The old well—The Fakeer—A pious old hermit —Jo'jtes—Pagan
cruelties —Peter the braggart—Soured by bad luck—Scotch Hindostanee—Peter
pot valiant—His "teeger" story—An ignominious collapse—The real truth of the
matter—The "Blue Devils"—Practical joking—The rough pioneer days—Police
tortures — "Old Hulman Sahib"—A novel punishment—The old regime
death of the man-eater, described in my last chapter, and the unlucky
accident to the Hetnee, we
adjourned to the tents for bath and dinner. Our camp had been pitched in a
very ancient and decidedly picturesque grove of tall mango trees. These were
of an immense height, gnarled, knotted, and twisted. Scattered round the,
grove lay ruined heaps of carved masonry, evidences of former grandeur, and
the site had evidently been that of one of the rude baronial fortresses in
the times when the power of the Great Mogul had scarcely penetrated to these
remote, border tracts, near the great barrier line of the gloomy Tend. In
one corner of the square enclosure, which was of considerable extent, yet
stood a fine old -well, constructed of solid masonry. Two uprights of hard sal wood
supported a cross-beam, in the centre of which was a sort of a revolving
drum windlass, with a stout rope rove round it, and from its grazed and worn
appearance it was evident the villagers still used the well, as their
forefathers for many generations had doubtless done before them. Beautiful
ferns and mosses clung to its dank walls, draping it with a living tapestry
of green, and overhead a fine old fig-tree, with numberless tendrils and
rootlets hanging pendant and swaying with every breath of wind, spread a
welcome shade over the cool deep well, and formed a most pleasant covert
from the fierce heat outside.
At another comer of the enclosure was a ruinous village
temple, with a great stately tamarind tree rising behind it, and in a hollow
in the mound forming the angle of the earthwork, embankment, or
entrenchment, an anchorite had taken up his abode. He was a Fakeer, as they
are called—men dedicated to some particular saint or god. Not unlike the
mediaeval mendicant monk, vowed to poverty, given to fasting, mortification
of the flesh, penances and contemplation, but very frequently the biggest
rascals and greatest hypocrites one could come across. Many of them are very
fanatical. The Mussulman fakeers are especially so. But the Hindoo jogee is
ordinarily a broken-down old party, who has tired of the world, and,
eschewing its pomps and vanities, betakes him to some solitary retired spot,
and there in calm contemplation, prayer, penance, and pious meditation,
strives, poor Pagan, after his lights, to have communings with the great
unknown, to draw nearer and
nearer to the Deity, to have spiritual communion with the invisible. "Who
shall blame them? Poor withered old hulks many of them. I have often pitied
them. For the screaming, abusive zealot or bigot who would greet you with a
scowl of hatred, and ban you with curses if your shadow came between him and
the sun, I never felt anything but a fierce reciprocation of his heathenish
contempt and hate. Put with many of the sylvan old hermits, placable,
patient, resigned, mild-eyed patriarchs, I have often held long
conversations, and have found really good, pious desires and patient
endurance underlying the unprepossessing exterior. The jogee generally
has his withered body daubed over with ashes and white and red clay. His
long hempen-looking hair is matted and twisted into a great
unsightly-looking coil round his head.
Only a small tattered rag surrounds his waist. That is all
his clothing. He carries a tong-like iron instrument with which to extract a
live coal from the fires of the villagers, a sign that he claims
hospitality. He may often, too, have a worn-out old tiger skin and a rude
drum or stringed instrument as travelling impedimenta.
Many of the biggest rascals and thieves of the country adopt
the costume and wandering habits of the jogee for
the purpose of plying their nefarious occupations. And indeed it is not only
among our Pagan Hindoo brethren that we see rascality assuming the cloak of
sanctity, and the devourer of the widows' and orphans' portions taking
covert under the garb of religion. Not a few, however, of those Hindoo
friars and hermits are really good, inoffensive, pious old fellows; and our
old hermit here, close to our camp, was of the better of his class.
