when the reaches are straight, and the waters deep. The boatmen, having then little to do, sit smoking their nereauls, with great composure.

A sail is sometimes hoisted, but it is generally deemed expedient to check, rather than to accelerate, the progress. Almost every float, or at least every company of floats, has a canoe attached to it. This, in doubtful waters, precedes, and directs the men in charge of the respective vessels; who, by means of luggies (or bamboo-poles, from twenty even to fifty feet in length), push off the floats from banks, or guide them along the deep water. Without such pilotage, they would be in perpetual danger of grounding, the inconveniences of which have been shown to be by no means inconsiderable.

Floats of timber cannot well come to an anchor, except in very still water. Hence they are usually brought-to under steep banks, where there is great depth; and where in case the river should fall during the night, they would not be left high and dry.

The greatest danger to which a timber float can be exposed, is that of running upon a sunken tree which, having been washed away by the strong currents which undermined the bank whereon it stood, is hurled into deep water, where it probably lies exposed to view for the first year. During the hot season, when the waters are low, the boughs are often cut away by persons in want of fuel; or perhaps they are torn off by the succeeding rains, so far as to cause the floats to be concealed a foot or two under the surface. When thus situated, they throw up a great quantity of water, so that their locality may be ascertained at some distance; but owing to heavy mists, and especially to clouds of sand, they frequently are not discovered [[276]] by the boatmen, till it becomes impossible to avoid them.

If the pulwar (the supporting boat) strikes upon one of the branches, her bottom will inevitably be staved in; and in all probability the immense body of water bearing upon the timbers will either tear them away from the pulwar, or carry off her upper works, leaving her bottom entangled. In either case, the situation of the boatmen becomes highly critical; but as they generally are expert swimmers, few are drowned on such occasions. The timbers, however, rarely fail to find the bottom.

The great number of trees thus immersed, some of them equal to the largest English oaks, renders it extremely dangerous to go down with the stream during the night. In some strong waters such impediments are numerous, and render the navigation very hazardous, even during the day-time; especially should a goon, or track rope, give way just after getting a boat above them. When this misfortune happens, the chances of escape are comparatively very small.

When boats, heavily laden, strike upon a tree, they sometimes go to pieces, in consequence of the water's rapidity. Yet when so entangled as to be pierced in several parts, they generally remain entire, presenting, as the waters subside, the curious spectacle of a vessel, perhaps carrying twelve or fifteen hundred maunds, sitting as it were among the boughs, often ten or twelve feet above the surface of the stream. It is not unusual, during a week's travelling, to see one or more of these disastrous elevations, especially about October. The cargo may perhaps be saved, if not of a perishable nature, such as sugar, saltpetre, &c.; but the vessel, however expeditiously emptied, can never be got off; and must be broken up.

In the upper provinces are some very fine oak timbers; [[277]] chiefly of a peculiar kind, nearly approaching to chocolate colour, extremely difficult to cut up, and consequently very heavy; from which they have the name of seesah, or lead-wood. The prices of these trees rather exceed those of the saul, though their dimensions are generally about the same, and they are brought from the same forests (namely, from the neighbourhood of Peela-beet). These prices would probably be greatly enhanced, did the natives require such very substantial wood for any of their buildings or manufactures. But carpenters dissuade their employers from purchasing oak, by representing it as subject to many defects; though the true reason is that its hardness causes more grinding of, than working with, their tools; which are almost always either too much, or too little, tempered.

The great aptness of saul-wood to warp, would have favoured the importation of oak, notwithstanding the outcry against its flinty hardness, but for the abundance of the sissoo, a wood possessing a very fine grain, and rather handsomely veined. It is intermixed with saul, in most of the great forests; but instead of towering up with a straight stem, generally grows into crooked forms, very suitable for the knees of ships, and for such parts as require the grain to follow some particular curve. This wood is extremely hard and heavy, and of a dark brown, inclining, when polished, to a purple tint.

If properly seasoned, it rarely cracks or warps; nor is it so subject as saul to be destroyed by either white ants or river-worms. The domestic uses of sissoo are chiefly for furniture, especially chairs, tables, tepoys (or tripods), bureaus, book-cases, ecritoires, &c. &c., for all which purposes it is peculiarly appropriate, except being very ponderous. This objection is, however, counterbalanced by its great durability, and by the extraordinary toughness [[278]] of the tenons, dovetails, &c. necessarily made by the cabinet-maker or joiner. 

