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Memoirs of a Highland Lady
Chapter XXI. 1827-1828


A LONG four months' voyage in a narrow space among a crowd of strangers. My father and mother were the principal people; we had the best accommodation, and we formed a large party ourselves. My father and mother had one poop cabin, Mary and I had the other, Isabella's smaller one opened out of ours; opposite to hers was Mr Gardiner's; the two deck cabins were occupied by my brother John and the captain. It was a little circle apart from everybody else; they were all below on the main deck.

Lieutenant-Colonel and Mrs Morse were returning to India; a little girl with two brothers who had been at school in England, were going back to their parents in Ceylon; a young cavalry officer, a doctor, and I do not know how many cadets; altogether, with the three mates, between thirty and forty at the cuddy table, not omitting Mr Caw, that clever, good-hearted oddity, who was going with us to India in the hope of being provided for, as his long, unwearied services deserved.

Mr Gardiner was very agreeable and soon became a favourite with my father and Mary. He was a civilian, not young; he had been ten years in India, and was returning there after a two years' leave. He was about thirty, had held a good appointment, and expected a better. The family was Irish; the father, Colonel Gardiner, had inherited money and made more, and had left a large sum to his five children. A daughter died, one married a very gallant soldier—Sir Edward Blakeiiey.—two sisters remained unmarried and lived with an aunt at Twickenham. No difficulties could occur to render this intimacy undesirable, so while Isabella and I at the cuddy door were warbling pretty canzonettes to our light guitars, and listening in our turn to Mrs Morse, who often brought her harp up on deck in the evenings, Mr Gardiner and his ladye love amused us all by the care they took never to be far asunder.

We landed on the 8th of February 1828 in Bombay. We entered that magnificent harbour at sunset, a circular basin of enormous size, filled with islands, high, rocky, wooded, surrounded by a range of mountains beautifully irregular; and to the north on the low shore spread the city, protected by the fort, screened by half the shipping of the world. We were standing on the deck. "If this be exile," said my father musingly, "it is splendid exile." "Who are those bowing men?" said my mother, touching his arm and pointing to a group of natives with coloured high-crowned caps on some heads, and small red turbans on others, all in white dresses, and all with shoeless feet, who had approached us with extraordinary deference. One of the high caps held out a letter. It was from uncle Edward, who had turned the corner round Sir Griffin Wilson's wall so many years ago with his hat pulled down over such tearful eyes, and these were his servants come to conduct us to his country house.

I wish I had preserved a more minute recollection of my first Bombay impressions; they were very vivid at the time, and I remember being struck with surprise that all accounts of India that had faller. in my way were so meagre, when materials new and strange were in such abundance.

At soon as all the dignitaries and all the undignified had paid their visits my mother and I had to return the attention. Mary was excused on account of her approaching marriage, which ceremony indeed interrupted our civilities; but we got through as many calls as we could.

My sister's marriage was a grand affair. I do not remember how many people my aunt thought it necessary to invite to the breakfast; there were about twenty present at the ceremony in the cathedral. We had such a cousinhood at the Presidency, and Mr Gardiner and my uncle had so many friends, and there were my father's brother judges, etc. Good Mr Carr, afterwards bishop, married them.

For so very pretty a girl as Mary then was, so beautiful a woman as she became, there never was a less interesting bride. Her dress was heavy and unbecoming, and a very large veil, the gift of Mr Norris, hid all of her face except her nose. She was perfectly self- possessed all through the ceremony, and she went off with her husband in her new carriage to Salsette with as much composure as if she had been going for a drive with me.

I never pretended to understand Mary; what she felt, or whether she did feel, nobody ever knew when she did not choose to tell them. Like Jane, and I believe like myself, what she determined on doing she did, and well, without fuss, after conviction of its propriety. One thing is certain, she married a most estimable man, to whom she was truly attached; she made a most happy, marriage, and she valued her husband to the end of her days as he deserved.