His story, as he related it to us before our tent, was an apt
commentary on the care and trouble of life, and a practical illustration of
the common ills that haunt the lives of the village dweller in these wild
secluded tracts of country.
His name was Petumber. He did not say of what caste he was,
but noticing the triple cord around Ins wasted shoulders, I set him down for
a Brahmin or a Rajpoot. His father had been a rich man, owning a large
extent of land in Chupra, near the big Gunduck, and had owned boats on the
river, and was a man of substance. After his father's death, Petumber's evil
luck seemed to have commenced. Bad season followed bad season. One after
another the boats were lost on the river. He became involved in a lawsuit
with Ins elder brother, and at the end of ten years he found himself a
ruined man. Then he migrated down to rurneah, which was his wife's country,
and here for a time he had struggled against ever accumulating misfortune.
One of his sons (his eldest, a fine promising young man) had been devoured
by a tiger. Two had been drowned in the floods. His wife and several of his
young children had been smitten down with cholera. His story was a true one.
Surely here was a sad life. Surely here was a modern Job. Was the old man
querulous, discontented, bitter? "What a lesson he taught us. Never a murmur
escaped his lips when we asked him, Had he much afsos (grief)?
"Was not his life a burden to him? Did he not consider he had had evil
fortune? His reply was but this—
"Hum kya kuree. Khoda ka haat me hai. What
matter? What can I do? I am in God's hands."
Poor old hermit! Here was simple faith. His only creed,
"whatever God wills is best."
And so he had become an ascetic. He had adopted the jogees' garb.
The charity of the villagers supplied his simple wants. He was quite
contented, and ready to go when he was called; as he expressed it—
"Jub wvkht awe
Tub hum jawe.'
"When my time conies, I am ready to depart."
few speculations troubled the poor old fellow. 'Twas the simple primal
belief in destiny. Kismut—What
is, is; and what shall be, shall be. Withal, he was a cheerful, resigned,
contented, old anchorite, and he seemingly commanded the most unfeigned
respect of the villagers.
Some of these old Jogees are
found attached to nearly every shrine in India. I have come across them in
the most secluded and out-of-the-way nooks. They may be found in the heart
of the gloomiest, densest jungle; their only living neighbours being hyenas,
tigers, and other wild animals. I have heard innumerable stories of their
familiarity with and contempt of danger from wild beasts, and the most
improbable and apocryphal relations of their encounters, single-handed, with
tigers and demons; and I knew of one case, near Jynugger, where one old
fakeer was known to share his den in the woods, near an old temple, with a
full-grown young tiger.
Of course he had tamed and trained the beast from its youth
up, but the popular superstition and love of the marvellous invested the
Jynugger Jogee with all sorts of supernatural attributes; and when the final
catastrophe did come, it was believed all over the country side that the
sainted man had gone to Asman (heaven)
much in the same way as the prophet of old—in a chariot of fire, to wit; the
real finish being that the tiger he had nurtured and tended, with a not
uncommon ingratitude, had turned against the hand that fed it, and devoured
Such tragedies are not uncommon in these wild frontier
districts. They are a long, long weary way yet from the fulness of the
light. The dark clouds of superstition, ignorance, and horrid cruelty still
obscure the light and battle with the dawn. Were I to detail some of the
scenes of awful cruelty and heathenish horror that have come under my own
observation, I would not be believed. I have seen poor mutilated women often
in the Nepaul villages terribly scarred and disfigured, simply from a
jealous outburst of devilish rage on the part of a brutal husband. I have
known of many case of infanticide—fair infants cruelly done to death at the
bidding of a fiendish heathen custom. Further on I may detail some of the
inhuman cruelties practised by
the police and the torturings by petty officials. In these dark regions, the
most direful tragedies are enacted even now under the name of religion. At
the present day, even while I write, witches are being stoned and beaten in
hundreds of villages; offerings are being made to demons; and abominations
are being perpetrated, before the very conception of which the soul shudders
and the heart turns sick, mostly, it is true, in native states and remote
parts of the country where English officials are rarely seen.