Sissoo is of late more employed than formerly for the frame, ribs, knees, &c. of ships, especially those of great burden, being as tough and durable as the best oak. When this wood can be procured long enough for the purpose, it is often applied for bends, and indeed for a portion of the planking, or casing; but a plank of ten feet can very rarely be had free from curve. Though well suited for stern and head-work, it is neither long enough for keels in general, nor sufficiently uniform in its diameter for the supply of stern-posts.

Some sissoo-trees grow to a great height; but, unluckily, the devious direction of their boughs renders it necessary to lop them away for minor purposes. If instead of dividing into several large branches, at perhaps only ten or twelve feet from the ground, one large stem were to rise, however crooked, to double that height, there would be a great increase of substance: as it is, however, it may be accounted an excellent timber indeed that measures a ton, or forty cubic feet.

This inconvenience is greatly augmented by the slovenly manner in which trees are felled throughout India. The axe (for no saws are used on such occasions) is laid to the stem often at a yard or more from the soil, while full a cubit in depth is destroyed in widening the orifice, so as to penetrate into the heart. This occasions considerable loss, which is frequently increased by the irregular manner in which the butt rends in quitting the root or stool. Were this wood more scarce, greater pains would probably be taken to make the most of its length. As it is, we see that even those ship-builders who occasionally send their agents into the Morungs, or great forests to the north of Bahar and Purneah, allow the same loss to take place; thus obstructing the more general, as well as [[279]]  more important adaptation of the timbers.

The price of sissoo is generally from twenty-five to forty per cent above that of saul; but in many places, up the country especially, where there is no naval architecture, they are commonly of about equal value. In such situations sissoo is less an object of import, since its utility is greatly circumscribed, and in a variety of instances superseded by the baubool (a species of mimosa, generally growing wild), whose crooked billets are deservedly in great estimation, and whose bark is considered to be, for the tanners' use, rather superior to that of oak.

In some parts, especially along the western frontier, a small kind of saul grows wild. This rarely exceeds six inches in diameter, and is commonly used entire, in lieu of bamboos, for enclosures, rafters of bungalows, &c. This wood, however, cannot be trusted for any length of time, even under a thatch, being subject to the depredations of a very small insect called the g'hoon, which perforates it in a thousand places, depositing its eggs, which are very numerous, and absolutely rendering the rafter a mere honeycomb.

During the day, these mischievous insects are commonly quiet, but after night-fall, when all else is still, they may be heard in every quarter. A person unaccustomed to the sounds would suppose that a very heavy shower of hail were falling on the thatch. In the course of two or three seasons, sometimes in much less time, the rafters give way. On examination, they appear as though pierced with large awls; and when struck forcibly with a hammer, yield a cloud of yellowish powder, resulting no doubt from the labours of the multitude of inhabitants. The g'hoon, which rarely exceeds the sixth of an inch in length, is of a chocolate colour, very hard about the head, with firm exterior coats over its wings. These terminate abruptly behind, giving the exact appearance of its rump [[280]] having been burnt off. 

Timbers used immediately after being felled, as usually happens, are the first to be attacked by the g'hoon; but even a year's seasoning will not always afford security against, though it obviously retards, their attacks. Possibly, if all wild saul trees intended for rafters were to be immersed in some of the numerous puddles every where abounding in their vicinity, and of which a great majority are strongly impregnated with minerals, particularly iron, copper, and sulphur, the g'hoons might be altogether repelled. The immersion should continue for a year or two, and the trees be previously allowed to season standing, but cutting away a circle of bark, about six inches wide, near the ground, to stop the flow of sap.

No mode answers so well as this, in England. In India, the advantages would be still more extensive, in consequence of the regularity, and particular effects, of the three great seasons into which the year is there naturally divided. It is curious, but true, that the g'hoon acts less on timbers that have been squared, than on such as have only been deprived of their bark; and that in the large species of saul, which is used in most parts of the country for great buildings, &c., it either is unable, or indisposed, to burrow.

