(57) Wines, spirits, fish, poultry, table apparatus, furniture, china-bazar, Europe shops, wax and candles, insects, snakes of various sorts, antidotes to their poison, musquitoes, and curtains to repel them, cock-roaches, scorpions, centipedes, wasps, hornets, shampooing [[325-355]]
[] The British settlers in India are extremely indebted to the Dutch for many essential improvements. The small town of Chinsurah, situated about twenty-eight miles north of Calcutta, on the banks of the Hoogly river, has in this instance proved serviceable to India at large. The Dutch, to whom it appertained before the war, introduced the culture of that invaluable esculent, the potato, received from their settlement at the Cape of Good Hope. They were also the first to show any disposition for horticulture. From them the British received annually the seeds of every kind of vegetable for the table, and several plants much wanted, especially various kinds of pot-herbs.
They likewise supplied vines, from which innumerable cuttings have been dispensed to every part of Bengal and its upper dependencies. The whole of the lower provinces, at least those parts skirting the ranges of hills that bound them, produce immense quantities of wild vines, which during the rains bear partially grapes of a red colour, and about the size of a pistol-ball. These vines tower over the high saul trees, or creep along the rocky masses, especially throughout the Ramghur district, in, all the majesty of wild luxuriance.
Here is a field for speculation! Suppose that the wines which should be made proved not of the best quality, still the most important advantages might be derived from the brandy and vinegar to which they might be converted. [] As to wood for the staves, and iron for the hoops, they are both on the spot; and for distillation, [an] abundance of sufficiently skilful men may be found among the natives. Fuel is every where abundant; it is, indeed, a perfect nuisance.
The only impediment alledged is that the neighbouring streams are not generally navigable, or perhaps only for a few months in the year. They might, however, be easily rendered adequate to every purpose, there being lime-stone in various adjacent hills; while among the convicts, who are in a state of idleness for the most part, many persons might be selected fully capable of constructing whatever masonry or timber work should be found necessary.
Some years ago, this suggestion was submitted to the Directors. The Indian minister of that day was forcibly struck with the obvious facility of founding an immense national concern: and had he remained in office, would probably have taken means to ascertain every point with the utmost exactitude: the result must [=would] have been perfectly satisfactory.
Rum is made in Bengal, as in the West Indies, from refuse sugar: its quality is by no means inferior. After being six years in the godown (warehouse), it has been compared with Jamaica Rum warranted ten years old, and the preference decided in its favour. As to arrack, which is in a manner peculiar to the East, the native distillers produce excellent alcohol; which, after being properly rectified, and kept for some years, proves an excellent spirit, and is supposed to be far more wholesome than rum.
Though on the whole, the fish brought to the Calcutta markets cannot be compared with such as are seen at Billingsgate, &c., there are some kinds which might [] please the most dainty epicure. The hilsah (or sable fish), which seems to be in the mid-way between a mackarel and a salmon as to form, general appearance, and flavour, is perhaps the richest fish with which any cook is acquainted. It so abounds with fat that most persons, after being served with a portion, immerse it in boiling water, brought in a soup-plate; which causes a large quantity of grease to float. When baked in vinegar, or preserved in tamarinds, the hilsah is remarkably fine.
Like the salmon, these run up to the very spring-heads, seeming to abound more and more as they approach them, though they grow to the largest size immediately within the tide's reach. Passing beyond that, they dart up as far as possible during the season, returning, after spawning, to the sea. They are in perfection towards the latter end of the rains.
The bickty (or cockup) very strongly resembles the jack, and grows to an enormous size. They have been seen more than eight feet long, and weighing full a maund (82 lb.). The average size at which they are brought to market may be from eighteen to thirty inches long; and their weight from two to ten or twelve pounds. They flake like cod, to which also their flavour assimilates.
Soles, of a diminutive size, are sometimes to be had at Calcutta: the natives call them kookoor jibbys (dogs' tongues), in allusion to their shape. These are sometimes caught in the brackish waters among the bicktys, or cockups, or in the flat sands about Diamond Harbour, &c. Prawns of a very good size, and very small crayfish, are found in most parts of the country, also a kind of eel called baum. This, however, bears more resemblance to the gar, or guard-fish, of which millions may be taken [] in most of the fresh-water jeels (lakes), though rarely exceeding a foot in length.
The roey, or r'hooee, is a species of the carp, as is also the meergah. They both abound in the great rivers, and in all the waters which connect with them, though the r'hooee are most numerous, and thrive greatly in ponds. The meergah are of a browner colour, and in weight rarely exceed ten pounds, whereas the r'hooee are often found of fifty pounds weight, and sometimes up to a maund.
The cutlah is a species of perch, though some consider it the bream kind. It is found only in great rivers; is generally of a dark colour, approaching to black, and commonly weighs from ten to sixty pounds.
The r'hooee, the meergah, and the cutlah may be taken by angling; also the soly, a species of the jack, and nearly as voracious.
Trouts as large as smelts are sometimes seen in those small streams that have their rise among mountains, but not so distinctly spotted as in Europe. They are, indeed, very scarce, and have generally a small red, gold, or black spot on each scale. The adipous fin, by which all the salmon tribe are distinguished, is scarcely elevated above the loins.
The fresh-water anchovy, called by the natives chelwar, is found in shoals on every flat sand throughout the great rivers. These are generally scared, so as to precipitate themselves on the beach. Two men, wading in the water up to their knees, gradually draw a line of fifty or sixty feet in length, everywhere laden with small coloured rags, in such manner as to enclose the chelwars in a crescent, and ultimately to drive them ashore.
