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CINNAMON AND PEARLS. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 7 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1834). Vol. 7.
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CINNAMON AND PEARLS.
THE SILENT TRIP.
The brief twilight of the tropics had just sped away before the shadows of night over the seas which gird Ceylon, when a raft, stealing along the quiet expanse before the breath of the night-wind, approached the spot beneath which lay one of the chank beds that enrich the north-west coast of the island. The situation of the bed was marked by the constant presence of a boat, placed there by the lessees of the chank bed to guard its treasures from pilferers. These thanks, or conch-shell, are a very tempting object of theft to the natives, not only as ornaments for their own persons, but as being in constant demand for the same purpose, and for burial with the distinguished dead, throughout the whole neighbouring continent of India. Sawn into rings, they deck the wrists, ancles, and fingers of many thousand dark beauties who care as little whether they are obtained by filching or by lawful fishing, as some fairer belles inquire whether their articles of luxury are smuggled or legally imported. Great precautions are therefore necessary to preserve the property of the chunk monopolists; and the best of these precautions are often useless. In the present case, the guard-boat might as well have been empty, for any opposition that it offered to the approach of the raft. The guard were probably asleep, or they would have perceived it at the moment that the moon lifted her horn above the eastern wave, spreading a sheet of light over the still expanse. At that moment, the two dusky figures which had been standing erect and silent beside the mast of the raft, began to move, though not to speak. Marana pointed to the golden light which was just appearing, and Rayo, understanding her sign, proceeded to lower the sail of matting, (which might become conspicuous in the moonlight,) and to dislodge the mast. Both figures then lay down beside it, so that the raft might have appeared, even to close observation, to be no more than a piece of drifting wood, but for the gleams sent forth from the precious stones with which Marana's silver hair-pins were set, and for the ripple of Ravo's paddle, which he contrived to ply as he lay. “The critical moment must be when he plunged, as there were no sea sounds amidst which the splash might be lost. All was as quiet as a lake. The guard-boat was no cradle to those who slept within it, for it kept its place as if it had been fixed in the sand of the beach. The black points of rock which rose above the surface at a distance towards the land were reflected with perfect fidelity, instead of in fluctuating lines of shadow. Marana dreaded the plunge for her lover, and fearfully watched to see dark figures rise up in the guard-boat while the circles were vet spreading, and breaking the moonlight to shivers on the surface. No foe appeared, however; and Marana was at liberty for new fears. There were enemies in the green depths below more formidable than any to the right hand or the left. It was quite as probable that a shark might take a fancy to this locality as a diver; and a chance meeting was little likely to end without strife. Marana drew towards the edge of the raft as its heavings subsided, and looked eagerly down, dreading to see a red tinge diffuse itself in the lucid depth, and starting at every shadow that floated through it. She was fingering her ebony beads meanwhile, and her lips moved as she murmured some aspirations compounded of a catholic prayer and a native charm. The depth was little more than two fathoms in this place, and Rayo was soon up again, though the minute of his submersion seemed incalculably longer to Marana. He delivered his pouch to her to be emptied, and rested himself by floating till he was ready for another descent.
Again and again he dived, till Marana discovered a treasure in the pouch which destroyed ail further temptation to theft that night, and relieved the damsel from the anxiety of watching more descents of her lover. A shell which opened to the right, commonly called a right-handed chank, a shell esteemed worth its weight in gold, appeared in the heap, and it was not worth while to run any further risk when so rare a possession as this was obtained. Rayo's spirits were so raised by his good fortune that he insisted on paddling quite round the guard-boat, near enough to see whether there was any one in it, while Marana looked anxiously at the ascending moon, whose flood of light was now veiling the stars. When she saw arms gleaming in the boat, she thought it too rash of her lover to come between the sleeping guard and the moon, and looked imploringly at him while she pointed to the shore. His curiosity once satisfied, the danger was soon over. Rayo ventured to stand up to paddle, when the raft had distanced the boat by half a mile, and Marana began her inquiries as to what he had seen in the deep.
Rayo made light, as he had done for some time past, of the achievement of diving for chanks. He had practised it as a preparation for becoming a pearl-fisher in waters three times as deep, and for a much more precious treasure. He was to make his first trial of the nobler occupation at the approaching pearl fishery; and he spoke with becoming indifference of all meaner accomplishments. He had seen no sharks to-night; there would be more chance of them in deeper water. He had been startled by no strange appearances: nine fathoms down was the scene tor wonders. He had found no difficulty in filling his pouch: the oyster beds would afford harder work. Marana thought all this was counterbalanced by the absence of a charmer who might say “avaunt i” to sharks, and interpret all marvels, and lighten all toils. If her father could have been on the raft with them to-night, she should think as little of the trip as Rayo himself; and if he could but get himself engaged tbr the same boat that was to carry Rayo out to his first pearl fishing, she should have confidence in his prosperity and safe return.
They fell in with no other vessel till they came in sight of the shore,—the wildest and dreariest part of the shores of Ceylon. A flat yellow beach stretched away on either hand, without rock or tree, or any object which could cast a shadow, except the huts of mud and rushes which afforded a shelter to the natives. In no place was it easier to make a landing, and in none was it more difficult to laud unperceived, when sun or moon was above the horizon. No jutting rocks were there, behind whose screen a raft might lie concealed: no shady creek into which a skiff might glide and secrete itself beneath the mangroves: no groves of cocoa-nut, feathering the margin of the tide, beneath whose canopy dusky pilferers might creep to divide their spoils. All was l:ere open to the sky, and to a sky whose lesser lights leave little unrevealed even on the night of a new moon.
Rayo and Marana had little chance of stealing to their homes unobserved while so many eyes were looking upon them from above, and while a certain pair of vigilant human eyes preserved their wont of looking abroad upon the night. The tall figure of Father Anthony, the priest, was moving on the beach, preceded by his still taller shadow, when the raft floated on shore. Rayo saw this while still afloat; and if he had been an English smuggler, he would have pushed off again before he was recognized, and have kept out of sight till Father Anthony was safely housed. But Rayo's ideas of good manners would not allow of this. He had no notion of failing to pay his respects to any who came in his way, whatever might be the consequence of the meeting; and he now greeted Father Anthony with as much deference as Marana herself, hoping that it was no evil which kept their friend awake at this hour.
“No worse evil than being unable to rest so well here as in Europe, where there are no excessive heats of the day to make us restless at night. But what fish do you seek so late? I fear you have lost your nets,” he continued, seeing no fishing apparatus on board the raft.
Marana looked at Rayo, and Rayo said nothing.
“Chanks!” exclaimed Father Anthony, perceiving now of what Marana's burden consisted. “These chanks cannot be yours.”
“His hands brought them up,” declared Marana, pointing to her lover.
“It may be so, but they are no more his than the comb in his hair would be mine if I were to take it from him. Rayo, why did you steal these chanks? Do not you know that God punishes theft?”
“Is it theft to get chanks for my bride, when I have worked long for them, and can get no chanks by working? I thought God laid the chanks in our seas for our brides.”
“They have become the property of some who may let your brides, or the brides of india have them, as they may see fit. God gave them into the hands of those who possess them; and have He will be angry with any who take them away by fraud or violence. All cannot have these chank-beds, and those who have bought them must be protected in their possession.”
“I have earned as many as I have taken,” replied Rayo; “and to-night God has given them to me. The guard did not even stir when I plunged.
“And God gave him this,” added Marana, showing And the precious shell as an indubitable proof of all being right. Father Anthony had not been long enough in his present station to know the full value of what he now took into his hand; but it he had, his decision would have been the same, that the chanks were not Rayo's.
Rayo was much in want of his friend's guidance. In the school, it was taught as a duty that a just reward should be given for toil. Was it a duty out of school to toil without reward?
Certainly not, except in the case of the mutual services which friends and neighbours should yield to each other. But nobody thought of toiling without reward, as far as Father Anthony knew. The chank-fishers, he was sure, were paid. Rayo acknowledged having received certain portions of rice, and of cotton for clothing: but never any wages which would purchase what was necessary for Marana before her father would allow her to marry. Rayo had no objection to work. but he had not doubted about the liberty of paying himself, in case of an insuffieiency of wages. When he heard, however, all the denunciations that Father Anthony had to bring against the sin of theft, and it was pressed upon him that he had actually been guilty of the crime, he was perfectly submissive; no less so than Marana, though his eves did not stream like hers, and he did not so instantly betake himself to his devotions. He stood with his eves cast down, waiting for instructions.
“Your duty is clear, Rayo,” said Father Anthony. “He that hath stolen must not only steal no more, but must restore what he hath stolen. When the sun uses, you must go to the owners of these chanks and restore them, relating your offence and seeking their pardon; I need not say humbly, for I have never observed you fail in humlity.”
Rayo made obeisance, and Marana hoped he might also relate how he fell into the offence.
“If he does it without any pretence of justifying himself,” said father Anthony, who was not unwilling that the facts of the oppression under which his poor friends laboured should be brought home, on every possible occasion, to the owner of the wealth which surrounded them, and which they might not appropriate, Rayo may say why he wishes for chanks and for the money that chanks will bring; but he must not defend himself for having taken them without leave. Neither must you excuse yourself before God, Rayo; but seek His pardon before you sleep. May He pardon and bless you, Rayo!”
“How far will you have to carry them? ⃜asked Marana, as soon as Father Anthony was out of hearing. as If it is not too far for a woman, I will go with you, and carry them, and confess for you. How far must they be carried.”
Rayo painted to his father's hut, his own abode, and began walking towards it with a countenance of perfect content. But Marana stopped, and looked the entreaty which she dared not speak.
“They are heavy,” observed Rayo, taking the chanks from her.
“No, no. I will carry them to the mountains, I will swim with them through the sea, sooner than that the curse shall light upon you, Rayo. Father Anthony says the curse comes upon those who do not do as they say, and a great curse upon those who steal as we have done, unless they restore.”
“It will bring a curse to say what he bids me say to the rich men. I shall fish no more chanks, and lose what I have got, and perhaps fish no pearls. This will be a curse.”
“But what will Father Anthony say to-morrow?”
“Let us see if he finds it out.”
“But the curse will come, whether Father Anthony knows or not.”
“Your father shall charm it away, and you shall have your rings; and the rest shall be sold at the fishery. Then we will build a house, and we will each have new clothing, and we will be married.—But let us hide the chanks. If my father finds them, lie will sell some. If Neyna finds them, she will ask for rings too. We will hide them in the rushes.”
Marana dared not resist, but her horror of the curse grew every moment. She did not think at all the worse of her lover for his determination. She rather admired the bravery of it, her thoughts being employed, not on the sin, but on its apprehended consequences. She doubted whether her father had a charm strong enough to obviate the effects of her lover's rashness; and she was far less afraid of anything that might come out of the rushes than of what might come out of the deed which Rayo went to do there.
When the torches were lighted, without which it is unsafe to penetrate the places where leopards may be crouching on dry sand, hidden by the silky rushes, she went first, fearing, not the glaring eye of a savage beast, but the vigilant glance of some saint or demon whom her religion or the old superstitions of the country taught her to regard as the dispenser of punishment from above. She started as the night-wind swept among the reeds, not so much from dread of some velvet paw that might be stealing towards her, as from expectation of some token of wrath. All was quiet, however. The curse was not perceived immediately to light, and the lovers parted in safety at the door of her father's hut.
Marana stood for some time hesitating between lying down at once on her mat to sleep, and waking her father, to trouble him for a charm without loss of time. A belter plan than either flashed across her mind, and found more and more favour the longer she entertained it. It might avert the curse without exposing Rayo to shame; and the loss of the chanks (which was involved in her scheme) was a small price to pay for such security. She hoped Rayo) might be brought to think so: and if not, she could rather bear his anger than see the curse light upon him. The chanks were intended chiefly for her: and she could do without them for ornaments, and had rather marry Rayo without a house and without new clothing than expose him to the curse: and thus, by a process of reasoning over which the fear of a curse presided, she convinced herself that the best thing she could do was to restore the chanks to their oozy bed.