Intermixed with the smaller species of saul, though by no means abundant, is another tree, bearing, in common with the oak, the designation of seesah, and that too owing to the great specific gravity of its wood. This, however, does not grow to any size, but appears admirably suited to many of those purposes for which lignum vitae and ebony are now used.

In the same jungles, a most remarkable tree is sometimes found, of which the interior is of a very dark colour, nearly approaching to black. Hence, the natives call it [[281]] the cowah (or crow-tree); but from the hardness of its wood, it might with propriety be termed the iron-tree. The carpenters view it much in the same light with the black-oak of Peelabeet; and tremble for their tools, when working on the cowah.

Though on bungalows built with a view to duration the best materials are sometimes employed, and every part of their roofs are sustained by rafters of the best saul, by far the majority of such buildings, and nearly all at the military stations, are constructed on a much cheaper scale, having only mango-wood rafters, door-plates, &c. The great abundance of mango trees, the ease with which they are worked, and their growing in general with stems sufficiently straight to furnish beams of perhaps two feet square, and from fifteen to thirty feet long, give them a decided preference over every other kind of wood brought from any distance.

Williamson 1810 vol. 2: ((76)) Formerly, a gentleman could send out his servant, with ((77)) wood-cutters, sawyers, &c., to fell whatever trees might be found suitable to his intentions, without any questions being asked; but of late, and especially since the introduction of the Mocurrery settlement (which will be hereafter explained), the zemindars,(or land-holders) and the raiuts (or peasants) have set a value upon every twig that grows, and invariably demand from one to four rupees, for such mango trees as may be felled for the use of any European; especially in the military. As to a Company's civil servant, either the hope of his favor, or the fear of his resentment, generally is found to seal the mouth of the pretended proprietor of the soil; who even is assiduous in furnishing workmen, and conveyance, on most occasions of this description.

I must caution my readers against entertaining any sentiment unfavorable to the gentlemen alluded to: the adulation in question results entirely from that servile, abject, and crafty disposition, for which the zemindars are notorious where their interests are any way implicated. They judge of our collectors, magistrates, &c., as they would of their own; at least, so far as to suppose that courtesy will secure their good-will; but, they are, at the same time, thoroughly sensible, that in all public, as well as in all private, intercourse, the Company's servants act with the most conscientious propriety, and with ((78)) the most undeviating attention to justice. It matters not that this character may be repugnant to some proofs existing of former rapacity, and extortion; which may now be deemed obsolete, or, at the utmost, only existing to such extent as must be expected under every form of government, and among every race of people, in spite of the utmost vigilance.

The wood of the mango is like that of the plane-tree, but tougher, and its fibres coarser. Yet being very light, and easy to work, it is in very general use for rafters, door and wall-plates, frames for windows and doors, floorings of factories, and drying-rooms; also for wine chests, indigo-boxes, roofs of budjrows, and many other purposes of individual convenience and of mercantile service. It is, however, particularly subject to the white ant; and unless carefully preserved from damp, will speedily decay. Though a mango-plank is considered to be at least at par when it measures twenty inches or two feet in width, yet great numbers may be found of double that breadth, and too large for any common saw.

Very old tables may sometimes be seen made of mango-wood, which exhibit beautiful veins, and acquire a substantial polish; but such instances occur only from a [[282]] very careful choice of planks, which must be seasoned, and worked to great advantage; otherwise, a mango-wood table will appear coarse and mean.

The mango tree itself, owing to the stiffness of the leaves, cannot be termed graceful. Yet its deep green, contrasted with the white spindling blossoms (much resembling those of the horse-chesnut) and its abundant foliage, produce a richness which renders it peculiarly gratifying to the eye; especially as it appears in its greatest beauty during the early part of the hot season. Then the grass begins to parch, and the surface of the soil changes from an agreeable verdure produced by the rains, and in some degree cherished by the succeeding cold months, to a very sombre russet.

The fruit is not much in hazard, after the blossoms have once fairly set; though sometimes severe blights occur, which render the whole abortive. When about the size of a very large gooseberry, the young mangoes make excellent pies, not unlike apple-pies, but with a certain terebinthinic flavour which, if unpleasant at first, soon becomes palatable. When about half grown, or beyond the size of a large walnut, they are fit for pickling. This fruit is also preserved in common mosaul-oil: being allowed first to remain about a month in the vinegar pickle. Many persons are very partial to the pickle thus made; though nothing is more rank; especially when the rinds are not pared off.