And yet we have men who go into ecstacies over the purity and
intellectual culture of the Hindoo faith, and also sneer at the religion of
Jesus and the efforts of Christian men to dissipate the darkness.
There's nothing so easy in the world as to sneer. A sneer is
the devil's favourite weapon. Men who sneer at all missionary
effort are generally men who are utterly incapable of comprehending the
missionary spirit. God knows, much missionary effort is misdirected, much
zeal is frittered away, and much cause is given to the enemy to rejoice; but
every one who has seen the patient, self-denying lives of the true Christian
missionaries, as I have oft-times seen them, cannot but feel that in the
vital religion of these men—the religion of love—the gospel message of peace
and pardon from God to man—lies the only lever that will raise the sunken,
degraded humanity of the heathen, and place it again on a level with the
image of the Divine nature in which it was created.
But I may be accused of preaching; so let me hasten back to
my sporting journal.
In the evening, our ranks were strengthened by the arrival of
a neighbour of mine, whom I had only met a few times, but whose
eccentricities were known to all of us.
Peter Macgilivray, as I will call him, was a real original.
In the way of boasting, he was a very Bottom the weaver, and outrivalled
Munchausen in the variety and marvellous nature of his achievements. He was
of Highland origin, and when the barley-bree had thawed his icy Highland
pride, he was wont to discourse to us about his ancestral glories and the
ancient state of his "fowk," as he called his warlike and noble progenitors.
A shrewd suspicion was indeed extant that Peter's birthplace was in a
classic alley off the Gallowgate of Glasgow, where his father sold salt
fish, tarry ropes, and whiskey; but Peter bragged enough for any twenty
Highland chieftains, and had a thirst for whiskey in quite a proportionate
ratio,—that is to say, if it were supplied at any one else's expense out his
Poor Peter! he was a queer mixture of kindliness and
meanness, of braggadocio and good-heartedness. In very truth, bad luck had
soured his temper; and even if he had the will to be generous, he had not
the wherewithal. He had a miserable factory on the right bank of the river,
some four miles from my outwork of Fusseah, and the whole of his
is, the country under his jurisdiction or in his occupation—-was subject to
destructive floods. Year after year, poor Peter sowed in hope, and year
after year his hopes were regularly swept away by the greedy and implacable
river. The rents from his rice villages and a few vats of indigo from the
higher lands, just sufficed to keep him from being entirely swamped himself;
but he was continually in difficulties—had the greatest trouble every year
in getting his agents to grant him an outlay, and carry him on; and the
consequence was that Peter was kept very close, to his factory, seldom mixed
with any of his fellow-planters, and in fact lived very much like a native.
My first introduction to Peter had been one night shortly
after my arrival in the district, when I got belated in the jungles and
claimed hospitality at Hanoomannugger for the night. Peter had made me as
comfortable as his circumstances permitted, and on several occasions
subsequently, having a mutual
interest in the lands and rents of one or two villages lying between his ilaka and
mine, we had been brought into contact.
At Joe's suggestion I had written to Peter, asking him over
to dinner. He was well known to us all by repute, and we speedily made him
at his ease.
At first, like all men who lead retired solitary lives and
come little into contact with their fellow-men, Peter was inordinately shy;
but after he had swallowed a few "pegs," with which George plied him, his
bashfulness began to disappear, and Peter bade fair to shine as a
conversationalist. He spoke with a strong Highland accent, and his
Hindostanee was flavoured with the very same pronounced Doric twang. Strange
this pertinacious adherence to the broad vowel sound, which proclaims the
countrymen of Burns, no matter where you may meet them or under what
circumstances! The broad Scotch twang sticks to the kindly Scot, as the
flavour of the peat reek clings to his whiskey, disguise it as you may with
cloves, lemons, or any other vehicle whatever.