Without a torch, for she had not now the means of getting one, she stole out, and crept to the hiding place among the rushes. Without bite from snake, or alarm from any living thing more formidable than a bat, she made her way out again. Without help or hinderance, she pushed the little raft into the water, hoisted its mast and mat, and stood out alone into the shining sea. What kind of malignant beings she could imagine to be hovering between the glorious constellations and their earthly mirror, it was for her to tell. The miseries which she believed them commissioned to dispense came from a much nearer place than the nearest of those radiant spheres, or even of the dense clouds which began to show like a low wall along the horizon. The miseries under the pressure of which her lover had committed crime, and she was now dreading the atonement, came from the corrupt desires and infirm judgments of men near at hand, whose passion was for the possession of the powers of the earth, and not for alliance with the powers of the air.
When Rayo rose in the morning at his father's calls to trim the boat for a fishing expedition, he was surprised to see no sign of his little raft on the beach. It might have been washed away, the sea being no longer so smooth as it was a few hours before: or some unscrupulous neighbour might have used it for his own convenience, It was of little consequence; a raft being the simplest and cheapest of all contrivances by which a Cingalese can set himself afloat. The disappearance was explained when old Gomgode's flat-bottomed fishing-boat, containing himself and Rayo, had made some progress from the land, and was pitching in the rising swell, while the young man threw out his nets.
“Rayo, Rayo,” said Gomgode, “what is floating out beyond? Rayo, Rayo. tell me whether it is not your raft.”
Rayo believed it was, but could scarcely distinguish it yet with sufficient certainty to claim it. The old man's sight might not be really better than his son's, but it was usually sharpened by curiosity to a much greater degree than that of the less vivacious Rayo. He now perceived that there was a woman upon the raft, and then Rayo also began to see very. clearly; and not only to see, but to act. Gomgode could not conceive what possessed Rayo to draw in the nets so hastily, and quit their station, and give up every thing for the sake of following or meeting this raft. when to-day, of all days, it was important to secure a good draught of fish. They had come out early, on purpose, the auction of the oyster-banks being just about to he held, giving a fine opportunity for the sale of fish. One boat after another was dropping out from the shore, and Rayo was losing all the advantage of being out first, was, giving up all his preparations, for the sake of making towards the raft.
“Rayo, Rayo,” the old man exclaimed.
“Father, Marana is there, dripping and struggling.”
“Is it Marana? It is Marana. What sent her out, Rayo? How long has she been out, Rayo? Did you Know that she had your raft, Rayo? O, Rayo, what is she going to do now, Rayo?”
Marana was about to do a somewhat perilous thing. She was about to dash through a threatening wave as a horserider bursts through a blind hoop, trusting to light again. The sea was now far too rough for so slight a machine as this raft. It pitched and shivered as every wave broke over it, and afforded so little secure hold against the stronger swells which succeeded each other, that Marana seemed to find it her best way to pass through them separately. She was seen standing with her face towards the approaching wave, eyeing it steadily, and cleaving her way through it so as to come. out near the very point to which the raft was descending from its ridge. This was all very well for awhile; but Marana was yet a great way from shore, and it was scarcely possible but that such a succession of plunges must exhaust her before she could commit herself finally to the waves to be cast upon the beach. It was contrary to her habits also to use much exertion, and the effort which brought her out thus alone upon the sea, whatever might be its motive, could hardly be long sustained. Rayo was full of wonder and of fear; and his father's remonstrances and questions stood little chance of being attended to till Marana was safe on board.
Marana herself, though by far the most deferential person that Gomgode was wont to meet, could scarcely bring herself to give an answer to his inquiries till she had obtained Rayo's forgiveness for having, at great sacrifice to herself, averted the curse from him. Meek and downcast, the dusky beauty stood before him, her half-clothed frame trembling with her late exertions, and the salt water dripping from her hair. One corner of her garment seemed to be very carefully cherished by her. It contained the precious right-handed chank. She had not found in her heart to part with it, on arriving at the place of deposit: and, while hesitating, several good reasons for keeping it occurred to her, as is not unfrequently the case with those who are religious after her manner, any more than with those who are not religious at all. It was a pity the shell should be lost, and it was likely never to be fished up among so many. It might be turned to a much better purpose, if her father would make it a charm. There could be no sin in keeping it, if it was thus converted to a religious use instead of being sold for a profit. Marana therefore kept the chank, and was the better able to bear her lover's displeasure from the silent consciousness that she held a treasure for him in her possession.
She did not make a syllable of reply to his lowering look and few cutting words against herself, and when his wrath turned upon Father Anthony, or rather upon any priest or religion which interfered with his doings, Marana testified only by a slight glance round her that she was uneasy under this rashness of complaint.
The moment the boat touched the shore after a prosperous trip, she hastened to her father's cottage, not waiting to observe how much more Gomgode would ask for his fish than they were actually worth, nor even to hear whether anything was yet known of the quality of the oysters which had been brought up as a sample from the pearl banks, and on whose evidence the auction was to proceed. She had an office to discharge, in common with her neighbours; to dress and light up the road bv which the agent of the government was to approach: and she was anxious to obtain the desired favour from her father before she went forth.
The Charmer, who was expecting an application, in the course of this day, to hold his services in readiness for the fishery, was now absorbed in his preparations. He sat in a corner of his hut with his documents spread before him. Strips of the talipot-leaf, on which some consecrated style, guided by a wise man's hand, had traced mysterious characters, lay before the Charmer, and beads and images and various sacred indescribable articles were scattered around. He gave no heed to his child when she entered, and his melancholy countenance wore a deeper sadness than usual.
“Father!” softly said Marana, after some time waiting his pleasure; “where will the sharks be during the fishery?”
The Charmer shook his head, and acknowledged his doubt whether St. Anthony would be permitted to keep them all within the bounds of Adam's Bridge, or whether some would be left at large between the north banks and the shore. The south banks would be safe; but the north, alas! were those in which Marana was interested.
“Father! the monsoon will surely not arrive too early?”
“Not till April is nearly past,” he replied, cheerfully. “It is even likely that there may be complaints in the south of drought, from the delay of the rains. There will be no storms in our fishery.”
“I will ask Father Anthony to praise the saints Will the fishery be rich?”
“To some, and not to others. This is commonly the case; and I cannot discover whose countenanees will be sad in illegibleipo, and whose merry voices will sing along the shore at Condatchy, when the last signal-gun has brought, back the last boat.”
There was a long pause before Marana ventured to utter the more important question,
“Father! will any one be waited for in the paradise under the sea?”
The Charmer rubbed his hand over his brow, and said that this was the point he was endeavouring to ascertain when his daughter entered. His indications were at variance; and whether the fishery was to be fatal to none, or to more than he had put the question for, he could not decide,—Marana felt that she must request Father Anthony to intercede with, as well as praise the saints.
“Is it a blind day to you, father?” she inquired, struck by his tone of doubt on almost every topic she had introduced.
“My blind days are many,” he replied, “and the blindness troubles me. Marcair looks doubtfully upon me, and I look doubtfully upon myself, — because I warned him that a wild elephant would tread his rice-ground seven nights ago. Marcair lighted eleven fires, and thirty-two friends kept watch with him for three nights: and not a twig was heard to snap in the jungle and those who laid ear to the ground say that not so much as a panther trod within a mine.”
“Seven nights since? That was the night that ball of white fire crossed the sky”
“A ball of fire! St. Anthony opened your eyes to see It! A ball of white fire cast from the hand of a saint is more fearful than eleven fires kindled by men's hands.”
“The elephant was seared, father, no doubt, The ball passed, over that very jungle, and then above Marcair's rice-ground, and then into the sea.”
The Charmer's spirits were so raised by the news of this interposition, that he presently contrived to bring his most important calculations to an agreement, and then lost no time in charming the shell, that his daughter might be at liberty to reveal to the neighbours what she had seen on the seventh preceding night, and thus reestablish her father's credit.
She had never heard her father speak more positively on any point than on this,—that if Rayo was married to her before he went out to the fishery, this charm would bring Rayo back safe from the fishery, lt followed that Rayo should have his wish, and be married before the adventure. There being no dwelling ready nor any thing to put therein, was a matter of small moment in comparison with Rayo's safety.
Marana went forth with her usual slow and demure step and demeanour: but the torches which flashed here and there on her path were reflected back from her eyes as brightly as from the topazes on the crown of her head. With a lighter, but no less graceful touch than usual, did she unfurl the fan-like talipot leaves of which the tents for the strangers were composed. With more than her usual fancy did she feather with cocoa-nut leaves the poles of bamboo to which torches were to be fastened at intervals along the road. She was too poor to pay the tribute of white cotton cloth for the government agent to walk upon, when he should arrive within sight of the huts: but she had a new song to offer, which was worth full as much. She had, besides, a little cocoa-nut oil to spare for the anointing of a sister beauty or two, when she had made her own toilet: so that the remark went round that Marana must have got some new charm from her father for her special adornment. Rayo's manner seemed to show that he thought so too.
A MUSHROOM CITY.
After the usual expenditure of anxiety, prudence, jealousy, wrath and cunning, the letting of the Pearl banks had been accomplished. A great speculator had offered government a certain sum for the whole fishery of the season, and had then let the different banks to various merchants, to whom the gracious permission was given to make what they could of the natives of the land as well as of the sea;—not only to appropriate the natural wealth of the region, but to bring its inhabitants as near to the brink of starvation as they pleased in their methods of employing their toil. Pearls seem to be thought beautiful all over the world where they have been seen. Empresses in the north, ladies of all degree in the east and west, and savages between the tropies, all love to wear pearls; and where is there a woman, in an Esquimaux hut or a Welsh farmhouse, who would not wear pearls if she could obtain them? And why should not all have pearls who wish for them, if there is a boundless stone, and labourers enough willing and ready to provide them? Alas! there are not only few wearers of pearls because the interests of the many are not consulted, but the labourers who obtain them are by the same cause kept bare of almost the necessaries of life, going forth hungry and half naked to their toil, and returning to seek rest amidst the squalidness of poverty, while hundreds and thousands of their families and neighbours stand on the shore envying them as they depart, and preparing to be jealous of them on their return: both parties being, all the while, the natural owners of the native wealth of their region. And why is all this injustice and tyranny? That a few, a very few, may engross a resource which should enrich the many. Yet, not many things are more evident than that to impoverish the many is the most certain method of ultimately impoverishing the few; and the reverse. If the government would give away its pearl banks to those who now fish those banks for the scantiest wages which will support life, government would soon gain more in a year from the pearls of Ceylon than it has hitherto gained by any five fisheries. If buyers might bid for pearls from every quarter of the world to those who might sell any where, and after their own manner, Cingalese huts of mud and rushes would grow into dwellings of timber and stone; instead of bare walls, there would be furniture from a thousand British warehouses; instead of marshes, there would be rice-fields; instead of rickety coasting boats, there would be fleets of merchantmen riding in the glorious harbours of the island; instead of abject prayers from man to man as the one is about to suffer the dearth which the other inflicts, there would be the good will and thanksgiving which spring from abundance; instead of complaints on the one hand of expensive dependence, and murmurs about oppression on the other, there would be mutual congratulation for mutual aid. Ceylon would over pay, if required, in taxes, if not in advantageous commerce, any sacrifice of the monopolies by which she has been more thoroughly and ingeniously beggared than any dependency on which British monopoly has exercised its skill; and Britain might disburthen her conscience of the crime of perpetuating barbarism in that fairest of all regions, for whose civilization she has made herself responsible. There are many methods of introducing civilization; and some very important ones have been tried upon this beautiful island, and with as much success as could be expected: but the most efficacious, the prime method, is only beginning to be tried, the allowing the people to gain the property which nature has appointed as their share of her distribution. Let the Cingalese gather their own pearls, exchange their own timber, sell their own dyes wherever and in whatsoever manner they like, and they will soon understand comfort, and care for luxuries, like all who have comforts and luxuries within their reach; and with these desires and attainments will come the perceptions of duty,—the new sense of obligation which it is the object of all plans of civilization to introduce.