Occasionally are found among the booty, mullets of a small size, remarkably sweet and firm. Shoals of them are commonly seen struggling against the current, especially in the cold [] months, with their eyes out of the water. Their motions are very nimble, and they are not to be taken by angling; but it is not uncommon to see several killed by a round of small shot from a common fowling-piece.
The tingrah, a kind of fresh-water gurnet, is extremely voracious, and grows to a good size, often weighing eight or nine pounds; though the average is from two to four. They are very strong, and when hooked afford ample amusement. The skait grows to full twelve or fourteen pounds, and is common in all great rivers, but must be handled with caution, on account of its dreadful spine about the centre of the tail. The two last-mentioned fishes are rarely seen at table; nor the buallee, which is rather flat and, like eels, has a continued abdominal fin. This fish is extremely coarse, but desperately rapacious; seizing almost any bait with avidity, but when hooked, affording little sport.
The puftah is of the same description, but instead of weighing, as the buallee often does, from ten to fifteen pounds, seldom reaches so many ounces. Its flesh is remarkably rich and sweet; but when hooked, it is as little disposed as the former to resist. The most esteemed fish is that called by the natives tupsey, but by Europeans mango-fish, on account of its appearing about the time that mangoes first come into season, when it comes up with the tide. In appearance it is not unlike the smelt, though rather deeper, and with reddish fins. The flesh is fine, and the roe deservedly esteemed to be delicious. An immense quantity are cured by being slightly salted and sun-dried; after which they are smoked for a short time over a fire made of chaff, &c.
Turtle of about a cwt [=hundredweight] are found in almost every river and creek, and in some of the large jeels; though very rarely seen in standing waters, and then perhaps only in [] a state of migration. Their flesh is peculiarly unwholesome; and so far from being like the sea-turtles, composed of parts resembling fish, flesh, and fowl, may be aptly compared with bacon of the coarsest description, and somewhat rancid.
The batchwah, or fresh-water herring (though it has no scales), is one of the best fishes the Indian rivers produce; but a general prejudice against its selection of food is entertained, and with much justice. The most appropriate baits for fishes, generally, are the goorgoory (or gryttus monstrosum) and the cock-roach (or blatta). It would be endless to recount all the kinds of fishes in the streams and lakes of India; but it may be justly stated that in some parts their numbers are so great as to corrupt the waters.
With respect to the minor species of fish occasionally served at table, they are very numerous, and in most places abundant. Every creek and jeel is full of them, and in every village in their vicinity there are persons provided with an apparatus for catching an ample supply. On the larger pieces of water are usually either canoes or dingies, which, with their owners, are subservient to the jemmadars, or head-boroughs, and may also be set in motion for a very trivial present, ostensibly made to the labourer, but commonly transferred privately to that proud, imperious, and avaricious officer.
Of poultry, which next come under consideration, there is great variety. Fowls, capons, ducks, geese, turkeys, and pigeons have been sold in every city or great station, at very moderate prices, though now rather on the increase. As a general average of fine chickens, called chuiahs, ten could be had for a rupee (three-pence each); of middle-sized, or meem-kabobbies (small roasters), seven or eight for a rupee (about four-pence each); and of good-sized roasters, or kabobbies, five for a rupee (about sixpence each).
[] Capons can be procured only in particular parts of the country. They are generally white, and so cheap that ten or twelve may be bought for a rupee. In the mountainous Tomar district, where they are produced in immense numbers by the Pahariahs,/1/ or Hill people, no less than twenty-nine have been purchased for that sum, or for one penny each.
Ducks thrive prodigiously throughout India, but not turkeys, which are extremely tender, and cannot endure the great heats of summer, unless allowed to graze upon a plot well watered, and generally sheltered from the sun. It is not uncommon to see them crowding to some little verdant spot under the shade of the lee-side, where a current of air, refrigerated by the tatties, passes out from the bungalow, &c. Without such a restorative they would pine away, and speedily disappoint the hopes of their owner.
Among the grass on the plots generally preserved near the dwelling, it is common to see immense numbers of ants of all descriptions, which resort thither both for coolness and to collect the seeds perpetually falling. It is strange but true, that these little depredators are not easily deterred by the water being laid on occasionally, from forming their nests in such plots of grass, though they generally prefer some dry hard walk, or level area. Along these they form little paths, by laying the gravel, [] &c., aside; so that when robbing some store, their progress may not be obstructed. These paths may be traced for fifty or sixty yards. They are occasionally double; one being appropriated for the egressors, and the other for those returning laden with the booty.
When the turkeys light upon such a line of march, they fall to with a voracious appetite, seeming to rival English pheasants in that particular, and exhibiting their satisfaction on receiving a supply of this favourite food. In thus devouring the ants, they do great service, for there can be no companions more unpleasant than those little tormentors, whose bite, which is extremely keen, produces considerable irritation. Some of these ants grow to full three quarters of an inch in length, and are capable of causing great pain. Many object to destroy them from an opinion that they feed on white ants. This is doubtful, though they are ready enough to march off with the body of a dead white ant, as they would with any other morsel of animal substance.
The difficulty of rearing turkeys renders them extremely scarce. Hence it is not uncommon to pay a gold mohur (two pounds) for a well-grown fat turkey-cock. Few, either cocks or hens, are to be procured in any part of the country for less than half that sum, and then chiefly from Portuguese families, who gain a livelihood by rearing them; especially about Bandel, a Portuguese town, thirty miles above Calcutta, where also are reared ducks and geese in abundance. At all the great stations, both civil and military, there are persons by whom families can be supplied. Fowls are reared by the same persons; and indeed almost every Mahomedan family maintains a few for its own use, and for sale.