Peter, for instance, never spoke of tigers as tigers, but
always as "teegurs." George had but the night previous been telling us a
great "teegur" adventure in which Peter had figured not altogether as a
hero, and both George and Mac were now leading diplomatically up to the
subject, and were, vulgarly speaking, "stringing Peter on for a yarn."
Peter, under the influence of the whiskey, was thawing
rapidly. The thicker his speech became, the more fearfully he rolled his r's,
and his great broad face was now looming through the thick clouds of his
tobacco smoke like a full moon in a fog.
"Aye, Georrge!" he was saying. "That was a michty kittle
customer, thon teeger 'at we shot thegither."
"Hilloh, Peter! what was thatI" we all shouted. "What's that
about shooting a tiger?"
"Shoot a teeger? " hiccupped Peter, now quite pot valiant.
"Man, I wad think no more of shooting a teeger than I wad think of shooting
black game. Teegers, hoof!" Here Peter snorted in his contempt of such small
game, and nearly rolled off his chair.
"Teegers!" snapping his fingers. "I wad na gie that for
ony teeger that ever was whalped. Why, man, I lief shooted them on foot and
on horseback; aye, and hef foucht with them hand to hand too, mirover, as my
goot freen Chorge here can tell you."
Here Joe took occasion to replenish Peter's tumbler, and hint
to him that a narration of a tiger story would not he unwelcome to the
"fellows," meaning Butty, Hudson, and myself.
"Weell you see, Mowrie" (he twisted round my name till I
thought he would have broken his jaw), "there was wan nicht 'at George and
old Mac there cam' up to my hoose, and there had been great cracking aboot a
teeger that was pelieved to pe among the bamboos close to the bungalow, and
I pelieve myself they were poth afraid to stay ootbye in the tents, and
would rather pe with me in the hoose. But you will hear."
It would be impossible to do justice to the mingled cunning
and drollery of Peter during this narrative. He seemed dimly conscious that
the whiskey had shown somewhat of its potency, and at times a suspicion that
we might be laughing at him would flash across his mind. He would pull up in
the middle of a sentence in the most ludicrous manner, purse his lips, knit
his brows, and look with superhuman gravity and fierceness at his
tumbler—then the current of his recollections would resume its flow; he
would chuckle, hiccup, smile blandly, albeit somewhat vacantly, and as he
warmed to his story he acted out the incidents, and got quite excited and
not a little muddy in the speech, while he rattled his r's and intensified
his vowel sounds most energetically. It was indeed a comical sight I cannot
pretend to do aught than very tamely transcribe the gist of the narration.
The reader will see how Peter's imagination got fired up as he began to
picture to himself the scene he was describing.
"It wass geyan late at nicht when they cam to the door, an' I
was in my pyjamas, and not expecting nopody at all; put of course I wass
glad to see them—fery glad inteet! So I cried oot to my pearer, ' Poy, priug
pen the whiskey!' and he procht it pen. It wass the fery finest whiskey ever
you tasted. Deed was't."
Now this was a fiction of the wildest sort on Peter's part.
Poor devil, we knew he had not had a Lottie of grog, except perhaps native
toddy, inside the four walls of his bungalow for years, and the idea of
Peter shouting forth in a lordly manner for unlimited whiskey, as if the
contents of his cellar were unbounded, was whimsical enough.
However, he pursued his narration.
"I can stand whiskey. I hef been used to whiskey efer since I
was that big" (holding two very unsteady hands slightly apart from each
other). "I mind at my father's hoose that the fery dogs coidd drink whiskey
if they wanted it. My father was——"
"But the tiger, Peter?"
"Oo, aye, the teeger. As I was sayin', there was a terrible
teeger there that nicht, and when we wass all trinking at the whiskey—och,
it was fine whiskey. My father was the fery finest chudge of whiskey in all
"But about the tiger, Peter?" again suggested Pat.