Great pains had been taken to civilize Rayo. He had been schooled and watched over he could read, and he respected the religion of his priest; he was willing to toil, and had a taste for comfort. But, beyond the hope of acquiring a hut and a mat or two, there was little stimulus to toil, and as little to conduct himself with a view towards any future circumstances. Strangers not only carried away the wealth of the land, but they prevented that wealth from growing, and therefore the labour of the inhabitants frmn obtaining a wider field. As pearls were fished ten years before, so they would be fished ten years hence, for any probability that he saw to the contrary. A thousand divers carried away a pittance then, insufficient to bring over to them the desirable things which were waiting on the shores of the neighbouring continent for a demand; and a like pittance might such another thousand carry away in time to come; in like manner might they sigh for foreign commodities, and in like manner might foreign commodities be still waiting, wrought or unwrought, for a demand. Therefore was Rayo still in a state of barbarism, though he understood and praised the trial by jury, and could read the prayers of his church. He was in a state of barbarism, for these accomplishments had no influence on his conduct and his happiness. He was selfish in his love; fraudulent with an easy conscience in his transactions of business; and capable of a revenge towards his superiors as remorseless as his deportment was gentle and polished. No circumstance had ever produced so happy an effect upon him as his advancement to be a pearl-diver, an advancement in dignity, if not in gain. It was the last promotion he was ever likely to obtain; but, besides that it softened his heart by occasioning his immediate marriage, it gave him the new object of distinguishing himself, and opened the possibility of his profiting by some stray pearl, or by some chance opportunity of speculating on a lot of oysters. He walked to join his company on the beach with a demeanour unlike that by which Rayo was commonly known; and his young wife looked after him with a new feeling of pride.
He was sure to be as safe as on shore, for the Charmer was to go in the same boat, and no shark binder of the whole assemblage was more confident of having effectually bound the sharks than Marana's father. All were confident: and the crowds on the beach looked as joyous for the night as if the work was going on for their sakes. A city of bowers seemed to have sprung up like Jonah's gourd or like the tabernacles which, in old times of Jewish festivals, made Jerusalem a leafy paradise for a short season of every year. illegible tents, and bamboo huts dressed with greens and flowers were elustered around the sordid dwellings on the sands. Throngs of merchants and craftsmen, black, tawny, and white, with their variety of costumes, mingled in this great fair. The polisher of jewels was there with his glittering treasure. The pearldriller looked to his needles and pearl dust, while awaiting on his low seat the materials on which he was to employ his skill. The bald, yellow-mantled priest of Budhoo passed on amidst obeisances in one place, as did the Catholic pastor in another. The white vested Mahomedan, the turbaned Hindoo, the swathed Malay merchants exhibited their stores, or looked passively on the gay scene. The quiet Dutchman from the south sent a keen glance through the market in quest of precious stones in the hands of an ignorant or indolent vender. The haughty Candian abated his fierceness, and stepped out of the path of the European; while the stealthy Cingalese was in no one's path, but won his way like a snake in the tall grass of the jungle. The restless lessees of the banks, meanwhile, were flitting near the boats, now ranged in a long row, each with its platform, ropes and pullies; each with its shark-binder, its pilot, its commander, its crew of ten, and its company of ten divers. The boat-lights were being kindled, one by one, and scattering a thousand sparkles over the rippling tide. It was just on the stroke of ten, and the signal gun was all that was waited for. The buzz of voices fell into a deep silence as the expectation became more intense. Those who were wont to make the heavens their clock and the stars its hour-hand, looked up to mark the precise inclination of the Southern Cross; while those who found an index in the flow of the tide, paced the sands from watermark to watermark. Yet more turned their faces southward towards the dark outline of hill and forest that rose on the horizon, and watched for the land breeze. It came, at first in light puffs which scarcely bowed the rushes around the lagoons, or made a stir among the stalks in the rice-ground. Moment by moment it strengthened, till the sails of the boats began to bulge, and every torch and faggot of cocoa-nut leaves on the beach slanted its forks of flame towards the sea, as if to indicate to the voyagers their way. Then the signal-gun boomed, its wreath of smoke curled lazily upward and dispersed itself in the clear air, while a shout, in which every variety of voice was mingled, seemed to chase the little fleet into the distance. The shouting ceased amidst the anxiety of watching the clusters of receding lights, which presently looked as if they had parted company with those in the sky, and had become a degree less pure by their descent. Then rose the song of the dancing-girls, as they stood grouped, each with a jewelled arm withdrawn from beneath her mantle, and her jet-black hair bound with strings of pearl. Mixed with their chaunt, came the mutterings and gabblings of the charmers who remained on shore, contorting their bodies more vehemently than would have been safe on any footing less stable than terra-firma.
The most imposing part of the spectacle was now to the people at sea. As their vessels were impelled by an unintermitting wind through the calmest of seas, they were insensible to motion, and the scene on shore, with its stir and its sound, seemed to recede like the image of a phantasmagoria, till the flickering lights blended into one yellow haze in which every distinct object was lost. It became at length like a dim star, contrasting strangely in brightness and in hue with the constellation which appeared to rise as rapidly as majestically over the southern hills, like an auxiliary wheeling his silent force to restore the invaded empire of night. Night now had here undisputed sway; for the torches which flared at the prows of the boats were tokens of homage, and not attempts at rivalship of her splendours.
Sailing is nearly as calculable a matter on these expeditions as a journey of fifty miles in an English mail-coach. There is no need to think about the duration of the darkness, in a region where the days and nights never vary more than fifteen minutes from their equal length; and, as for a fair wind, if it is certain that there will be one to carry you straight out at ten to-night, it is equally certain that there will be an opposite one to bring you straight in before noon tomorrow. Nature here saves you the trouble of putting engine and paddle-box into your boat, in order to be able to calculate your going forth and your return. By the time the amber haze in the east was parting to disclose the glories of a tropical sunrise, the fleet was stationed in a circle over the banks. Every stray shark had received its commands to close its jaws, and hie back to Adam's Bridge; and on each side of every platform stood five men, every one with his foot slung on the pyramidal stone, whose weight must carry him nine fathoms down into the regions of monstrous forms and terrifying motions.
Rayo was one who was thus in readiness. He stood next to the Charmer, Marana's father, over whom a change seemed to have come since he left the land. It might be from the fasting necessary to his office; it might be from the intensity of his devotion; but it might also be from fear, that his hands shook as he fumbled among his sacred furniture, and his voice quavered as he chaunted his spells. Rayo perceived his disorder, and a qualm came over the heart of the young diver, a qualm such as assails the servile agent of a rich man's prosperity much sooner than one in whom independence brings bravery. Rayo looked keenly at the Charmer; but the Charmer avoided meeting his eye, and it was not permitted to interrupt his incantation.
It was, perhaps, not the better for Rayo that the opposite five went first, it gave more time for the unstringing of his nerves. The splash of the thousand men who descended within the circle took away his breath as effectually as the closing waters were about to deprive him of it. It was a singular sight to see the half of this vast marshalled company thus suddenly engulphed, and to think of them, in one moment after, as forming a human population at the bottom of the sea. To be a subject of the experiment was to the full as strange as to witness it, as Rayo found, when the minute of his companions' submersion was at length over, and a thousand faces (very nearly scarlet, notwithstanding their tawny skins) rushed up through the green wave. Spouting, dripping, and panting, they convulsively jerked their burden of oysters out upon the platform, and then tried to deliver their news from the regions below; but for this news their comrades must not wait. Down went Rayo, to find out the difference between three fathoms and nine. How far the lively idea of a shark's row of teeth might have quickened his perceptions, he did not himself inquire; but he was conscious of a more dazzling flash before his eyes, a sharper boring of the drum of his ear, and a general pressure so much stronger than ever before, that it would have been easy for him to believe, if he had been a Hindoo, like his neighbours, that he supported the tortoise that supported the elephant that supported the globe. He could see nothing at first in the dizzy green that was suffocating and boiling him; but that did not signify, as he had no time to look about him. He thought he was descending clean into a shark's jaws, so sharp was that against which his left great toe struck, when his descent from the ninth heaven to the ninetieth abyss was at length accomplished. (How could any one call it nine fathoms?) On meeting this shark's tooth, or whatever it was, yelling was found to be out of the question. It was luckily forgotten in the panic, that the rope was to be pulled in case of accident;—luckily, as there was no alternative between Rayo's losing all credit as a diver, and the fishing being at an end for that day, from his spreading the alarm of a shark. He day not pull the rope; he only pulled up his left leg vigorously enough to assure himself that it was still in its proper place; by which time lie discovered that he had only mistaken a large, gaping oyster for a hungry shark. Rayo's great toe being not exactly the viand that this oyster had a longing for, it ceased to gape, and Rayo manfully trampled it under foot, before wrenching it from the abode of which its seven years' lease had this day expired These oysters required a terrible wrenching, considering that there was no taking breath between. Now he had got the knack. A pretty good handful, that! St. Anthony! where did that slap in the face come from so cold and stunning? Rayo's idea of a buffet from the devil was, that it would be hot; so he took heart, and supposed it was a fish, as indeed it was. He must go now, 0! O! he must go. He should die now before he could get up through that immeasurable abyss. But where was the rope? St Anthony! where was the rope? He was lost! No! it was the rope slapped his face this time. Still he was lost! A shadowy, striding mountain was coming upon him, too enormous to be any fish but a whale. Suppose Rayo should be the first to see a whale in these seas! St. Anthony! It was one of his companions. If they were not gone up yet, could not he stay an instant longer, and so avoid being made allowance for as the youngest diver of tim party? No, not an instant. He rather thought he must be dead already, for it was hours since he breathed. He was alive enough, however, to coil himself in the rope. Then he went to sleep for a hundred years; then, what is this? dawn? A green dawn? brighter, lighter, vistas of green light everywhere, with wriggling forms shooting from end to end of them. Pah! here is a mouthful of ooze. Rayo should not have opened his mouth. Here is the air at last! Rayo does not care; the water does as well by this time. If he is not dead now, water will never kill him, for he has been a lifetime under it.
“Well, Rayo,” says the captain, “you have done pretty well for the first time. You have been under water a full minute, and one man is up before you. Here comes another.”
“A full minute!”
Even so. Who has not gone through more than this in a dream of less than a minute? and yet more if he has been in sudden peril of instant death, when the entire life is lived over again, with the single difference of all its events being contemporaneous? Since it is impossible to get into this position voluntarily, let him who would know the full worth of a minute of waking existence, plunge nine fathoms deep, not in the sandy ooze of a storm-vext ocean, where he might as well be asleep for anything that he will see, but in some translucent region which Nature has chosen for her treasury.
Rayo had re-discovered one of the natural uses of air; but he was in despair at the prospect before him. Forty or fifty such plunges as this to-day! and as many more to-morrow, and almost every day for six weeks! Forty or fifty life-times a-day for six weeks! This is not the sort of eternity he had ever thought of desiring; and if purgatory is worse, Father Anthony had not yet spoken half ill enough of it. Rayo had better turn priest: he could speak eloquently now on any subject connected with duration.
Before the end of the day's work, however, the impression was much weakened. The minutes of submersion grew shorter, fish and their shadows more familiar, and much of the excessive heat and cold were found to have proceeded from within. Before noon, Rayo could consider of certain things to be attended to on the platform, as well as on the oyster-bed.
Oysters gape sometimes in the air as well as in the water. As Rayo floated in the intervals of his plunges, (having grown so hardy as to resist the remonstrances of the Charmer,) he observed the commander take the opportunity of slipping a morsel of wood into any oyster-shell that might happen to open, to prevent its closing again, and thus to save the necessity of waiting for the putrefaction of the fish before its treasure could be extracted. Rayo also perceived, that by an unheeded touch of the commander's foot, one of these oysters was dislodged from its horizontal position, and slipped with its hinge uppermost, so as to give exit to a large white pearl, so round that it rolled on and on, till it was stopped by a piece of rope, under whose shadow it lay apparently unperceived. It would have been risking too much to mount the boat in this present interval, for the purpose of picking up the pearl. Rayo must wait till after the next plunge; and in the meantime, it was but too probable somebody would move the rope, and either discover the pearl, or let it run away to some useless place. Such a pearl as this was worth all the chanks that Marana had cast away, including the right-handed one. Such a pearl as this would build a boat as well as a house, and make Marana look like a bride indeed. Such a pearl as this was no more than Ravo believed the proper payment of his labour, considering that strangers carried away all the profit from the country people. Such a pearl—this very pearl—might have come into his possession, if he had taken the chance, like some of his companions, of a lot of oysters, instead of small, fixed wages. In short, Rayo designed to have the pearl, and found means of justifying the act of dishonesty, which he would have strongly scrupled if he had been serving a party in whose prosperity he was interested, instead of one who interfered with the prosperity of himself and his countrymen. What Father Anthony had taught served little other purpose at present than quickening Rayo's ingenuity in finding reasons for doing whatever suited him. Such instruction might confirm and exalt his integrity, when he should have any. In the meantime, his social circumstances did more to make him dishonest than his religion to render him honest.