Among Hindoos, nothing could be more criminal than such an employment: the very touch of a fowl being the acme of [] pollution. How necessary then it is to be guarded in changing the dress of native soldiers. Their zeal and fidelity are unquestionable, but they instantly revolt at any invasion, however slight, of their religious tenets, or of their vulgar prejudices. Let those who affect to consider such to be easily overruled, take a trip to Bengal, and insist on any Hindoo menials, or others, under their authority, wearing a feather in their turban.
As to the numerous species of wild game, such as antelopes, hog-deer, hogs, geese, ducks, teal, snipes, ortolans, quails, partridges, florikens (or bustards), pigeons of sorts, wild and tame, hares, sic., they are generally to be had in abundance. Of these there is a particular account, in that superb work, the Wild Sports of the East, where the details of every branch of hunting, shooting, &c., will be found.
There are no wild rabbits in India; but of the tame there are great numbers at Calcutta, and some of the subordinate stations. The prices vary according to demand, age, and condition. It is extremely difficult to preserve them from their numerous enemies, dogs, jackals, foxes, cats, rats, bats, snakes, hawks, crows, &c.
To the supply of the table, naturally succeeds a description of what relates to the convenience and service of gentlemen resident in the East.
The dinner table is invariably laid with two cloths; one of the usual size, the other only large enough to cover the surface. This is removed when the meat is taken off; so that the dessert is laid upon the lower one. A napkin is placed with every cover, also a tumbler or rummer, a long glass for claret, and one of ordinary size for Madeira. Each glass has a cover, to be lifted off by a stud in its centre. In opulent families, these covers are usually made of silver, otherwise of turned wood.
[] It is remarkable, that some of the common indigenous woods have the peculiar property, when used for this purpose, of imparting a most offensive smell and flavour to water, &c., if left for a few minutes.
The knives and forks are all of European manufacture, though, within these few years, some excellent imitations have appeared. Yet the native can, as yet, scarcely work at so low a rate as an English artisan, though he has the advantage in cheapness of living, and in being generally exempt from a variety of taxes. This deficiency proceeds, on the part of the natives, from their being obliged to perform all those operations by hand, which the English both accelerate and perfect by machinery.
Yet the greater part of the plate used throughout the country is made by native smiths, who in some instances may be seen to tread very close on the heels of our jewellers, not only in the graceful forms of the articles, but in the patterns, whether carved or embossed. Such specimens of perfection are, however, rare, and produced chiefly under the superintendence of European masters; though pieces displaying much skill, and some taste, have been made by sonaars (goldsmiths) totally independent of such aid or instruction.
Speaking, however, of the common workmanship of this class, it is unworthy to be compared with British plate, on account of its indifferent shape and rude ornaments. Hence, plate sent from England, or made by Europeans settled in India, very generally sells for full[y] 25, or even for 50, per cent more than what is manufactured by native artisans.
The whole of the glass-ware used in India is sent from England, and commonly sells at from two to three hundred per cent, on the prime cost. Nor is this unreasonable, considering how brittle is the commodity, [] and that the extent of sale is not considerable enough to render it, individually, an object of adventure.
Table-cloths and napkins are manufactured in several parts of the country, especially at Patna, Tondah, and most of those cities where piece-goods are made. Of some fabrics of this description the beauty is very striking; nor is their durability less remarkable; lasting in constant use for more than twelve years. The prices of course vary according to quality. Some of a coarser texture, and a plain diaper [=a kind of fabric], are extremely cheap. Such are, however, extremely flimsy, and never appear creditable. Towels are also manufactured at various prices. A kind generally of mixed coloured borders woven in, is made at Chittagong. These are rough, like what we call huckaback, and are peculiarly calculated for drying and cleaning the skin after washing, but are not so durable as the plain diapers.
Great quantities of furniture are sent from Europe, being taken to pieces and packed within a very small space. Of this description, mahogany tables and chairs form by far the greater portion; few other articles being shipped, except now and then we see a few bureaus, secretaires, escritoires, &c. All such commodities would bear even a higher price than is now charged for them, were it not that among the natives, as well as among European carpenters and joiners settled in Calcutta, the British mechanics experience considerable and very successful rivalship.
The excellence and variety of the woods produced in almost every part of India, and the facility with which they are brought to market, present the most favourable aids to the Indian artisans. Owing to their want of capital, their work is rarely found to answer; [] for as they cannot afford to buy a stock of wood before-hand, and to allow time for its seasoning, it warps, and sometimes rives from end to end. On the contrary, when a gentleman is at the pains, and has the opportunity, to saw up his own wood, and to season it properly, it will commonly be found fully to answer his expectations, both in respect to durability and polish. Though in some instances there is an obvious cheapness in employing a native carpenter: it may safely be asserted that in the end, what with delay, impositions, imperfections, &c., it is frequently found to be a dear purchase, of a trifling saving.
Persons arriving in India should visit the several depots of furniture at every auction-warehouse, and generally at the godown (warehouses) of the European shopkeepers. There is, besides, a whole street called the china-bazar, as well as various scattered boutiques, appropriated entirely to the display of European articles and china-ware of every description. These are all sold, for ready money only, by a tribe of Hindoo speculators who, by attending at auctions, make cheap purchases, and become perfectly acquainted with the qualities of every article, or at least, with what gives a preference in the eye of an European. In this bazar (or market) almost everything may be obtained that an European can require for common purposes. He may, indeed, purchase an ample library, either of new or of second-hand books; and, generally speaking, may equip himself so as to keep house at full thirty per cent. cheaper than by application to the European shopkeepers.