Our lovers returned after a retirement of ten days, and then began a round of entertainments to the newly married pair. Every incident was seized on by the community as excuse for party-giving. An Indian life then was eventless; to me it was very dull after Mary married and John left us. Really, old as I was, I was quite the fashion—a second season of celebrity, a coming out again! Like my father, I have all my life looked ten years younger than my age; nobody guessed me at thirty, and being good-looking, lively, and obliging, I reigned in good earnest over many a better queen than myself. Of course everybody was busy marrying me. "Now, don't mind them, Eliza, my dear," said uncle Edward; "don't fix yet, wait for Smith, my friend Smith; he'll be sure to be down here next season, and he's the man I have chosen for you." Then my aunt, "I don't mind your not liking old so-and-so or that tiresome this, and that ill-humoured that, I had rather you married Colonel Smith than anybody." Then my cousins, "Oh you will like Colonel Smith, Eliza, every one likes Colonel Smith." "My goodness, Miss Grant," said Mrs Norris, "is it possible you have refused —? The best match in the Presidency—will certainly be in council! Everybody must marry here; whom do you mean to marry, pray?" "I am waiting," said I, "for Colonel Smith."

One morning I was sitting at work; the cooler weather had restored us our needles and I was employing mine for Mary's expected baby, my mother lying on the sofa reading, when the chobdar in waiting announced Colonel Smith. He entered, and, in spite of all the nonsense we had amused ourselves with, we liked him. "Well," said Mary, on hearing who had called, "will he do?" "Better than any of your civilians," answered I, laughing, and we thought no more about him.

He had come down from Satara, where he commanded, for change of air; he lived with his friend, Dr Eckford, and we frequently met them in the evenings driving and sometimes in society, but our paths did not seem to cross. He paid no particular attention to me; nor did he dine in my father's house till many months after we had become acquainted. My father and he had got into a sort of pleasant intimacy ages before he seemed to think of me. We rode always on the Breach Candy road, which was close to us and agreeable from its skirting the sea, and our new companion seemed to like political discussions, for he and my father rode on in front deep in the Catholic claims which were then being finally discussed in Parliament, while I, by myself, had plenty to do in managing that dreadful Donegal and watching the Parsees' morning adoration of the sun.

These rides continued all the cold weather, our party latterly reinforced by my cousin, John Cumming, who was staying with us, and who sometimes got twisted out of his usual place by me to the side of my father, Colonel Smith exchanging with him for a turn or two, to my father's regret, who on these occasions observed that the captain had inopportunely interrupted a very interesting argument on the influence of the Irish priesthood over their flocks; that poor Smith was a sad Orangeman, quite benighted, but honest and worth enlightening!

So began my happy future to gleam on me, particularly after a few hints from Dr Eckford, whom my mother about this time began to talk of as Love's messenger, and then styled roundly Cupid; such a Cupid! He knew his business well; threw shafts and bow away as unsuitable to a staid brigadier and a maiden past her prime. His object was to touch the lady's reason, which he did, no matter how. Who would have thought that a marriage thus systematically arranged could have turned out so well? It took a long time, however, for India, and while it was progressing my mother's first grandchild was born. It was my brother John's birthday, the 23rd of November, and all the cousinhood were assembled at the Retreat to do him honour; Gregor and Mary Grant were indeed staying with us. Mr Gardiner and Mary were expected, but just before dinner they sent their excuse; she did not feel quite well. On leaving the hail a note summoned my mother, and after the company departed I set off to Prospect Lodge, mounting the long, long, dimly-lighted steps that led up the side of the hill without a thought of the snakes I used at other times to be so nervous about.

The clock had struck twelve; it was the 24th. Five minutes after my arrival my little niece was laid upon my knees, and I believe for weeks after I thought of no other existing creature. We sisters had gone through so much together. This blessed baby opened another view of life to all.

To me I know that my baby niece was a perfect delight all the pleasant cold weather; I walked about with her in my arms whenever she was brought to the Retreat or I could contrive a visit to Prospect Lodge. Before the birth of the baby Mary had been for months very suffering, first the heat and then the rains incommoded her greatly. She never took to Indian life, never rose to meet the fresh air in the mornings, and the evening drive was often shirked. The beginning of March brought a degree of heat which she found oppressive; she was ill, and advised to try the cooler air of the higher land; so an expedition was arranged to Khandalla, a beautiful plain at the head of the pass up the Ghauts on the road to Poonah.