When he came up next time, he made so much haste to scramble into the boat, and seemed so much hurried that the Charmer started up in terror lest he should have lost a limb,— an accident which the binder of sharks had been expecting all the morning, from a complete failure of confidence in his own skill. When he saw that all was safe, he very nearly forgot his dignity so far as to assist the youth in emptying his net of oysters upon the heap in the middle of the platform. He stopped short, however, on Rayo's repulsing his offers of help, and went back to his seat, commending the practice ot coming on board instead of floating between the plunges. Rayo sank down on his knees to empty his pouch. The rope was within reach, and under it still lay the pearl. It was very natural for Rayo to draw the rope towards him, if he really wanted to ascertain whether the one round his body was strong enough; but it was not equally natural for him to put his hand to his mouth under pretence of dashing the wet from his face where little wet remained. So, at least, the commander thought; and he was confirmed by observing a hasty effort to swallow when Rayo was summoned to descend again. Measures of which the youth little dreamed were in preparation for him while he was down. He was hoisted upon the platform, and before he knew what he was about, a man seized him by either arm, a third stepped behind him, flourishing a knotted rope, while a fourth presented a cocoa-nut shell of liquid, which did not look or smell very tempting. He was told of a summary sentence to be flogged for putting his hand to his mouth while within arm's-length of oysters, (a great crime in Ceylon, whatever it may be elsewhere,) and to swallow a strong emetic as the ordeal of innocence of a further crime. It would have been useless to attempt to upset the cup; for a double dose would have been the consequence, an ample stock of emetics being the part of the apparatus of pearl-fishing least grudged by the speculators. Bolting was equally Impossible. There was nothing for it but to bolt the medicine. The pearl of course appeared, in due time; and when it once more vanished beneath the lid of the commander's spring-box, the fairest of poor Rayo's hopes vanished with it. He might consider himself, not disgraced,—for his companions were wont to applaud the act of stealing pearls,—but turned off from his employment for this bout, and precluded from the means of establishing Marana in any thing better than four bare mud walls.
“Pillal Karra,” (binder of sharks,) “you are wise,” observed the commander respectfully. “I have seen your downcast looks. Doubtless you knew what should befal this youth.”
“If any doubted our power,” said the Charmer, “they should observe how a mysterious trouble comes first to foreshow the misfortune that will follow. When I was younger, I was content to keep off the misfortune; and when I was overruled by the Malabar hags, to let the mischief come without warning to myself. Now when my mind is tossed, I am learning to know that the Malabar hags are riding a coming storm.”
“Have these hags bewitched your son-in-law?”
“No doubt; and I know which of them it is. It is Amoottra, who owes me a grudge on account of Marana's beauty, If she could meet my daughter out of the line of my charms, she would touch her with leprosy.”
“Well; if you can convince my employer of this, and disenchant Rayo, he may come out again to-morrow. Otherwise, he has taken his last plunge for this season; for there parts the first boat from the circle.”
As the boats warped round into line, the sea-breeze freshened, and all were presently making a steady progress homewards. Almost as soon as they came in sight of the orange-tinted shore, apparently floating in the hot haze of noon, they saw a spark glitter, and some seconds after came the boom of the signal-gun which was to announce their return to the anxious speculators and the public at large ia the fair. The flag was next hoisted, and then every man, woman, and child was looking to seaward while hastening to secure standing-room on the margin of the tide. The Charmers began to be ambiguous about this day's success, and to prophesy magnificently for the next. The dancing girls stationed them-selves round certain matted enclosures, ready to welcome the oysters to their place of putrefaction. Father Anthony borrowed a telescope of a contractor, whose hand shook so that he could make no use of it himself; and Marana stood apart under the shade of a talipot leaf, lowering her primitive umbrella, with tantalizing constaney, as often as a gallant stranger or a curious country-woman would have peeped under it.
A talipot leaf will shelter two heads, and hide two faces, as was soon proved with Marana's. Rayo did not particularly wish to encounter Father Anthony, and had withdrawn Marana among the huts, where, screened by the umbrella, they mourned the adventure. Father Anthony's eyes, however, were keen. Keenly they peered under the shelter, and made Rayo's droop before them. In vain Rayo pleaded his father-in-law's word, that he was bewitched by a Malabar hag. Father Anthony did not allow Malabar hags to lay waste the fold of which he was the shepherd. —Rayo bowed his head submissively, and waited for orders.
“Do not insult the contractor by a plea of witchcraft.”
“I will not, father.”
“Do not seek to be employed again this season. There are many waiting for the office who deserve it better than you. For this season, I shall recommend Tilleke in your place; bv next season, I hope you will have wrestled with temptation, so that I may send my blessing forth with you.”
“Is the blessing passed away?” asked Rayo, prostrating himself before the priest, with deep sorrow in his tone and countenance. “Perhaps not, if you will freely confess.”
“I will, father.”
Marana moved away, and remained out of hearing with her back turned towards them, till the priest at length passed her. Dropping a few words of good cheer, he exhorted her to be a tender wife, but withal faithful to her religion, and then he trusted Rayo would become proof against every kind of evil instigation or influence. It really was remarkable that such influences seemed to beset him in particular places. His sins of theft took place at sea, where compunction never seemed to visit him; while no one could be more penitent and submissive than Rayo on land. Did Marana know of any instance of his committing a theft on shore, or being penitent at sea? Marana could recollect none, and was confirmed in her dread of the Malabar witch. If she could but get Rayo farther inland! she said to herself, as father Anthony gave her his blessing, and went on his way.
This aspiration was nearer its accomplishment than she could have supposed.
“Rayo, what could make you take the pearl?” she asked, when she returned to her husband.
“If there were a cocoa-nut tree here, as in the south, I should not want the money which I cannot get. We might build under its shade, and eat its fruit, and drink the milk from the kernel, and make our ropes of its fibres, and burn lamps of its oil. But as there are no cocoa-nuts where we live, I got chanks. You threw them away, and I tried to gee a pearl. If I must not have a pearl——”
“Let us go to the cocoa-trees, as they cannot come to ns.”
“If I go at all, I will go far; down among the cinnamon gardens, Marana.”
“Not to be a cinnamon peeler!” exclaimed Marana, who thought, she saw a desperation in her husband's countenance, such as a man might wear who was about to lose caste. It was now a disputed point which caste ought to rank highest, the fishermen or the cinnamon-peelers; but Marana, as a duty bound, as a fisherman's daughter, regarded the cinnamon-peelers as upstarts. “You, a fisherman, will not mix with the cinnamon-peelers?”
Rayo explained no more of his purpose in going among the cinnamon gardens than that it was not to mix with the peelers. But he gloomily hinted that perhaps Marana ought not to go, would she not there be out of the limit of her father's charms? Night not the hag Amoottra——
“Touch me with leprosy? No,” said Marana, producing the precious shall from a corner of her mantle. “My lather needs not draw out his spell at home while I carry this with me. I have shown it to you, Rayo, but you will not sell it? If we live among the cocoa-nuts, we shall not want the money. You will not take it from me to part with it?”
Rayo lot her deposit it in her mantle, and then she was ready to go. Every thing that she possessed was now on her person. Her father was certain, from the nature of his profession, of being well taken eare of; and, if not, her husband's claims upon her would have been paramount. Leaving the Charmer to discover by his spells why and whither they were gone, and old Gomgode to catch fish for himself and his daughter, the young folks stole away towards the richer country to the south. They knew that there was little danger of pursuit. There was no lack of divers to supply Rayo's place. Nobody supposed they would actually starve; and, as for living poorly, it was what thousands had done before them, thousands were doing now, and thousands would do after them. Gomgode supposed Rayo would preserve caste. The charmer trusted his daughter not to expose herself rashly to the bag's wrath, as she knew the consequences. Perhaps Father Anthony missed and mourned them most; but he had a firm faith that Rayo would prove an honester man in the jungle, or among the paddy-fields, than on a haunted sea.
MORNING IN THE JUNGLE.
During the time of the cinnamon harvest, it was the custom of Mr. Carr, the agent of the East India Company for the management of their cinnamon contract, to ride every morning through one department or another of the Marandahn, or great cinnamon garden near Columbo. The beauty of the ride might afford sufficient temptation at any season of the year. The blue lake of Columbo, whether gleaming in the sunrise, or darkening in the storms of the monsoon, never lost its charms. The mountain range in the distance was an object for the eye to rest lovingly upon, whether clearly outlined against the glowing sky, or dressed in soft clouds, from which Adam's Peak alone stood aloft, like a dark island in the waters that are above the firmament.
Whether the laurel-like cinnamon wore its early foliage of red or its later of green, or its white blossom that made the landscape dazzling with beauty and voluptuous with fragrance; whether the talipot upreared its noble crest of straw-coloured blossoms above its green canopy, or presented its clustering fruit; whether the cocoa-nut tree bowed before the gusts of autumn, or stood in dark, majestic clumps above the verdure of a less lofty growth, the groves and gardens were a paradise to the eye of the Europeans.
The reaches of road, and the green paths which might be detected here and there amidst the vast plantation, the race grounds and patches of meadow land interspersed, and the lowly roof peeping out occasionally from beneath the palms, gave hints of the presence of man and civilization; while the temple, with its oriental dome supported on slender pillars, jutting out at the extreme end of a promontory into the blue-waters of the lake, or perched on some point of the piled rocks in the background, carried back the thoughts to old days of barbarian superstition. In all this there was so much pleasure as to make a ride in the Marandahn a tempting pleasure at all times and seasons; though Mr. Carr's interest was at its height during the cinnamon harvest.
As he was about to mount his horse one morning, the sound of argument, not to say dispute, reached him from within.
“My dear child,” Mrs. Carr was saying, “Roomseree and Pellikee shall give you an airing nearer home, so that you will not be killed with the heat. Do not think of going with papa this morning.”
“O, mama, you know papa says nothing tires me. I can ride as far as papa; and papa says he likes to show me what the people are doing; and I am sure the people like me to go too. Papa enjoys his ride so much more when I go with him; and the horse does not think me very heavy.”
“Heavy ! no, love! You are so small and slight, Alice, that it makes me tremble to think of your going out under such a sun as it will be by the time you get back. Papa always promises to take a very short ride; and it ends with his bringing you home at the end of four or five hours. Better stay with me, love.”
“All the rest of the day, mama; but papa has had the right saddle put on, and we are to go the west ride this morning. Cannot you go to sleep till we come back?”
Mrs, Carr promised to try; and, to do her justice, she was always ready to do her best to sleep, day and night, bidden and unbidden. With a few sighs over the charming spirits and the unquenchable curiosity of the dear child, she closed her eyes on the dewy radiance of a morning in paradise, and was glad that she had nothing more to do with cinnamon than to be tired of hearing of it, and to taste it when she pleased.
Alice used her eyes to more purpose this morning. She was yet new enough to scenes like those before her to be full of wonder, and other feelings, as natural, perhaps, but less desirable.
“Papa, do giants live in this place?”
“Giant, my dear, no. What made you fancy such a thing? You have seen no very amazing people, have you?”
“No; they are very small pretty people, I think. Sometimes, when I see them under such a very tall clump of trees as that, or among the jungle grass, they put me more in mind of dark fairies than giants; but—”
“But the trees are some of them fit for giants' walking-sticks, I suppose you think; and an elephant is a very proper animal for a giant to ride. Hey?”
“I have seen men on elephants,” replied Alice. “But look there! Look at that great castle!” And she pointed with awe to a mighty object which was partially revealed as the morning mists drew off.
“That is not a castle, my dear; though I do not wonder at your taking it to one. It is a mountain-peak.”
“But the drawbridge, papa;—the drawbridge hanging in the air.”
“Ah! you would be a long time in finding out what that drawbridge (as you call it) is. You think it made for giants; but it would break down under your weight. That is only a bridge of creeping plants, for birds and butterflies to hide in. If a strong wind came, you would see it swing, like your swing between the cherry, trees in the orchard at your grand-mama's, in England.—When we get out of the garden and nearer the thickets, you will see some such flowers as that bridge is made of, hanging from the trees, and binding them together so that we cannot ride through them.”