"Cot pless me, man, I'm comin' to the teeger" (hiccup), said
Peter. "As I was sayin', the teeger came roaring up to the door, and Chorge
and Mac were poth in a terrible fright. "What with the fright and (hiccup)
the whiskey together, they were not worth a farden."
"Did the brute actually charge at the door?" asked Butty.
"Charrrge! Charrrrge!" scornfully retorted Peter. "I tell
you, man, it was enough to knock the house down. You could have heard the
roaring and the noise and the growling for ten miles, aye, for twentee
miles. There was Chorge on the top of the almirah, and Mac trying to get up
on the punk all."
"But what did you do?"
"What tid I do? What would any Hielant clientleman do? I took
down my gun, and I opened the door, wide open, and there wass—what do you
think? not wan teeger (hiccup), hut two teegers, and they poth sprang clean
upon me, hut I put a pall through the prain of one, and kilt him tead on the
"And what did you do with the other, Peter?" we asked.
the ozer," hiccupped Peter, now very drunk, "I knocked his prains out too."
"What, with another barrel? "
"Anoyer bar'rl—no, wis my fist."
"Hooch, man," continued Peter, waxing quite eloquent and
excited, "I haf shot more, teegers than you efer saw in your life. I can
shoot teegers efery night I like from my verandah." And then he began to get
very indistinct indeed. We could catch something about his father shooting
teegers, and the teegers and whiskey and his father got terribly mixed, and
just then in marched Peter's old bearer with a look of great disgust on his
face. The old man walked up to his havering master, gave him a tremendous
shaking, and upbraided him in no measured terms for making a beast of
himself, and so the poor old tiger-slayer was ignominiously hauled off to
Then we asked George was there any truth in Peter's yarn at
all at all.
"The lying old reprobate," said George. "He's as funky of a
tiger as he is of a cobra. Why, I don't believe he ever shot at a tiger in
his life. For one thing, I don't think his old gun could go off, even if he
were to try it. I know I would not like to be within a mile of him if it did go
"But did he really shoot a tiger?" I asked.
"No," responded George. "But the best part of the joke is,
that to this day, Peter firmly believes that he did kill
two tigers in the way he has related.
"Mac and I had been out shooting, and near Hanoomannugger we
were lucky enough to stumble across two tigers—we were in fact after
florican at the time. But we managed to bag both tigers, after a long beat,
and by the time we got them on the pad, it was getting late—we were far from
camp, and we resolved to beat up Peter for the night. We had plenty of grog
and stores on the tiffin elephant, and as soon as Peter knew we were well
supplied, he was most demonstrative in his entreaties to stay.
"Well, the result was pretty much what you have seen. Peter
got glorious—and Mac and I determined to have a lark with him. We had said
nothing to him about the tigers, the pad elephant having come up behind us,
and when we had got Peter very far gone, we sent out word to the mahouts to
bring the tigers up to the verandah. This they did, and then at the
preconcerted signal they came rushing in with wild cries, and swore there
were tigers in the compound. We pretended to be very frightened. Mac got a
gun shoved into Peter's hands. We bore him to the door between us. He let
off the gun. I felled him with a rousing blow from a hard tukeah (pillow).
He was too drunk to rise, and there we left him to come to his senses
between the two tigers; and Peter firmly believes yet that he shot those two
beasts, and is never tired of telling the yarn now when he has got a little
touch of the cratur in him."
We all laughed heartily at George's explanation.
The reader must remember that in those days we were all
rather wild, reckless fellows. Practical joking was inevitable when a few of
us met, and not seeing each other sometimes for months, we were apt to kick
up such a bobbery when we did meet,
as earned us the name, among the garrison subs, and Calcutta quill drivers,
of the "Blue Devils."