As Mary would be dull alone, I was to go with her and her husband, a plan I liked. A change was pleasant, a journey in India new, life in tents delightful!

My letters from Khandalla, and my more vivid descriptions in conversation quite bit my father with a wish to change the relaxing air of the seaside for the freshness of the mountains; but he undertook a much more daring exploit than a visit to the Poonah Ghauts. Colonel Smith had inspired him with a wish to see more of the country, to try a few weeks of the Mahableishwa Hills during the present hot season, when Bombay was really too oppressive. These charming hills were in our new friend's district; he commanded the brigade at Satara, and Mahableishwa, though thirty miles distant, was included.

A large double-poled tent of Colonel Smith's was to be lent to us during our stay on the hills. The Governor's small bungalow, and the Resident's a little way off, were the only houses at the station; everybody else lived in tents, scattered about anywhere in groups of from five to six according to the size of the establishment.

The mountain air was enchanting, the sun hot in the middle of the day, yet quite bearable, the mornings and evenings delightful, the nights rather cold. The society was on the pleasantest footing; the way of life most agreeable as soon as we got into it.

My Colonel used to meet me most mornings just where the path from our tents joined the road; we then went on together. One morning, either I was later than usual, or he was earlier, at any rate I arrived and he was not there. I did not know that I looked disappointed, but I suppose I looked up and down the road. "The Colonel Sahib has gone on," said the syce, pointing to the fresh marks of a horse's feet. I blushed, a little at the man's sharpness, a little at my cool Colonel's easy way of taking matters.

And now our time was up, and we were to go back to Bombay, and it was necessary to acquaint Sir John and my lady that I thought it wiser to go instead to Satara. It was but thirty miles, every comfort was already there in my Colonel's bungalow, most of my wardrobe was with me, and some furniture; a clergyman was at hand—the smiling one--the Judge could grant the license, and the Resident do all the rest.

My father was delighted, particularly when he heard about the bachelor brother and the Irish estate. He was charmed, too, at the idea of the mountain wedding, so queer, so primitive. Not so my mother; she had no wish for any marriage, it would only throw so much more trouble on her. She did not see that either of my sisters had done much for herself by her determination to marry. Jane bound to an old man who might be her grandfather, ugly, and not rich. Mary given up to her baby, never seeing a creature, nor of use to any one. She did not understand this craze for marrying; pray, who was to write all the notes? Colonel Smith was just a soldier, an Irish lad who went out as a cadet, like any of our Scotch lads, and a marriage huddled up in that sort of way, in a desert, on a mountain, without a church, or a cake, or any preparations, it would be no marriage at all, neither decent nor respectable; she, for one, should never consider people married who had been buckled together in that couple-beggar fashion; if there were to be a marriage at all it should be a proper one, in the Cathedral at Bombay by the clergyman who officiated there, friends at the wedding, and everything as it ought to be.

There was no help for it, she was resolute, so we had to travel down the ghaut, and along the plains, a hundred miles, I think, for she would have no more sea, and travel back again after the ceremony, at the loss of a month's extra pay, for the Colonel did not receive his allowances when on leave.

So, a goodly company, we set out, Major Jameson and the Colonel riding, my father in a palanquin like the ladies. We travelled long and wearily before reaching the first halting-place, a comfortable bungalow where all was ready for a late dinner. The two gentlemen had ridden on, my mother and I were not long behind them, but we waited nearly an hour for my father, who, obliging his bearers to follow some directions of his own, had gone a long round. Good claret, well cooled, and some champagne, greatly enlivened the entertainment.

On we went, arriving in Bombay in high good humour, all but poor Colonel Smith, whose horse shying or stumbling at the crossing of the stony bed of a river, he got a severe fall, and was laid up for some weeks from a strain, in his friend Dr Eckford's house.


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