“But I do not want to get out of the garden yet. Here come the people, one after another, from their cottages, with their crooked knives to cut down the branches. What are those tawny people doing in the shade? They seem to be sitting very comfortably, all in a ring. This is prettier than seeing grandmama's mowers in England, besides that the mowers do not sing at their work, like these people.”
“The mowers in England have more reason to sing than many of these peelers. Look how thin many of them are; and that poor child playing in the grass appears half-starved. Very few people in England are so poor as some of the natives here, who yet sing from morning till night.”
Alice observed that they were not all thin; and she pointed to one man whose legs were of an enormous size, and to another whose body was nearly as broad as it was long.—She was told that these appearances were caused by disease; and that the diseases of the labourers were in a great degree owing to their poor way of living. There would be few such swollen or emaciated bodies as these if the people had flesh to eat, or good bread, or even the seasoning which was necessary to make their vegetable food agree with them.
“Seasoning! What sort of seasoning?”
“Salt, and pepper, and cardamoms, and cinnamon.”
“Salt, papa! They must be very lazy if they do not get salt enough. There is the sea all round Ceylon; and I have seen several ponds where the water was so salt I could not drink it. There was a crust of salt all about the edge, papa.”
“Very true, my dear; but the people are not allowed to take it. The king of Candy lives in the middle of this island; and the kings of Candy have sometimes been troublesome people to the English, as they were to the Dutch before them. Now, as the king of Candy cannot get to the sea, or to any salt lake, without our king's leave, he and his people depend upon us for salt; and our government likes to keep him quiet, and get a great price for its salt at the same time by selling it to the Candians very dear, and by letting nobody else sell any. So the people of the country are not allowed to help themselves to salt.”
“But if there was not enough, I would rather make the king of Candy go without than these poor people who belong to us. We ought to take care of them first.”
“The government likes to take care of itself before either its own people or the Candians. There is salt enough for every body here, and for half India besides; and large quantities are destroyed every year, to keep up the price, while many are dying for want of it, and those who live can get nothing better than coarse dirty salt which the beasts in your grandmam's, farm-yard would turn away from. If we could count the numbers of Hindoos who die in India for want of the salt which their own country produces, we should find that fearful reckoning awaits the Company there, as there does the government here; a fearful balance of human life against a high price for salt.”
Alice thought that if the ghosts of these poor natives could haunt the authorities, such an army of shadows would soon prevail to secure for their surviving countrymen the food which Providence had made to superabound before their eyes. She knew how shocked and sorry government was that a woman here and there burned herself when her husband died; but when government burned the salt which was left, in order to keep up the price, Alice thought, and so did her father, that government was destroying more lives than ever penshed on piles kindled by native hands.
“But pepper, papa: the king of Candy can grow his own pepper in his own woods, I suppose; for it seems as if it would grow any where here, as long as there are trees for it to hang upon. I see the pepper vine dangling in the woods, wherever I go; and the monkeys throw the red clusters at each other.”
“The monkeys may gather them, but the men and women may not unless they are employed to do so by the government. “The monkeys cannot pay for papper, and some of the people can: therefore the people who cannot must go without, or steal, and run the risk of being punished.”
“Miserably poor, indeed. If they were allowed to grow as much pepper as they pleased, and sell it to any part of the world where it is wished for, they would have a great deal of money wherewith to buy things which the government, could sell much more profitable than pepper. Then we. should see mats, strewed with pepper corns, spread in many a nook of the thickets which the panther and the snake now have all to themselves; and many a child would be heard singing among the vines, which now moans its little life away in its half-starved mother's arms. The same may be said of cardamoms. There is no one in these eastern countries who wonld not eat cardamoms if he could get them; and there are endless tracts where cardamoms would grow; and yet very few of the natives can obtain them to eat. Cardamoms grow wherever vegetable ashes are found in this country. The plant naturally springs up on the very spots where other precious things have been burned before the people's eyes; but the plant must be rooted up, or its capsules left to be avoided as forbidden fruit, unless offered to the government for sale, But government gives so low a price for cardamoms, that the people have little heart to cultivate the plant.”
“But what does the government do-with cardamoms?”
“It sells them; but not to half so many people as would be glad to buy. If government would let the people freely sell cardamoms, government would have a people rich enough to pay more in taxes than government will ever make by selling cardamoms.”
“But you said the people might not have cinnamon. How can any body prevent their getting it? Look all round, papa. As far as we can see on this side and on that, and a great way before us, it is one wood of cinnamon.”
“Yes, my dear. This one garden is fifteen miles round.”
“Well, why cannot the people steal as much as they please? If I were a poor native, I would cut down all I could get, and sell enough to make a great deal of money, and then buy what I wished for.”
“As for the cutting it down, my dear, the natives would have little scruple; for, like all people who are cruelly pinched, they are apt to take what they can get without caring to whom it belongs. But how are they to sell it when they have got it?”
“I thought you said that cinnamon grew scarcely anywhere in the world but here; and I am sure there are plenty of people all over the world who are fond of it, and would be glad to buy it.”
“Very true; but those who long to sell and those who long to buy cannot get at each other. Somebody steps between to prevent the bargain. The English government lets the East India Company have all the cinnamon you see, on condition of the Company paying so much a-year. So the spice is carried away to be sold, instead of foreign nations being allowed to come here to buy; and none is left but that which the Company does not think it worth while to carry away; and even that is sometimes burned to keep up the price.”
“Burned! when so many people would be glad of it ! Would not the common people in England like it, if they could get it as cheap as salt? If they did, they would make the fortunes of the people here.”
“And then the people here would make the fortunes of a great many of the working people in England. This would certainly be the case.— What do you think the people in England eat most of, Alice?”
“Bread, I suppose.”
“Yes; and salt comes next. And what next? —Another sort of seasoning.”
It was not pepper, nor mustard; but something that every body liked and used,— from the infant that will leave sucking its thumb for it, to the old man that has but one tooth left in his head;—from the king who lets his queen put it into his coffee, to the labourer's wife who carries home a coarse sample of it on the Saturday night.
“That must be sugar. But I think almost every thing that is good with sugar would be better with cinnamon; and if cinnamon was made very cheap, what a quantity would be used, and how rich the growers might be ! They would grow more and more, and employ more people, till this whole large island was one great cinnamon garden—”
“Every part of it that is fit for such a purpose; every part that has a light dry sandy soil like that which we are riding over so pleasantly. And then much more use would be made of the rest of the land, the richer the inhabitants grew. There would be more rice, and more fruits, and more dye-woods, and more timber, and more of all the useful and beautiful things that this paradise will produce.”
Alice wondered that the whole world did not cry out for more cinnamon and her father agreed with her that such a cry would probably be raised, if the greater part of the world did but know how good cinnamon is. They never could have known, or they would not so easily agree to go without it, for the sake of the pockets of the East India Company.
“The fact is, my dear, the Company and the government do not behave so ill as some people did before them. The cinnamon trade is a very old trade:—as old as the time when the wise and wealthy Egyptians used to trade with the rich and barbarous princes of India; but, though this trade has passed through many hands, there has never been liberty to buy and sell as natural wants and wishes rise. Three hundred years ago, the Portuguese came here, and drove out the turbaned Moors, and sold cinnamon at their own price to the world, (and let the natives have none of the benefit of it,) for more than a hundred and thirty years. Then came the Dutch to take the matter out of the hands of the Portuguese, and they let the world have a little and a little more, by degrees till they prepared the way for a fine commerce for us, if we had but known how to make use of it. But the mistake of the government of England is in letting nobody have the spice who will not buy of us and pay our price for it; when it is very plain that their money would come round to England at last: and in much greater plenty, if we let the natives grow and the foreigners buy of them, as much as they pleased.”
“Those poor people who are peeling, and stopping their songs as we pass, looking and so terribly afraid of us, seem as if they were not fit to make a bargain, papa.”
“They would soon learn, my dear, if left to manage their own interest. At present, they know very well how to steal, but very little how to conduct a fair bargain. The Cingales come begging mad praying, almost on their knees, that we will buy; and if we condescend to ask their prices, they name twice as much as they mean to take; and if we choose to give them only half what they might really look for, they cannot help themselves: or if we have a fancy to pay them in betel-nut, or tobacco, or cotton-cloth, or anything else we may want to get rid of, they have nothing to do but to take it, or to carry back their commodity as they brought it. These people, however,—these peelers, have nothing to sell.”
“When we get among the cocoa groves, papa, there are several cottages, and the people bring out things to sell. I wish you would buy something this morning; just to see how they will manage, poor things ! But who is this, papa? He looks grander than the modelier, with his gay petticoat and his blue dress. I do believe this is Captain Cinnamon, as the peelers call him.”
“It is. He is the chief of the peelers, and he is taking his morning round, as we are. I will speak to him.”
Captain Cinnamon bent his turbaned head in a profound obeisance to the little girl, as well as to her father, which the young lady returned as if she had been the far-famed pearl queen of the olden time, Alice's father and mother were more amused then they ought to have been at the airs of consequence she assumed among the natives, and did not discourage the haughtiness with which she naturally returned their homage. Mr. Carr's own manner, adapted to those he had to deal with, was a bad example for her.
“I'll tell you what, captain, you must take more care of your charge. I am certain there is a great deal of pilfering on in this gardens, and you are answerable to the Company for it.”
The captain was all humility: but how should there be thefts? For what purpose, as the peelers could not sell this commodity.
“But others besides peelers may help themselves, and do.”
“The English gentlemen from the fort ride through the garden,” modestly suggested the captain.
“Nonsense ! do you suppose they steal cinnamon? I tell you I saw a head pop up yonder, and a motion among the shrubs, where neither cutting nor barking is going on: look there, and you will find a thief, depend upon it.”
The captain owned that secure as the Company was of no interference with their monopoly of the bark while the garden was under his care, it was difficulty to prevent persons from entering to pluck the fruit. It was so easy to pull and carry away the fruit unobserved, and it was so precious to the people, and of so little use to the Company, that Mr. Carr's predecessor had connived, at the practice, and desired Captain Cinnamon to do so too. As Mr. Carr thought differently, however, the peasants of the jungle should be humbled beneath his feet In a trice, half a score of peelers were called from their work to hunt the thief; and a grand show of zeal they made in beating among the shrubs, and uttering cries.
“There, that will do,” said Mr. Carr, when Alice had pointed out the gradual retreat of the moving thing (as shown by the twitching of the bushes) towards the ditch which bounded the garden.
“This will frighten him: now let him escape.”
Little Alice now signified her will and pleasure to be informed what was to become of the quantity of bark which was strewed before her eyes. Wherever there was a space between the shrubs where the sun could penetrate to the pure white sand from which the spicy stems sprang, mats were spread; and on these mats were strewed and heaped rolls of the bark, the smaller rolls being fitted into the larger, so as to contain a great quantity of tile commodity in a small bulk.—On some open plots which they had already passed, other such mats, heaped with other such rolls, had greeted the senses of Alice and her father; aud wherever they. caught glimpses through tide alleys of the wood, or reached an eminence whence they could look abroad over the expanse of shrubs, they saw dark forms squatted on the white sand, or gemmed heads rising amidst the verdure, while the rich scent which declared their occupation diffused itself through the still air. Though the bands of the workmen moved languidly, (like the bands of other workmen who do not labour for themselves.) though the process of peeling was clumsy, and the waste of material excessive, yet such quantities of bark fell from innumerable boughs and twigs that Alice could not imagine what was to be done with it all.
Captain Cinnamon told her (with obeisances which were imitated and multiplied by his throng of followers) that all this quantity of spice awaited the disposal of her puissant father, the agent of the Honourable Company; and that he would probably inform her that when he had caused to be packed that which his wisdom should deem the proper quantity to be vouchsafed for the use of the world, the rest would receive its sentence of destruction or distribution from his lips. Alice held up her head, and rode on, not quite understanding the matter of fact about which she had inquired, but thinking that it would be below the dignity of so great a man's daughter to appear to need further information.
The throng of attendants hovered round them as long as they continued within the verge of the garden—pointing out to the young lady here a little stack of cinnamon awaiting the hands of the packers; and there kneeling groups, with each a chest in the centre, a heap of black pepper lying beside it, to strew between the layers of cinnamon, and pots of resin wherewith to stop the seams and crevices of the chests. Alice could not help learning much from what she saw, not with standing the sudden start of pride which made her prefer issuing commands to asking questions. She felt a sad loss of consequence when her father dismissed the peelers to their proper business, on reaching the ditch which divided the garden from the open country. She was now no more than Alice Carr, riding before her father, as she remembered having done long ago in a field of grandmama's in England, where there were no black people to make bows, and gather round her as if she were a princess.