Though a few trades, such as coach making, jewellery, cutlery, armoury, &c., are perfectly distinct, and unconnected with any other speculation, commodities in general are not separately classed, and exhibited in shops [] solely allotted to them. On the contrary, what is called an European shop affords a rich display of that heterogeneous kind of cargo imported in every merchant-ship from that quarter. Consequently, each shop offers an astonishing variety of wares. Liquors of all kinds, guns, pistols, glass, tin and copper ware, crockery, stationery, shoes and boots, hosiery, woollens, linens, ironmongery, hats, cheese, grocery, and a great number of articles of the most opposite natures, may be found in the spacious rooms and godowns allotted to the exhibition of the miscellaneous profusion.
Though it is not common to see European goods, especially those not immediately perishable, selling for less than thirty or forty per cent. advance upon the salt-water invoices, it sometimes happens that an immense importation of some few particular articles may lower them to full fifty per cent. under prime cost. This is easily explained. For instance, should hats, shoes, and boots bear a great price at the time a fleet is about to be despatched for Europe, the commanders and officers note it down, for the purpose of giving those articles a large proportion in their next outward-bound cargoes. Thus each, unwittingly, becomes the dupe of his own avarice; and, on the return of those ships to India, experiences a lamentable disappointment.
However in Europe genuine china-ware may be admired, in the East, Europeans seem for the most part indifferent to its beauties; preferring the ornamented Staffordshire-ware which, owing to its bulk and brittleness, necessarily bears a high price in every quarter of India. It is a disadvantage of using this ware in so remote a situation, that when from numerous accidents to which such articles are subject, even under especial vigilance, but particularly in the hands of native menials, the [] set may be much reduced, it is utterly impracticable to restore it.
With china-ware it is very different; for it is not easy to distinguish between two complex patterns, if tolerably alike; and as there is always a very large stock on hand in the china-bazar, there is almost a certainty of being furnished with any number of plates, dishes, &c., required to complete the set, or even to augment it, if necessary. It may, however, be a proper precaution not to buy a set of china-ware of any very particular pattern; but to select one from those numerous rich patterns everywhere common, and annually imported. It appears, indeed, that unless under particular orders, the Chinese deviate but little from their established fashions, as may be seen in their constant manufacture of that kind of crockery we generally term dragon china, which has been in use among them for centuries.
A very expensive article of general consumption is wax-candle. Of late years, in consequence of the increased demand, the price has more than trebled. Here appears that want of system which too often tends to annihilate what might be made, under due regulation, a most advantageous concern. Honey is of little value in India, the natives considering it unwholesome, and the Hindoos being particularly averse to destroying so many lives, for the purpose of robbing their combs. These circumstances tend to diminish the collection of wax, which in some districts hangs for years neglected upon the briars in the jungles.
Besides, the jealousy of the zemindars (or landholders), who rarely omit to exact a heavy duty upon whatever is taken from their soil, deters those who possess a spirit of enterprise from becoming dealers in the article. Half a million of maunds might doubtless be annually collected, were proper encouragement given, [] and a sale insured to the adventurers, at any particular towns in the several districts where bees are abundant.
The very unpleasant scent of tallow, and its great aptitude to gutter in so hot a climate, occasion its use to be confined to Europeans whose circumstances will not permit the use of wax. This occasions all who return from India after long residence there, to be extremely incommoded by the smell of mould candles, the smoke of which is to them peculiarly offensive, and strongly reminds them of the cheraugs, or oil-lamps, in common use among the natives, and in the zenanuhs of Europeans.
The whole of the doors and windows being thrown open, during the evenings especially, the current of air, passing through every part of the interior, would extinguish the several lights unless large glass covers, called shades, were applied by way of preventives. Some of these are made to stand on pillars or pedestals, generally of wood, with brass ferules, and broad plinths, either square or circular, to prevent their being easily overset
The other kind of table-shade is by no means so convenient, being an irregular tube, standing on its base, or broader extremity; and though spreading in the centre, drawing narrower toward the upper part. This kind is required to be much longer, so as to shelter the flame of a candle standing on a candlestick, which should not properly be more than six inches high. The inconveniences by which this shade is attended are self-evident, as it cannot be carried about, or lifted in toto, like the pedestal shade. The lights affixed to the walls, either on sconces or brackets, or suspended from hooks, are generally on the same principle; with this necessary difference, that oil is chiefly burnt in them, by means of a small glass tumbler half filled with water, on which the oil floats, and [] supports a very slight tin tube with four tin wings, to each of which a piece of cork is affixed.
During the rainy season, when insects of every description are beyond credibility numerous, it is often absolutely necessary to remove all lights from the supper-table. Otherwise, moths, flies, bugs, &c., would be attracted in such numbers as, if not to extinguish them, to prove extremely obnoxious. When the lights are retained on the table, it is customary to place the candlesticks in soup plates, &c., filled with water; by this means such insects, especially the stinking bugs, which fly with great force, are often precipitated and drowned.
It is not unusual in this manner to catch whole platesful, which would otherwise continue to torment the company. Nothing can exceed the irritation produced by these bugs when they get into the hair, or between the linen and the body. Nor are they in themselves innocent; for though they neither bite nor sting, such is their acrimony, that if bruised so as to leave any moisture on the skin, great heat may take place, and sometimes blisters, followed by excoriations difficult to heal.
The same effect is produced by the urine of lizards, which frequent the interior of houses, and may often be seen in great numbers crawling about the walls, or on the ceiling (if so may be termed the roofs already described), in pursuit of the smaller and more delicate insects, which they snap up with great dexterity and greediness. It is really amusing to observe with what sagacity and care they approach their prey, and with what rapidity they dart forth their long tongues armed with gluten.