Mangoes make also a very rich preserve, if prepared before the stones harden; else they will be very fibrous, and cut with peculiar harshness. Of the ripe fruit, it is impossible to describe the flavour; since various kinds are found even on the same tree. A stranger would conclude, on seeing mangoes of different colours, scents, and shapes, ripening together, that they had been grafted; but such is not the fact. There seems [[283]] to be some very peculiar property that causes this shooting out with such different bearings, which remain on distinct boughs; as though the tree were composed of various twigs, all proceeding from the same stem.

What can be said of a fruit varying in flavour, from the finest apricot, down to a very bad carrot? Such, however, is known to be not uncommon: though for the most part, the whole crop of a tree will be nearly similar, both in shape and flavour. As for the produce of trees resulting from the kernels of the same kind of mango, the quality is quite uncertain, for like potatoes raised from seed, there will generally be found a great variety.

The Chinese considerably improve their mangoes by a very simple process. They select some healthy branches on a good tree, and having pierced the bark with a sharp awl, surround that part with a lump of wet clay, or loam; which they secure by means of canvas, bound lightly with hempen bands. Above each part thus treated, a large pot of water is suspended, having in its bottom a small hole. This being partially stopped with a rag, allows the water to drip, whereby the clay is kept constantly moist. In about three months, small fibres shoot out through the punctured bark; which, on the branch being cut off, and the canvass removed, strike into the soil, and become roots.

It is remarkable, that the fruit produced by branches thus treated becomes more fleshy, while the stone diminishes considerably; being more flat, and rarely so firm as that of the common mango. By repeating the operation on the branches of a tree thus cultivated, for several successions, the kernel becomes so reduced as scarcely to be noticed; while the skin loses much of that highly acrid quality arising from its abundance of turpentine.

Mangoes are peculiarly stimulant, their free use producing [[284]] boils of considerable size, and often of very difficult cure; it being absolutely necessary to treat them as critical abscesses; for were any repellent to be applied, serious consequences would inevitably follow. Persons lately [=newly] arrived in the country often devour this luscious fruit, till checked either by a dozen or two of these most distressing companions, or perhaps in consequence of that kind of bowel-complaint prevalent in all hot climates. Though generally not very difficult to remedy when properly treated in its first stage, it soon turns to dysentery, carrying off a large portion of those whose constitutions are not remarkably sound.

When eaten in moderation, mangoes are gently aperient; but if, notwithstanding its acrid taste and effects, the rind should be incautiously swallowed, the stomach will be considerably disordered. The gland, or kernel, which in shape is something like a very large flat Windsor-bean, is unpleasant to the palate, its flavour being very similar to that of the acorn. Swine, especially of the wild tribes, which often take shelter during the season in topes, or forests, of wild mangoes, eat the entire fruit, as it falls from the trees, with great avidity, and thrive amazingly.

The generality of mango-topes owe their origin to religious institutions, bequests, or charitable donations. To plant one, the land must be purchased in fee-simple. The trees being set out, perhaps thirty feet or more asunder, in rows, so as to form regular square intervals, the whole are fenced by means of a deep ditch. From this the excavated soil is thrown inwards, and either planted with baubool (mimosa) or sown with that tall kind of grass already described, which bears a very large tassel, and is known by the name of surput. Some topes are endowed with small sums for the purpose of maintaining a priest, for whom a comfortable residence, and substantial durgaw (or temple), are erected. The sale of the fruit (which generally proves a full crop in four or five years, the trees being then as large as a well-grown walnut-tree) furnishes the means of sinking a well, cased with masonry. But it is more common for the person who causes the tope to be planted, to sink the well also; and to celebrate the marriage of the former with the latter, in a manner suitable to his rank or property.

On such occasions the well, being supposed to possess the fecundatory powers, is considered the husband; the tope being typified as feminine by the fruit it produces. However much we may be disposed to smile at a custom generally attended with much ceremony and expense, we cannot but admire its effects; which, in a tropical climate, are highly beneficial, both to the weary traveller and to the thirsty soil. Hence, the sight of a mango-tope is generally attended with the most pleasing anticipations!


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