She complained of the narrowness of the path through the close jungle, and was sorry that they were leaving the lake farther and farther on one side of them; but it was not long before she found that there was here something to admire, Grandmama's horses had never trod such a path as that on which her steed was now pacing: they had never entangled their feet in trails of the blue convolvulus, or bowed their beads to avoid being garlanded with creepers,— now scarlet, now yellow, now white. They would have started at the ghttering snakes that wound in the grass, and at the monkeys that hung by one arm from the boughs overhead, gibbering and chattering in a way that must move all unaccustomed gazers to perpetual laughter. Instead of one proud peacock, perched upon a wall, to be gazed at by a populous neighbourhood, here were numbers of those stately creatures, fanning the long grass as they spread their burnished tails, or making their rich purple hues gleam from beneath the shades of the bowery fig-tree. Nothing could be more unlike the cottages of England than the dwellings which emerged upon the sight, here and there, from their hiding-places among the verdure. These dwellings looked as if they were part and parcel of the jungle, being formed of the wood and leaves that grew there, fenced with shrubs, and decked with creepers, winch twisted themselves over every part, so as scarcely to leave room for the squirrels to pop in and out from their holes in the leafy thatch. The enclosed plots (where any cottage could boast such an acquisition) were as little like the gardens of a civilized country. No rows of cabbages and peas, no beds of potatoes and onions—no supply of vegetables on which a family may depend as some security against starvation. The Cingalese, though blest with a soil and climate in which every thing will grow, are destitute of any such provision as a tenth of the toil of an English labourer would secure, and as a single gem from thc necklace of a native would purchase, in almost any land that has not the misfortune to be a monopolized colony. If any one in Ceylon has a fancy for potatoes and onions, he must get them from Bombay. If his ambition extends to peas and cabbages, he must wait till they can be brought from England.
The shaddock, the plantain, and the jack-fruit, might be seen growing within these enclosures, the little walks being spread with a covering as bright and as curiously variegated as any mosaic pavement, and as soft as the richest carpet. Moss,—the scarlet, crimson, brown, yellow, green, moss of Ceylon,— “the jewellers sorrow,” as it is there called, from its beauty surpassing any which the combination of the lapidary can produce, was tufted beneath the stems, and spread under the feet. Instead of thieves of the air, hovering in a we of the scarecrow which flaps and nods in an English breeze, here were four-footed pilferers peeping with longing looks from neighbouring tree-tops, or swinging themselves down from a convement branch, or pushing out what looked very like a human hand, to pluck, or to grub up whatever might, be within reach, while the switch of the owner was absent. Instead of the lowing of cows from the farm-yard, and the cawing of rooks from the rustling trees, and the cackle of geese from the bare pond on the common, there was the chit-chat of monkeys, the screaming of parrots, the timid step of the gazelle among the dry twigs, and the splash of teal and wild ducks from the pool beneath the mangroves. Alice was obliged to be content with tracking the deer with her eye; but at the sound of water, she must turn aside and see whence it came, notwithstanding the fear with which her father ever approached, or allowed any belonging to him to approach, water in these swampy wildernesses. Just for one moment he thought his little daughter might be permitted to look around her; but when he had penetrated a little farther into the shade, he repented of his compliance. A fallen tree had intercepted the course of the tiniest rivulet that ever was seen, and had formed a pool, which had spread and spread, till it had made an island of one tree after another, and was now canopied with a green shade, and mantled with the lotus, and fringed with the bull-rush, from among which rose the cry of waterfowl, and rainbow visions of gigantic dragon-flies. Notwithstanding all this beauty, Mr. Carr repented of having penetrated these shades, so heavy felt the air, and so oppressive was the moist smell of decaying vegetation. A woman was stooping in the grass, too, whose looks did not reassure him. Fever or hunger had sunk her cheek, and given such languor to her gait and gestures as to destroy the grace which co-exists to a remarkable degree with the indolence of demeanour which distinguishes the natives of the country.
“That is very like one of grandmama's hens,” observed Alice, as the tawny lady disentangled a fowl from the snare in the grass, and held the fluttering bird against her bosom. “I could almost fancy that was one of the fowls I used to feed in the poultry-yard.”
“Look at the cock and you will see the difference,” replied her father. “See what a lofty, steady flight he takes half way up that tree, whose lowest branch would allow your grandmama's sycamore to stand under it. Look at the gay, glossy plumage of each fowl, and tell me if you ever saw such on an English cock and hen. These are the jungle-fowl you have heard me speak of as a great blessing to the natives. I hardly know what some of them would do for food without jungle-fowl.”
“That woman looks as if she had not been eating any,” observed Alice. “She looks as if she had had nothing good to eat this long while.”
So thought Mr. Cart; and he stopped to ask her if the trees under which she dwelt were fruitful? Marana (for it was she) replied, that her husband and, she could generally get cocoa-nuts when they were hungry, but that they had sickened many times under this diet, during the short time that they had been in the jungle. Her husband's strength had wasted, and she had had the ague; and it was but seldom that she could snare a fowl.
Did not her husband bring home game, or earn money, or grow rice?
He brought home little game, for want of means to take it. He could not grow rice, as he had neither land nor seed; and as for earning money, how was it possible for a stranger to do so, when so many residents were already unemployed?
“It is true,” replied Mr. Carr, “that the gardens are very full of people, some of whom make more show of working than do any good; but still”
Marana was too courteous to interrupt his speech; but when he had paused for some time to think, she declared that her husband must not be supposed to desire to have anything to do with the Challias, or cinnamon-peelers. Rayo was of the fishermen's caste.
“Well, you must settle it between you which is the highest caste. If you differ among yourselves on such a point, a foreigner cannot be expected to decide it. But why does your husband, being a fisherman, come to live here? Why does not he try his chance among the pearl fishers?”
“There are too many there, as well as in the gardens,” replied Marana.
“Too many for what?” inquired Alice. “There cannot be more men than pearls. Why cannot they take it in turns to fish? And then, if only one pearl was paid to every man, there would be plenty left for the rich men who do not fish.”
“Ay; but then captains and merchants from many nations would come: and that is just what our government does not like. A French merchant would carry away pearls, and leave silk dresses behind him, or money, with which the Cingalese might lay out rice-fields and cotton plantations, or stock meadows with cattle. The Dutch captain would go to some neighbouring countries for grain, and would be paid in pearls. The Russian would bring leather and corn, and carry away pearls. The Englishman would bring iron, and clothing of cotton, and a hundred comforts besides, and would make a profitable bargain of pearls.”
“But this would be a good thing for everybody,—for the ladies who want more pearls, and for these poor people, who want employment, and food, and clothing.”
“But the government must then leave off paying as little as it likes to the pearl-fishers, and being the only party to sell the fair white pearls of Ceylon to all the beautiful ladies in the world who can afford to obtain them.”
“But there are plenty of princes and great men who would give away more pearls as presents, if they could get them; and there must be plenty of beautiful ladies who cannot get pearls, because they are very dear. I should like to give these people a boat, and send them out to fish pearls for some of the ladies, who would give a little less for their pearls, but quite enough to make Rayo rich,—to buy him a rice-ground”
“Though the fisher and the buyer are ready, and the boat may soon be had, Rayo must do without his rice-ground. The government will not give him leave to sell pearls to anybody but themselves, and they will not pay enough to buy a rice-ground.”
At the first sound of buying and selling, Marana had disappeared within the cottage. She came forth again with her right-handed chank, which she offered to Alice for sale, with, a sad and imploring look.
“It is a pity you should sell this shell,” observed Mr. Carr. “It is a very valuable one, as you ought to know.”
“Then keep it,—it may be a little fortune to you some day.”
“We want rice, and my husband's clothing is old.”
“Well, food and dress are of more importance than any shell, to be sure.”
Than any shell but this, Marana thought; but when the idea arose of the hag, and her threat of leprosy, and of the curse which might now pursue Rayo, she doubted whether anything could be more important to her than this charmed shell. Whether the curse had not already lighted upon Rayo, she was doubtful; for never man was so changed. He was as smooth and courteous in his manner to strangers as formerly, and as fond of her as he had ever been: but he was not the indolent, careless, light-hearted youth he had been when she had first known him on the coast. He did not work, for there was no work for him to do but to scramble up a tree and down again when he wanted a cocoa-nut; but he prowled about the neighbourhood, and seemed to have some purpose which lay nearer to his heart than his wife. Marana hoped that he was not bewitched or doomed; but it always alarmed her to meet him unawares in the thicket, and to see how full his mind was of some thought which the hardships of the day and the fever of the night could not banish.
While Alice was handling the shell, and tonging more and more for it, as she observed the solicitude with which Marana watched her mode of playing with it, a rustling was heard in the wood, and Rayo himself burst from the covert, with a rude sort of basket in his arms, which seemed to be filled with the fruit of the cinnamon shrub. At the unexpected sight of a stranger, he turned quickly, and deposited his load in the long grass behind him. While his back was turned, his wife made a rapid sign to her visiters to hide the chank, and say nothing about it, which sign Mr. Carr obeyed by pocketing the shell, and slipping into Marana's hand gold, which made a warm blush visible on her dark cheek, and lighted up her dim eyes with a momentary gleam. She bad never held so much money in her hand at one time before; and the idea of the hag vanished for the instant before the image of a basket of steaming rice, stewed with cardamoms or peppercorns.
“We must have a lamp,” half-whispered Marana, observing that Mr. Carr sent a searching glance after the acorn-like fruit that was turned over in the grass. “And if Marana is not anointed, how should her husband love her?”
This was a question which Mr. Carr's European habits unfitted him for answering. He asked if there was no method of obtaining the oil of the cinnamon fruit but by pilfering from the garden? None, for poor creatures so weak as these peasants, who could not penetrate into the interior for such purposes. The garden was close at hand; the cocoa-nut oil, with which the oil of the cinnamon fruit was to be mixed, hung overhead; and the temptation was too strong to allow of Mr. Carr's being very angry. He asked how the oil was made to serve the purpose of a lamp during the dark nights, when it became the office of the invalids to watch and nurse each other? Marana produced her lamp,—half the shell of a cocoa-nut, supported on a stick of eboveillegible which was stuck into a little block of calammda wood. On the surface of the oil which the shell contained, floated a little wick, formed from the pith of a rush. Nothing could be more primitive; few things more elegant; and the materials were such as would in few other countries have been found in the habitation of persons in want of proper food.
Alice was bent upon purchasing the lamp also; and small was the price demanded, however Marana might wonder at her husband's demand not being so much as disputed. Busily did she attempt to fulfil her task of making another lamp, and bruising the fruit from which the oil was to be drained, while Rayo seemed to have a sudden fancy for making torches.
Meantime, Mr. Carr cleared the jungle; and, seeing that the sky was blackening towards the west, as if with the first storms of the monsoon, turned his horse's head homeward, bestowing many a thought on the natives whom he saw in field, garden, jungle, and road,—all obsequious, and looking up to every Englishman they met, as it impressed with profound gratitude, while most were poor and comfortless, and it was certain that all were injured by the nominal protection of their country. Even Alice, occupied as she was with looking about her for homage, and with planning an exhibition of her two treasures to her mother, could not wholly forget the sunken countenances of those who appeared to be pining in the luxuriant region which she had just left, and where Nature seemed to intend that all things should flourish.
NIGHT IN THE JUNGLE.