Frogs, toads, and occasionally snakes, patrolling about the skirts of the apartments even of the best houses in the country, must be put up with as matters of course; as must also the alighting of cock-roaches on the face while at table, or at cards, &c. Nor, indeed, must the resident [] in India be very squeamish in regard to bats, which freely indulge in aerial circuits over the heads of the company, on which, too, they now and then find it convenient to halt awhile. These all appear terrible drawbacks, but after a time are scarcely noticed: such is the power of habit.
Certainly a very considerable portion of the enjoyments which might otherwise be indulged in, are in a manner proscribed by these nuisances. Yet whether it be owing to that ennui generally prevalent, or to that kind of reconciliation which takes place between the pest and its sufferer, we see all the old residents treat insects, frogs, toads, &c., with great indifference; though to be sure, when a snake, of whatever class, makes his entree, an astonishing degree of activity, far beyond what the former lethargic symptoms could indicate, suddenly prevails.
Large snakes have been seen coiled, or rather twined, among the Venetians of bungalow windows. The grass-snake, which is of a beautiful green, with a reddish head, loves to secrete itself under the leaves of tables, and in situations of that description, where it may be easily dislodged, or touched, by accident. Such a propensity is peculiarly obnoxious in a serpent whose bite is generally fatal. This snake may occasionally be seen twisted round the boughs of trees; whence, if disturbed, it drops with great readiness, and proceeds along the tops of the grass with admirable celerity, and from similarity of colour, scarcely allowing the dazzled eye to follow its course.
The Cunjoors carry a great variety of serpents about the country, which they exhibit for a mere trifle. Some, such as the adjghur or boa-constrictor, which has been known to reach the immense length of thirty feet, destroy by the extent of their bite, or by compression; while the [] lesser species seem to be provided with poison to make up for their deficiency of bulk. The skeleton of an adjghur was found near Chittagong, about fifty years ago, having in its fauces the skeleton of a full-grown deer; the horns of which, it was supposed, had occasioned the suffocation of its unwieldy devourer. One of this kind has required eight men to lift him into his basket, an operation to which, either from habit or fatigue, it submitted with great resignation.
The covra capella is the same as the hooded-snake of America, thus designated from a peculiar spreading of the throat when in a state of irritation, so as to give it much resemblance to a flounder, but with a curious figure extremely similar to a pair of spectacles; which, being under the throat, is fully exhibited as the snake rises, as he is wont to do, nearly half his length, before he darts upon the object of resentment. These snakes are peculiarly venomous and, though averaging from three to five feet, sometimes attain a larger size, perhaps from six to nine feet. One was exhibited by the Cunjoors or Saumpareahs (snake-men) which actually measured about thirteen feet.
The daumeen grows to a large size, perhaps from eight to twelve feet, but has no venomous teeth, or fangs. He lashes with his tail, coiling into a bow, and awaiting the approach of dogs, men, &c., before he lashes; which he does with such severity as often to cut the integuments very deeply. The natives entertain an opinion that the tail of this snake is venomous. This might be supposed, from the almost certainly fatal effects produced by its operation; but the mischief may be attributed to that laceration produced by a very rough scaly body, such as the tail is, proceeding with great force over parts well known to be peculiarly irritable, and occasioning a strong tendency to that most horrible affection, the [] tetanus, or locked-jaw, from which not one in a thousand recovers.
The covra manilla rarely grows to more than fifteen or eighteen inches. It is of a mottled appearance, very indicative of its deleterious property, as its bite is supposed to be invariably fatal. The double-headed snake is so called because its body is nearly cylindrical, the tail terminating in a short cone resembling a second head. This snake, chiefly seen in hilly countries, is occasionally washed down by the annual floods to the plains, where it is found in drains and hollows, from which it is not well qualified to escape. Its average length may be from two to three feet, and its thickness, or circumference, from four to six inches.
It may be acceptable to the reader, while on this subject, to be informed of that antidote to the poison of snakes, the volatile alkali, or eau-de-luce. A few drops, diluted sufficiently in a wine glass full of water, if taken in time, and repeated every two or three hours, or even more frequently, has been known to counteract the venom after its effects had been so fully ascertained as to leave but little chance of recovery. Nor should any one go out shooting without a small bottle of this, closed by a ground stopper, in his tin box of apparatus.
Mr. Boag, in a very interesting communication to the Asiatic Society, informs us that "The symptoms which arise from the bite of a serpent are, commonly, pain, swelling, and redness in the part bitten; great faintness, with sickness at stomach, and sometimes vomiting, succeed; the breath becomes short and laborious; the pulse low, quick, and interrupted; the wound, which was at first red, becomes livid, black, and gangrenous; the skin of the wounded limb, and sometimes of the whole body, assumes a yellowish hue; cold sweats and convulsions come on, and the patient sinks sometimes in [] a few hours, but commonly at the end of two, three, or four days.
"This is the usual progress when the disease terminates fatally; but, happily, the patient will most commonly recover; a reflection which should moderate the fears of those who happen to be bitten by snakes, and which, at any rate, should as much as possible be resisted; as the depressing passion of fear will, in all cases, assist the operation of the poison.
"The volatile alkali is the remedy mostly employed by physicians, both in India and in Europe; but the belief which formerly prevailed, that it possessed some specific power which corrected the poison, seems to be now very generally relinquished; and it is now acknowledged to have no other action than that ascribed to it by Mr. Williams (of Benares), of stimulating the vascular system to a more vigorous exertion.