Even then, the old hands had stories of their younger days to
tell which put all our wild achievements completely in the shade. There must
have been awful orgies in the riotous old days, judging from the tales old
planters used to tell; but nous
avons change tout cela. The
young planters get married now, and the ladies—God bless 'em—exert their
usual refining humanising influence, and the lel
indigo planter, is now comme
il fait in
all the polite convcnances,
and his carnage and conversation are sans
peur et sans reproche.
Some of the stories of the wild days that old Mac could tell,
were thrilling enough in all conscience.
Old David C. once blew up a young civilian who was visiting
his place—-literally blew him up—and, more by good luck than good guidance,
escaped killing him. He had a train of gunpowder laid actually right under
the bed of the unfortunate deputy collector, and gave him such a hoist as I
daresay he never again attained with all his subsequent promotion and
Another of the wild old bloods, Barney H., overpowered an
artless young "griffin"—"new chum," as he would be called in Australia—with
grog, and then put him to bed between the corpses of two poor dead coolies
from one of the villages. He put a climax to the horror of the youngster in
the morning, however, when he. told him, between the paroxysms of his
throbbing headache, that it was only a joke, and if he paid a couple of
rupees each to the two widows, no more would be heard of the matter.
You should have seen the face of that youngster.
"What!" he gasped out, aghast with horror, "you—you —surely
did not kill the
"Oh, that's nothing," laughed Barney. "It was only done in a
The youngster got into a palkee that afternoon, and set out
for the station as hard as he could go, and never once thought of emulating
all fresh young communities have such reminiscences and such stories of
their early days. The rough and ready pioneers have their uses. By-and-by
the wild bloods die out, and a more sedate generation succeed them, with
different ways and ideas, and alas, alas, man, a time and oft with meaner
vices and fewer noble and generous qualities. Ebeu! it's the same old
story—"The good old days will never come back." In fact, the qualities that
command success in the pioneer are little needed by his successor, who lives
under the reign of law and order; and the mistake lies in not recognising
how each generation finds its special work cut out for it, and how qualities
and fashions are irresistibly bound to change with circumstances.
I have heard as a fact that the manager of Seeraha, in the
old times, in a fit of passion killed a table servant with his crutch. He
was laid up at the time with the gout (the manager, I mean). The orgie was
never interrupted for a moment. There the stark and stiff victim to blind
rage lay on the floor, while the revel rout and the brimming champagne grew
all the louder and flowed with all the more profusion, to show that the
planters of the old-fashioned school "didn't care."
It was a favourite resort of the native police then, to
torture witnesses into giving what evidence was necessary to support the
oftentimes nefarious designs and false charges preferred before the Hakims
or magistrates. One usual course to adopt was to hang up the unfortunate
witness by the thumbs, with his toes just touching the ground, and extract a
signature to a document from him in that way. Or they would bury him in an
ant-heap, or press his toes between split bamboos, or burn red chillies
under his nostrils until his nose and eyes would bleed again. Indeed in some
remote parts of the country, and in some of the native states, such
practices are not yet obsolete if report speaks truly.
My first manager, old Hulman
the natives used to call him, had a happy ingenuity, wherein I must confess
lay much of tiger-like ferocity, in dealing with recalcitrant Assamces. On
one occasion he had been defied by two wealthy landholders in one of the
factory villages, and for a long time they set his authority at defiance. At
length, in an evil moment for them, some of the factory myrmidons got hold
of them, and they were brought before the great Hiduuuh Sahib himself.
The old planter well knew how dangerous it would be for his authority to
rouse a feeling of sympathy with these men on the part of the villagers.
Already the news had spread, and hundreds of cultivators from the villages
were collected in the compound, only waiting to see what the Sahib would do.