Almost all who lived to the west of Adam's Peak looked with glad eyes to the lowering sky which hung over the sea like a leaden canopy. The rains came late this year; the rice-fields languished; the verdure seemed to crave of the light clouds which floated around the mountaintops that they would descend in showers, There was now a prospect of rain in abundance, and all looked for it with impatience but Marana, to whose troubled spirit the moaning of the rising wind in the trees, and the dull roar of the distant sea spoke of hags riding the blast, and curses cradled in the clouds. As she sat this evening at the door of her hut, weaving a basket of cane which her own hands had cut, dried, and split, she glanced up uneasily to the sky, where the twilight was being rapidly quenched by the rolling vapours, and started at every fire-fly that brushed past her, as if it bad been a spark from the electric mass which overhung the entire region. When it was no longer possible to pursue her occupation, for want of light, she crossed her arms, and remained seated on her threshold. It was not that she watched for the flitting forth of the bat; nor to see the gaudier winged creatures of the wood nestle in the brakes; nor to see the moonbeams piercing a way for themselves through the curtain of foliage till they kissed the modest lotus that slept on the bosom of the water; nor to mark the vigilant stars resume their watch, rising, some like mute sentinels, others in full constellation like trained bands, to look down from their blue height upon all that moved and breathed below. There was no visible kindling of golden fires in the firmament this night; no winging home of a belated bird; and the water-lilies were left to themselves. It was to watch for some opening in the clouds which might let down air and light, that Marana still sat abroad. She felt half stifled with heat, and with a vague fear, and dreaded kindling a light, and closing the entrance for the night.— Roya was still behind the dwelling, tying up bunches of cocoa-nut leaves to burn, and splitting resinous woods into torches. When the twilight expired, he was there. When the black darkness had descended a full hour, he was lighting himself through the wood with one of his new torches.
“It is time to close the door against the panther,” said be to Marana, before he set forth. “Spread the mat and sleep, when you have prayed to St. Anthony for me.”
“And you? will you not kneel to pray on the same mat?”
“I have a prayer to say some way off which no one may overhear. So go in, and trust to my returning,—before day-break, if not in darkness.”
“O, do not bring any more curses, Rayo, by taking what is not ours. Here is money to buy grain in the harbour, and—”
“Money!” exclaimed Rayo. “Your friend Amoottra must have brought you money. Does it not taint your fingers with leprosy, Marana?”
She let the money fall in a fit of horror; but when her husband laughed a laugh which must have been highly offensive to any hag who might happen to be within hearing, Marana conjured him to do nothing to remind the foe of her expecting victim. Rayo had superstition enough in him to induce him to take the hint, though not sufficient to prevent his searching for the dropped money by the light of his torch, and being very glad to pick it up from the brown, crumbling turf where it had fallen. In vain Marana entreated to be permitted to carry the torch for her husband. In vain she urged the desirableness of her being at hand to sing the “Hail!” to the first burst oi the season's thunder. She was commanded to pray and sleep, and dream of the verdure which might possibly have overspread the rice-field before the morning.
She ventured, however, to steal out on the track of Rayo's footsteps. The risk of falling in with a leopard or a tiger-cat while she carried no torch was nothing in comparison with the uncertainty as to what was being done or undergone by her husband. She had been his companion on the raft one night, and in his flight through the woods on another; and now he went out alone, and in silence as to his object. She feared that this reserve argued something more than care for her health; some desperation of design too great to be confided even to her. She blamed herself for all. Some immediate misfortune was, she believed, to follow her impious act of the morning; and all her husband's sins, from his withdrawal of confidence from her, to whatever act he might be now about to perpetrate, must be answered for by her. She went out to watch as an unpractised magician may be supposed to await the results of his first spell, in a state of expectation made wretched by horror and fear.
She followed Rayo's steps at such a distance that she could not herself have been perceived, if he had chanced to look behind him; but the torch which he carried before him marked the outlines of his figure very distinctly, as the light was reflected from the roof of foliage upon his anointed hmbs, from which nearly the last remains of his garments were dropping in rags. When he emerged from the shade, on reaching the ditch which surrounded the cinnamon garden, he slackened his pace, as if meditating the method by which he might go straightest to some fixed point which he had in his eye. He turned to the left. Marana turned to the left likewise, keeping under the shadow of the wood. He stopped, and looked up to the sky. She could not so raise her eyes, for the heavens at that moment opened, and let out a flood of lightning, from which a self-condemned person like herself could not but shrink. Again and again came the lightning, sustaining the awful alternation by which the landscape appeared one moment wrapt in midnight darkness, and the next in noon-day glare. Crashing thunder then came, peal upon peal, driving her from her perilous station under the trees to a more open part of the jungle, where she stood fearfully glancing about her in a sort of expectation that every object within sight would rise up against her, and come crowding about her; for the thunder was enough to waken the dead, and no suspicion crossed her mind that this storm was not especially directed against herself. Rayo's operations did not seem to be impeded by it. He had crossed the ditch while Marana had covered her eye, and in the intervals of the lightning, the dancing spark of his torch might be seen wandering, like a will-o'-the-wisp, at a greater and a greater distance. It was not long before it became evident to his wife whither and for what purpose he was gone. Little puffs of dun smoke arose, like fire-balloons, from behind the dark-leaved shrubbery which he had entered. A delicious scent pervaded the region as the fire spread, like airs from heaven finding their way among blasts from hell. It was plain that Rayo was setting fire to the bark which was in course of being harvested.
What might be his fate if he fell into the hands of the challias, Marana dared not think. If he could but creep away under the bushes, and leave it to be supposed that lightning had been the agent of mischief, she could rejoice as heartily as he in the discomfiture of the presumptuous challias, and the loss suffered by the strangers who, under the pretence of protection, were perpetually employed in rifling the land of its treasures, and depressing the condition of the natural owners of those treasures. She would have rejoiced to see every twig in this vast garden consumed, if such destruction could avail to drive away the Honourable Company who, by right of purchase, interfered to limit the production, restrict the commerce, and therefore impoverish the condition of those from whom they derived their wealth. If this Company could but be driven from its monopoly, so that every man might plant cinnamon in his garden, and sit under its shadow with none to make him afraid, he who this night carried the fire-brand might be set up for worship on a higher eminence (if such could be found) than Adam's Peak, and be feasted and gailanded daily, instead of like the holy Footmark, once a year.
What Rayo's fate was it was impossible to conjecture, all watching and listening being now baffled by the commotion of the storm. Smoke arose after awhile in a second place, then in a third, thus marking the progress of the incendiary. There were only a few spikes of clear flame visible. Each heap of bark must be presently consumed, and the shrubs were too moist to be in danger of more than a singeing from the file. The most obvious thing to the anxious wife was to follow her husband; and more than once she attempted to move: but, at first, her wasted limbs failed her, and then she thought she perceived tokens of an approaching earthquake. A wind like this had often, in her recollection, brought down some massy distant tree, whose fall shook the ground for many a rood; but now, either many such trees were falling, or some other cause prolonged the vibration. She expected an earthquake, during which the hag would arise, or she herself be swallowed up by some chasm that would open beneath her feet. Suddenly the shaking ceased, and a flash disclosed to her a horrible vision at hand which explained all. Fiery eyes blazed, and white tusks gleamed over the tallest of the shrubs which grew to the left of the place where she stood. She had just seen the twisting of the lithe trunk which could carry her up twenty feet in an instant, and she now heard the snuffing and snorting before which every living thing within many furlongs must be quaking like herself. She felt before the elephant like a worm in the path of a cruel schoolboy,—as certain that the ponderous tread would be directed to crush her; and when the next gleam showed the bulky head and shoulders of this moving mass veering round to face her, she could only pray that she might be annihilated by one tread, instead of being made fatal sport of high in the air.
Rayo proved her unintentional deliverer. The fire he had kindled did not catch the green shrubs; but some flakes were carried off by the wind, and fell among the parched grass near the outskirts of the plantation. There were in an instant rivulets of fire running beneath the stems, joining and parting, according to the quantity of fuel which lay in their way. Every morsel of oily bark casually dropped the day before, now sent up its tiny jet of blue flame; the dried twigs snapped and kindled, and the gleaming ditch was the boundary-line between the darkness and the light. This fire was as unwelcome to the wild elephant beyond its reach as to the burnished snakes that came wriggling out into the blaze as their holes grew too hot to hold them. He turned short round with a troubled cry, and distanced the scene at his quickest trot, wakening the birds as he brushed their covert in his passage, and leaving far behind the scared elk that burst a way among the stems, and the hyænas that hushed their cry and skulked in the thickets. To the mind of a Cingalese, the elephant of Ceylon is the most majestic of all animals, the elephants of all other countries being reported to acknowledge its supremacy by a salam; but this emperor of the beasts was now put to flight by the same means that made the gazelle palpitate in its hiding place among the grass.
The alarm was soon at an end. The canopy of clouds descended, lower and lower, till there seemed small breathing space left between them and the earth, and then burst, quenching the lightning and the flame at once, drowning the thunder, and threatening to plunge the island in the sea. When the sheet of water had descended for a while, the ditch overflowed, the snakes raised themselves on end, the waters found their way into the lair of every couchant beast, and dripped from the plumage of every bird on its perch. To wade through the jungle in this pitchy darkness immediately after the dazzling apparition of the cinnamon garden had vanished, was impossible. Marana remained clinging to a tree, the creepers from which dangled wet in her face, till she heard the sound of a quiet laugh through the flash and downpour. “Here is the hag, at last,” thought she, expecting to feel the loathsome touch which she was persuaded she must encounter sooner or later. Her agonized cry for mercy produced another laugh, but a kindly one. It was from her husband.
“Rayo! what a storm!”
“St. Anthony rides the monsoon this year,” replied Rayo. “Do you know what the lightning has done in the garden? The Company have been praying for the monsoon for their neighbours' sake. In the morning you will hear how they complain of it for their own.”
“Was it all the storm, Rayo?”
“They will tell you so in the morning. Come home now. I will take you by a path where the waters cannot beat you down like the dragon-fly, nor carry you away like the squirrel that is caught far from its hole. But I forbade your coming abroad. You were afraid to await the hag under a roof, I suppose. If she must come, I wish it might be in the morning. She would see in the garden that which would make her so merry that she would forget you.”
“Can you say your prayers to keep off the curse to-night, Rayo? Dare you?”
“O, yes; and quickly, that I may sleep, and be early ready to see the Challias collect in the garden.”
In the morning, before Marana's long ague-fit had given place to sleep, her husband was on the spot of the late cinnamon harvest. The sky was not clear of clouds, large masses still being in act of rising from the east; but a mild sunshine burnished the scene; the rose-coloured peaks of the distant mountains,—the fresh-springing verdure of the fields which were so lately brown,—and the multitudes of winged creatures that flitted, hovered, and sailed in the balmy air. All was as fair in the interval of the storms as if no storm had ever been. It was much more the faces to Rayo to see no signs of storm in wonderful of those who were most concerned in the loss of the cinnamon. Mr. Carr looked not only free from anger towards the lightning to which he attributed the destruction, but satisfied and pleased at the existing state of things.
“The lightning has saved the Company from the curses of the people,” he heard Captain Cinnamon whisper to a modelier of the garden. “There was too good a crop this year; and if some of it must be burned, it was very well that accident should do it.”
“And that accident should have burned more than the Company would have dared to destroy in the face of the natives. Now they may put their own price upon their bark; and a pretty price it will be, to judge by Mr. Carr's pleased face.”
“Not that he wishes ill to the natives, or to the eaters of cinnamon in other lands. But he is thinking of the good news he has to send to his employers.”
Rayo rolled himself in the sand when he thus learned what was the result of his enterprise.
If the drought had been confined to the western coast of Ceylon, its effects would have been very deplorable, from the poverty of the people, though, from their being in the habit of the regular importation of rice, they were more sure of some extent of supply than if they had been dependent on their own scanty crops. But this year, the drought extended to some of the districts of the neighbouring country, from which rice was annually imported to a large amount. This, again, would have mattered little, if the inhabitants had had the means of purchasing from a greater distance; but these means could not be within the reach of a colony whose productions were monopolized by the mother country. Hundreds of thousands of the inhabitants of Ceylon who, if allowed the usual inducements to an accumulation of capital, would have been in common times purchasers of the innumerable comforts which the world yields, and in the worst seasons placed far above the reach of want, were reduced by a single delay of the monsoon to such a condition as rendered it doubtful whether they would ever be purchasers of anything. Again, want of capital was the grievance from which all other temporal grievances arose in this region of natural wealth and super-abundant beauty; and this want of capital was caused by the diversion of labour from its natural channels, through the interference of the evil spirit of monopoly.
Streams ran down from the mountains; and on either side of the streams were levels which lay waste and bare for want of irrigation; and on the banks of these streams lived a population which subsisted on unwholesome and unseasoned or deficient food. These waters could not be made useful, these plains could not be fertilized, these people could not be fed, because the natural wealth of the country was not permitted to create capital to the inhabitants.