"The calces, or, as they are more properly called, the oxyds of some metals, as arsenic, mercury, and silver, have been made use of; the efficacy of which, as remedies in this disease, merit a more attentive consideration.
"We are indebted to Fontana for any knowledge we possess regarding the use of the lunar-caustic; which is a preparation of silver in the nitrous acid; and, considering the length of time that has elapsed since his publication, and the advantages resulting from its use, it is wonderful it has not excited more general attention.
"He first mixed the venom with the lunar-caustic, applied this mixture to a wound, and found that the venom was rendered entirely innocent, while the corroding power of the caustic was diminished. He next wounded a variety of animals, with venomous teeth, scarified the wounds, and washed them with a solution of [] lunar-caustic in water: by this means, the lives of the greatest number of the animals were saved, though they were such as he knew to be most easily killed by the poison, and the death of others was retarded. He also tried a weak solution of the same remedy, internally, with remarkable success; and upon the whole, he congratulates himself in seeing his labours at length rewarded, by the discovery of a true specific remedy for the bites of serpents.
"A ligature should, as soon as possible, be made above the part bitten, so as to impede, but not entirely to stop, the circulation of the blood: for the bite of a serpent is, for the most part, superficial, and the poison is carried into circulation by the smaller vessels on the surface; the wound should then be scarified, and washed in a solution (rather weak) of the lunar-caustic in water."
Mr. Boag recommends a warm bath for the bitten limb, and thinks the addition of a small quantity of nitrous acid would produce excellent effects. He speaks of it only as a suggestion; and where time may admit, and the means be at hand, there certainly ought to be a fair trial made of so promising a theory. The misfortune is that owing to the great heat of the climate, and the dread ever entertained of the result, all the symptoms proceed with rapidity. That gentleman speaks of several hours elapsing between the accident and the fatal termination: but it has been found that not one in ten of those bitten during the hot months, and especially when at work, or heated with travelling, &c., survive more than an hour. There have, indeed, been cases in which half that time was the utmost; and some instances of persons dying within the quarter of an hour.
Though snakes generally avoid the human race, they have been known to come very fiercely to the attack. [] There has been, doubtless, some previous irritation, or they have been pursued by the ichneumon (the benjy, bissy, or neoule), which is to be seen wild in every part of India, and has been found contending with snakes of great bulk. This active little animal, the natural enemy of all serpents, as well as of the smaller vermin, worries his opponent by incessant feints, as if he were about to seize its throat, till the snake is so fatigued as no longer to resist with its first celerity and caution. The ichneumon then rushes forward and, by seizing the throat or the back of the head, soon destroys the envenomed reptile.
The ichneumon sometimes receives a bite; when he immediately relinquishes his object, and seeks among the neighbouring verdure for some root, of which he eats; and, after rolling himself in the soil, returns to the charge with unabated keenness. Should the snake have retired, the little quadruped speedily scents him out, and rarely fails to avenge his past danger. To what root the animal applies remains unknown, among other important desiderata. The ichneumon, if obtained at an early age, is not only domesticated with facility, but becomes extremely affectionate. Neither rats nor snakes will enter a house in which he is retained, and allowed, as is usual, to range about at pleasure. The Saumpareahs, or snake-men, keep them to exhibit their agility in the attack of snakes.
A Saumpareah will ascertain, merely by smelling at a hole in a wall, &c., whether a snake be within. In that case, the reptile's fate is decided. Allured by the music of a rude kind of oboe, and the scent of various drugs, in which dunneah, a species of coriander among which snakes delight to bask, are prevalent, he soon comes forth, and is either taken in a bag, or by an assistant snatching hold of his tail with one hand, and sliding the [] other with great rapidity up to his throat. This being constricted by the grasp, the fangs are thus exposed; and being presently extracted, the captive is rendered entirely harmless.
Though of a diminutive size, the musquito is a most formidable enemy to the repose of almost everything possessing animation, but especially to Europeans, whose manner of living tends considerably to general, as well as to local, inflammation. When, indeed, their habits are compared with those of the natives, a very great difference prevails, and what in Europe might be called moderation, may in Asia be very properly construed into excess. So great is this difference that in ordinary cases, the physician's first care is to lower the temperament of his British patient, especially if of a plethoric habit, or lately arrived from Europe, thereby to repress the usual tendency towards inflammation; while, on the contrary, it generally requires some effort to keep the frugal native from sinking under that typhus to which he is most subject.
Musquitoes generally remain inactive during the day, retiring to the borders of muddy pools or drains, where they deposit their ova, which in a few days produce a noxious million. These may be seen in their several stages, at most times of the year, and especially during the hot season, when such puddles are often both replete with, and covered by, young musquitoes.
These unpleasant companions not only make a very disagreeable humming, but thrust their trunks, as the common gnat does his proboscis, between the threads of a stocking, &c.; and while sucking the blood of their victim, produce a very smarting sensation, which does not immediately cease. If scratched, a musquito-bite usually rises into a small white hard lump; which, on [] further provocation, proceeds to suppurate; frequently degenerating into a very obstinate sore. Instances have occurred of very serious consequences from an unguarded indulgence of the nails at the moment of irritation.
Every bed (commonly called a cot) is furnished with a set of inner curtains, made of gauze manufactured for that purpose in several parts of Bengal, and known by the name of koppradool. These curtains being very thin, and generally of a green colour, not only debar access to the musquitoes, but without much obstructing the air, they offer a pleasant medium between the eye, and any glare which may enter directly from the exterior, or be reflected by the walls, which in most houses are white, as already explained in describing the European architecture of the East.