There was much disaffection just then in the villages. The exactions of the
middlemen had become very grievous. The authority and prestige of the
factory were in danger. The two captured men were, from the factory point of
view, ringleaders of revolt and fomenters of sedition. From the villagers'
point of view they were patriot leaders, village Hampdens, champions of
popular rights and liberties. It must be so arranged that they shall be
punished, and yet that no sympathy shall cling to them on account of their
Old H. was equal to the occasion. The two men were led out to
the verandah. There were fully from 400 to 500 villagers assembled. Of
course, there were plenty of factory servants and peons also present. The
old planter, after addressing the multitude on the enormity and heinousness
of the offence laid to the charge of the two ryots, no less than contumacy,
breach of agreement, repudiation of lawful authority, and all the rest of
it, said he was not going to beat them. He wished to show them how gentle
and paternal he would be; but he must mark his sense of just indignation in
some way that all would understand, and so he would make the culprits punish
each other. The assembled crowd looked on in wonderment to see what the Sahib would
do. Their curiosity was excited, and so they held back to watch the
development. This was just what the wily old planter had foreseen.
He next got the two poor fellows to stand back to back, and
tied their top-knots very firmly together with fine gut.
The top-knot is an appendage held in much honour by the
orthodox Hindoo, and to have it bound in this way was a great humiliation in
itself. The two men, with strained scalps, were now back to back, erect and
otherwise free. "With truly devilish ingenuity, old H. now came, and up the
nostrils of each he inserted a good pinch of the very strongest old Scotch
snuff. What ensued was really laughable, but confoundedly cruel. The two
poor wretches began to sneeze with might and main. At every convulsion they
nearly tore each other's scalps off. They roared and writhed, and bobbed and
sneezed. It was horribly painful to them, but it was too much for the
assembled villagers. The Assamee has a keen sense of the ridiculous and a
tiger-like touch of ferocity too. They keenly appreciate intellectual
acuteness, and they could not but see how cleverly yet cruelly the old
planter was paying out old scores. They shrieked with laughter. The charm of
successful rebellion was gone. The would-be village Hampdens were covered
with confusion and shame. They had become the laughing-stock of the
district, and therewith became the most humble and obedient upholders of the
old man's authority.
Such doings are no longer possible now. Indeed, the cloth is
in danger of being cut almost too much the other way. Every village coolie
now knows his rights, and is not slow to assert them. Two roads intersect
the country in all directions (I speak now of Behar generally); village
schools exist in almost every hamlet; the law's delays are still costly and
irksome, but there is little chance now for organized cruelty or oppression;
and the planter, as a rule, especially in Tirhoot, is looked up to as a
protector and benefactor, and a community of interests binds the village
farmer and the planter in a pleasant friendly intercourse. This is so on
the. majority of indigo estates in Tirhoot and Chumparun.
In Purneah we were yet one or two steps farther back in the
path of progress. We were yet in the patriarchal age, and, at the time I
speak of, if a planter was popular with the natives, as I may fairly say we
generally were, he could wield enormous power. Such men as Joe, George, and
others I could name, born and reared up in the district, knowing every
Assamee's family for miles round, were perfect little kings in their own dehaat, and
were in their own persons judge, jury, fountain of justice, protector, and
everything else pertaining to rule and authority.
But, as I say, only these stories now remain, just like
glacial boulders on some heathery hillside, to tell of an older epoch of
disruption and violence. When I first became an indigo planter, there were
only two ladies in the whole district. Now, the first article of furniture a
young planter thinks of is a wife, if such a homely term can be applied to
the highest ornament and the dearest blessing in a truly happy home. Men,
too, are better educated; cultivation is more scientific; the wage and
status of the cultivator are higher; communications are more widely extended
and better; and altogether the old reign of rowdy violence and boisterous
robust hospitality and rough-and-ready exercise of authority has passed
away. Feudal custom has given way to the reign of law. Things are done
constitutionally now, and with an approach to decency and order which would
have been scouted as impossible and impracticable thirty or forty years ago.
I have been led further away by this digression than I
.intended, but in my next chapter I will describe how we slew the "grand
grey boar "