It is expedient to put up these curtains before it is dark; otherwise musquitoes, being then on the wing, will if possible find their way to the interior; whence it is not very easy to fan them out. Besides, by this easy precaution, snakes or rats cannot easily get under the pillows, or into the bed; situations in which they have occasionally been found. The rats are often induced to burrow into the pillows, which are usually stuffed with the silky-cotton called seemul, wherein the seeds are left, and by their oily nature particularly attract this description of vermin. The females sometimes resort thither when about to bring forth their young: hence, it is not uncommon to find them in possession of a pillow or bolster, or eventually of the mattress; especially if no person has slept on them for a few nights.
On board budjrows, rats are often very troublesome, destroying boots, shoes, &c. without mercy; and during the night, even attacking the powder and pomatum at the back of the head. Of this the cock-roach also is very fond; but the [] sensation it produces is nothing more than a tickling, as though the fingers of another person were introduced among the hair; whereas a rat makes a more desperate attack, often giving a strong pull, or occasionally gnawing at the accumulated grease which adheres to the head itself. Hence, it should be a rule always to have the bedclothes stripped off, and the pillows turned over before getting into bed; for even if nothing of the serpent kind be discovered, rats and mice may sometimes be dislodged. Various instances have, however, occurred of snakes found in beds whereon gentlemen were about to repose.
A very curious circumstance happened many years ago, of a lady being called by her servant to see a snake that lay very contentedly between two of her infants, which slept on a small cot. Their perilous situation produced, as may be readily supposed, the most dreadful anxiety. With great fortitude and presence of mind, she directed the servant to go to one side of the bed, and to seize one of the children by a leg and an arm, while she did the same with the other; and thus to snatch them away. This was a bold measure; but had the mother caused a chafing-dish to be brought into the apartment, and set thereon some milk to boil, the smell would instantly have attracted the snake to creep out, in quest of his favourite food.
Though all snakes are peculiarly fond of a certain warm temperature, inclining to summer heat, they will, in general, very freely take to the water, especially when pursued. Many persons pretend to distinguish such as are venomous, by their aversion to water; but such a rule is very fallacious. Covra capellas have been repeatedly seen to dart into puddles and ponds with seeming eagerness. It is extremely dangerous to proceed along pathways leading through grass covers, or jungles, at night. Numbers [] of snakes, at that time, will quit the heavy grass to lie in the current of air which passes along those paths, resembling the vistas cut through coppices, &c., whose sides are confined, perhaps to the height of several feet, by grass and underwood.
From such descriptions it may be supposed that in India, every step is attended with danger; neither day nor night offering security. This is not always the case; though every person should act throughout with caution, as if supposing these dangers were imminent. This apprehension, though not very agreeable, will generally insure the means of safety. Against scorpions, centipedes, &c., too much circumspection cannot be used. In some parts of the country they are very numerous, producing great pain, and very severe local inflammation. Instances have been known of serious indisposition induced by the stings of scorpions in particular.
The young ones are generally of a yellowish, dun, or clay colour; becoming darker as they advance in growth, till they acquire a bottle colour. They have been found, though very rarely, measuring nearly eight inches from the mouth to the point of the sting, which much resembles a large dark-coloured thorn from a rose-bush. There are, however, two kinds of scorpions, of which the above described is certainly the most formidable. Fortunately, that is seldom seen in places much frequented.
The other kind are often found by dozens in the folds of a tent, &c., laid by in a dark place among old rubbish; and not unfrequently in the cracks of old mud walls. Many a servant, walking about a house at night, or rummaging among old stores, is stung by the beechu (scorpion). The part affected generally swells, and smarts, or rather aches, considerably: but that easy remedy, a rag moistened with vinegar, affords speedy relief.
The same application is equally proper when bitten by a centipede, called [] by the natives kaungoojer; from their opinion that it is apt to creep into the ear. That such a circumstance may have happened, cannot be denied; though it might prove extremely difficult to produce a well-authenticated instance. The centipede is by no means shaped for such a purpose; being of some breadth, and growing rather quickly to such a size as must preclude the possibility of his entering the ear. Several have been seen measuring nine and ten inches in length; and as broad, though not above a third as thick, as a man's finger. Half those dimensions may, probably, constitute the ordinary bulk.
Wasps and hornets, through all seasons, everywhere abound. The hornets commonly nestle in the ground, or in the hollow of a tree, or perhaps form a small cell in some corner, or under a thatch, and there deposit their larvae. The wasps sometimes appear in such numbers as to occasion considerable uneasiness. They not only make their nests within the walls of bungalows, if cracks or distances between woodwork furnish the opportunity, but boldly construct their combs within the apartments; sometimes attached to a cornice, but generally in one of the upper corners of a window-frame, so as to have ready means of retiring.
The destruction of these intruders is not always practicable, without considerable danger. The best mode is, after covering a man with a blanket, to place on his head a pot of embers, on which a lump of sulphur is laid, so that by his standing under the comb, the fumes may stupify, or at least expel, the wasps; after which the comb may be removed without difficulty. The greatest danger is when wasps take possession of some spot very near to the thatch; for instance, if they attach their dwelling to one of the rafters. As half the thatches are extremely decayed, and take fire like tinder, it must be obvious how carefully the operation should be managed.
[] A slow match, containing a large portion of sulphur, and fastened to the end of a pole, is perhaps the safest contrivance; for were a single spark to fly into the thatch, it probably would, like Doctor Slop's wig, be "nearly consumed before it were well kindled."
Bees are by no means so bold as wasps or hornets, but they frequently take possession of some bush, or even of several parts of a hedge round a garden, especially one well stocked with flowers; rendering it unsafe to approach that quarter. The combs are sometimes large, but on the average, when full, may weigh from four to ten pounds. No bees are domesticated in India; though from the great abundance of food to be had at all seasons, they might be easily maintained. Yet wild honey is so cheap and abundant as to preclude the necessity for taking any further pains to obtain it, than merely to cut away the combs from their thorny defences.
Bugs, such as infest beds in Europe, are beyond imagination numerous throughout the East. They swarm in every charpoy (or bedstead), of whatever size or description, in use among the natives. Hence, it is scarcely possible to prevent their infesting the furniture, and especially the boxes, drawers, &c., in which clothes are kept; and the most careful, cleanly person may sometimes find a stray bug crawling upon his linen, or lying concealed among the plaits. Musquito curtains are, on this account also, very useful; but they should be searched daily, lest there be on them any stragglers, &c.
The best defence against these disgusting tormentors is that in general use as a preventive against ants, centipedes, &c.: viz., causing each post of a bed to stand upon a stone, a foot in diameter, and five or six inches deep, wherein is cut a deep trough, constantly full of water. Some use metal pans, which have a neater appearance, and secure the carpet, [] mat, &c., from being injured by the damp, which will find its way through the hardest stone.
The natives rarely have posts to their bedsteads; though a few, occasionally by means of a staple, affix at the head a kind of tester. Those who could afford the best furniture, and every convenience, are more pleased when attended by a slave or menial, who with a small punkah (or fan) gently agitates the air, to keep off flies and musquitoes. It is obvious how offensive such a practice may occasionally prove, and that should the servant fall asleep while performing his tedious office, the master will speedily be awakened.
Some, especially natives, cannot go to sleep without being lulled, by means of an operation called by Europeans shampooing. This consists in a gentle pressure of the feet and legs, as also of the arms and hand, or, occasionally, of the body also, between the hands of the operator, who passes, from one part to another, either slowly, or rapidly, according to the fancy of his or her master. That considerable benefit is obtained from shampooing cannot be doubted, especially relieving from severe fatigue, as well as from a certains languor and watchfulness common in hot climates, and no doubt proceeding from indigestion, or from a nervous affection.
Captain Cook found this custom prevalent in the Island of Tonga-taboo, where it was called toogey-toogey, in allusion to the beating of a drum with the fists. Now it is remarkable that the common small drums used in India, which are suspended in front of the body, are called doog-doogies, and in some places the natives of India shampoo by beating with the fists, calling the operation not by the common term debounah (or pressing), but doegaunah. It is a question whether the latter term be a corruption; or a derivative from the doog-doogy.
A similar practice obtains in Egypt, and, indeed, throughout the Turkish empire; [] especially at the baths, where shampooing is a matter of course. Captain Cook was relieved from a severe rheumatic complaint by an operation of this description; with this difference, that instead of soothing pressure, the parts affected were not beat gently, but squeezed forcibly between the hands. Gouty pains are said to have been in like manner removed; but these could only be flying pains, for the parts locally attacked by the gout could scarcely endure the operation, without subjecting the party to excruciating torture.
Besides benefit occasionally derived from shampooing, it may be considered as one of those luxuries which, like the hookuh, the snuff-box, the brandy-bottle, &c., become so habitual as to plunge the indulgent into indescribable uneasiness whenever they are out of reach. It is therefore prudent to avoid shampooing, except when restlessness or unseasonable vigilance is induced by excess of any description. In such cases, immediate relief is often of importance; but recourse to this indulgence should be reserved for emergencies, since its effects are gradually lessened by repetition, and the want of a menial to perform the operation may excite much irritation and disquietude.
The greatest attention is requisite daily to aerate every apartment in a proper manner. Without that precaution, all the aids of shampooing, musquito-curtains, water-pots, bathing, &c., will avail little, as fevers and obstructions of the liver invariably follow, whenever the atmosphere within a chamber is allowed to become foul. There is, indeed, nothing more weakening or destructive to the constitution than sleeping in a chamber ill-ventilated. To continue in such a place, after being in a any degree indisposed, is indeed little less than insanity. Nothing will be found to be contribute more to health than sleeping cool; adverting at the same time to the precautions already [] enjoined, not to place the cot so that any forcible current of air should pass over it, lest perspiration be obstructed, and the worst consequences ensue.
The winter months will often require the use of one, or perhaps two, thick blankets; while the summer heats will render oppressive all bed-clothing above the body; occasioning the general use of long drawers, which are generally made of thin silk, or fine calico. Some are made with feet, thereby effectually preventing musquitoes from biting in that quarter, but otherwise not the most pleasant.
During the hottest part of the year, many dispense with their shirts, retaining their banians, or under shirts, the skirts of which are confined by long drawers, usually fastened by a drawing cord of silk. Early rising is particularly to be recommended, for the purpose of taking exercise before breakfast Among military persons this salutary practice is generally inculcated malgre lui; and among civilians, it ought to be enforced by the additional motive of devoting the forenoon to official attendance, or to whatever duties may demand their immediate care.
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/1/ These Pahariahs are more immediately distinguished by the designation of Dangahs. They are of a small stature, very poor indeed, rather squalid, but capable of undergoing great fatigue. They are most adroit in the exercise of the bow; and after performing the little labour needful for the cultivation of the vallies, they generally repair at certain seasons to the military and civil stations in the neighbouring districts of Ramghur, &c., where they serve as bearers, especially on the new road, which is much frequented by gentlemen travelling dawk (post) in palanquins, to or from the upper stations.