The cotton-tree might be met with growing luxuriantly wherever the hand of man or of nature had caused it to take root; yet those who lived within reach of its boughs hid themselves in the woods for the scantiness of their clothing, or went without some other necessary, in order to furnish themselves expensively with cotton-cloth which had been woven four thousand miles off. That it should be woven where it was, and sold where it was, was well; but that the purchasers should not have the raw materials to exchange for the wrought, or something else to offer which should not leave them destitute, spoke ill for the administrators of their affairs.
Potters' clay abounded in the intervals between soils which offered something better; and here and there a rude workman was seen “working his work on the wheel,” as in the days of Jeremiah the prophet, and marring the clay, and making another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter. It would have seemed good to him to make better vessels, to improve his craft, and bring up his children to the art, and supply households at greater distance with utensils, and get wealth and contentment, but that he had no money to spend on improvements, and that if his children tried to get any, they could find no free scope for their enterprize.
Herds of buffaloes were seen feeding amidst the rank vegetation of the hills, and many a peasant would have gone among them, morning and evening, with his bottle of hide slung over his shoulder; and many a maiden with her vase poised upon her head, if a free commerce in ghee had been permitted with the Arabs who must drink a cupfull of it every morning, and with the multitude of dwellers in the Eastern Archipelago, who want it for anointings, for food, lot sacrifice, and other purposes which now cost them dear. But the buffaloes might graze in peace, the peasants being permitted to sell ghee only to those who could not buy, or who did not consume ghee.
There were cocoa-nut fibres enough to spin a coir rope which might measure the equator; but coir was so taxed, as soon as it became rope, that the government need have little fear that any one would buy but itself and those who could get no cheaper cordage.
Chay-root, yielding the red dye which figures on Indian chintzes, spread itself far and wide through the light dry soil near the coast. How it should hurt the British government that all nations should have red roses on their chintzes had not been satisfactorily explained; but it was the will of that government that few should do so. The government bought up every ounce of chay-root which its Cingalese subjects were obliging enough to sell. There was much loyalty in thus furnishing chay-root; the diggers being paid a good deal less than half the price which the government demanded from its purchasers.
The fragrance of spices was borne on every breeze; shells of various beautiful forms were thrown up by every tide; tortoiseshell might be had for the trouble of polishing, and ivory for that of hunting the elephant; arrack flowed for any one who would set it running from the tree; canes to make matting and baskets were trodden down from their abundance; the topaz and the amethyst, the opal, the garnet, the ruby, and the sapphire, jet, crystal, and pearls, were strewed as in fairy-land; the jack-wood, rivalling the finest mahogany, ebony, satin-wood, and the finely-veined calaminda, grew like thorns in the thicket; yet the natural proprietors of this wealth, to which the world looked with longing eyes, were half-fed and not clothed; and their English fellow-subjects, located in a far less favourable habitation, were taxed to afford them such meagre support as they had.
The world had rolled back with the Cingalese. Monuments were before them at every step, which showed that their country had been more populous than now, and their forefathers more prosperous than themselves. They were now too many for their food too many for the labour which their rulers vouchsafed to call for; yet they were but a million and a half on a territory which had sustained in more comfort a much greater number, without taxing a distant nation to give unproductive aid to a puny people, and before the advantages of national interchange had been fully ascertained. There were traces of times, before the English artizan was called upon to contribute his mite to his tawny brother over the sea; before the government complained of the expense of its colony; before murmurs arose about the scanty supply of cinnamon, while the Honourable Company was claiming compensation for an over-supply; before the rulers at Columbo began to be at their wit's end to find means for keeping up their credit; before the expenditure of the colony so far exceeded its revenue, as that the inquiry began among certain wise ones where was the great advantage of having a colony which, however rich in name and appearance, cost more than it produced: there were traces of happier times, when the world were to have been wiser, however younger, than at present; or when the Cingalese had been under a wiser sway than that which was now calling upon them for perpetual submission and gratitude. The Dutch might have been hard task-masters; but it was now felt that the English were yet more so; and however much submission might be yielded, because it could not be refused, there was small room for gratitude, as any one would have admitted who could have drawn an accurate comparison between the condition of the foreign and the native, the producing and the commercial, population of the western portion of the island during this season of hardship.
The Dutch-built houses, inhabited by foreign agents, displayed all their usual luxuries; carpeted with fragrant mats, gemmed with precious stones, perfumed with spicy oils, and supplied with food and drinks purchased by native produce from foreign lands. The huts of their humbler neighbours, meanwhile, were bare alike of furniture and food, and, for the most part, empty of inhabitants. The natives of eastern countries seem to find consolation in the open air in times of extreme hardship; not only laying their sick on the banks of rivers, but gathering together in hungry groups by the road-side or by the sea-shore, in times of famine, gazing patiently on the food which is carried before their eyes, and waiting for death as the sun goes down. Such were the groups now seen on the shores of the Lake of Columbo, and in many an open space among the spoiled paddy-fields, while the foreigners, from whom they were wont to receive their pittance, were engaged with their curries, their coffee, and their meats from many climes. Thus was it during the day; while at night the distribution of action was reversed. The foreigners slept at case in their cooled and darkened apartments, or, if they could not rest, had nothing worse to complain of than a mosquito foe, while their native neighbours were silently forming funeral piles along the shore; silently bringing more wood and more from the thickets, as others of their caste dropped dead at length; silently laying out the corpses; silently watching them as they turned to ashes, and placing the limbs decently as they fell asunder; silently ranging themselves so that the funeral fire played in their dark eyes, and shone on their worn and lanky frames; silently waiting till the morning breeze puffed out the last flickering flame, and dispersed the handful of white ashes, which was all that remained of the parent who had murmured his blessing at sunset, or the wife who had whispered her farewell at midnight, or the infant whose breath had parted at the summons of the dawn. Silently were these rites performed; insomuch that any chance-watcher in the neighbouring verandah heard no other interruption to the splash of waters than the crackling of flames, and would not have guessed that bands of patient sufferers were gathered round this fearful sacrifice to the evil spirit of monopoly a sacrifice as far from appeasing the demon as from testifying to the willing homage of his priests. There were not among the gentle Cingalese any of the fierce passions which this demon commonly delights to unleash among his victims; none of the envy, jealousy, and hatred with which the desperately miserable enhance their desperation and their misery. Instead of jostling one another, these sufferers sat side by side: instead of gnashing their teeth at each other, they were altogether heedless of neighbourhood; instead of inflicting injuries, they merely ceased to confer mutual benefits. No aged man complained of violence, but sank down disappointed, when he found the water-pot placed for the traveller's refreshment empty by the wayside.:No wearied woman murmured at being dislodged from the sheltered bench on the bridge; but neither did those, who had niched themselves there to seek forgetfulness in sleep, stir to make way for a fellow-sufferer. No child was driven from its chance meal by a stronger arm than its own; but neither was there a look or a word to spare for the little ones (more tenacious of life than their parents), who crept from their dead mother to their dying father, trying in vain to suck life from the shrunken breasts of the one, and to unclose the fixed eyes of the other. Some who remained in their habitations in the woods, if less destitute, were not less miserable. If the sight and scent of the bread-fruit were too strong tor the fortitude of some, they ate under the full conviction that they were exchanging famine for leprosy. Whether the belief in this effect of the fruit was right or wrong, those who believed and yet ate suffered cruelly for the want of rice. If a follower of Brama, in passing a ruin, saw a cow browsing on some pinnacle, and, in a fit of desperation, called the sacred creature down to be made food of, he found himself gnawed by the consciousness of his inexpiable crime, as fearfully as by his previous hunger. An ample importation of rice such as might always be secured by the absence of restrictions on commerce would have saved to these the pangs of conscience, till a better knowledge had had time to strike root and ripen for harvest, as it would have spared to others the agonies of hunger while their rice-grounds were awaiting the latter rains, and preparing to become fruitful again in their season. As it was, all were prevented making the most of their own soil from want of capital; and, while rendered dependent on the importation of grain, were denied the means of insuring that importation. By the exorbitant taxation of some of their articles of produce, and the prohibition to sell others to any buyer but the government, the Cingalese were deprived of all chance of securing a subsistence, and of all inducement to accumulate property.
Mrs. Carr did not know that she had ever enjoyed her way of life more, on the whole, than since she had come to Ceylon. She liked lying down for the greater part of the day, and being sure of seeing something beautiful from the verandah when she could exert herself to look abroad from it. She liked being fanned by the punkah, and waited upon by five times as many servants as she wanted, and amused by Alice, and flattered by her husband's station; none of the trouble of which devolved upon her. But she did not know whether some friends of hers liked the place so well; she thought not, by Mr. Serle's grave manner, and the new expression of fear and anxiety in Mrs. Serle's open and happy countenance. Mr. and Mrs. Serle were American missionaries; members of the little band of philanthropists who, setting the example of charity towards their Cingalese brethren, were met and cheered by the open hand of charity at every turn, till they were fairly established in the society and in the hearts of those whom they came to civilize and bless.
“I am glad you did not ask our advice about coming,” observed Mrs. Carr to the missionary's wife: “we find it very pleasant in Ceylon; but I do not know whether you find it as pleasant as we do; and it would have been a disagreeable thing to have misled you. I am glad you did not ask our advice.”
“Mrs. Serle comes to lead such a different kind of life from yours, my dear,” observed her husband, “that any advice from you could have helped her little. You see and enjoy all the natural advantages of the place, which are very great indeed: Mrs. Serle comes to do what she can towards remedying the misery of the people, which is quite as remarkable in its way.”
“And I beg to say that I enjoy the natural advantages of the place,” replied Mrs. Serle; “I like your Adam's Peak at sunrise, and your gay insects, and your flowery jungle, and your pineapples as well as any of you. I do not wish to be the less sensible of these things because the people claim my compassion.”
“Not the less, but rather the more,” observed her husband, “that the misery of the people may be the more quickly remedied. When we find starving men in a paradise, our next business is to find out whose fault it is that they are starving.”
“They are the laziest people here,” drawled Mrs. Carr; “you will hardly believe till you have been here as long as we have”
“My dear love,” interrupted her husband, “Mr. and Mrs. Serle have seen far more of the people already than you can pretend to know, living within doors as you do.”
“O, but I assure you, I can tell Mrs. Serle such things as she will scarcely believe. The laziness of the people is really such as to make me wonder. Alice, love, come and tie my sandal. O, thank you, Mrs. Serle. I did not mean to trouble you, I am sure.”
Mrs. Serle did not need convincing as to the indolence of the Cingalese. It was quite as evident in them as in Mrs. Carr. Neither was she much in the dark as to the causes of this indolence. The probability of a remedy was the almost hourly subject of conversation between her husband and herself.
“You are very much wanted, you see,” observed Mrs. Carr; “I am sure it is a most happy thing for the poor people of this country that so many strangers come to see them and do them good. So many Dutch, formerly; and now so many English; and you and your friends from America.”
“I hope you think the obligation mutual, my dear?” said her husband; “You must not forget how many Dutch and English have made their fortunes here. I say nothing about the Americans; for our friends here have a very different object, I fancy.”
“O, it is an advantage to both parties, no doubt,” observed the lady; “I should never have had such an amethyst as this, in my cross, if Ceylon had not belonged to us, I dare say.”
“And I should only have been like any other young lady, instead of having seven servants when I go out,” remarked Alice,
“And our friend Belton would not have had that beautiful place of his at South Point to live in,” added Mr. Carr: “yet I hear complaints terrible complaints from the Company, about their losses in the cinnamon trade.”
“And I from some members of your government, about the expense of the colony,” said Mr. Serle. “Now, if the people are acknowledged to be in a low state, if the government complains of the expense of the settlement, and if the Honourable Company cannot always make its cinnamon trade answer, who gains by Ceylon being a colony?”
“It is usually supposed to be an advantage to an uncivilized country to be chosen for a settlement by a civilized set of people,” replied Mr. Carr.
“And I have no doubt that it is so, any more than I doubt the advantage to the civilized country of having some foreign half-peopled region to which her sons may repair, to struggle, not in vain, for a subsistence. I can never doubt the policy of persons of different countries agreeing to dwell together in one, that they may yield mutual assistance by the communication of their respective possessions and qualifications. If this assistance be yielded in a spirit of freedom, without any tyraunical exercise of the right of the strongest at the outset, this intercourse is sure to grow into a mutual and general blessing of incalculable value, if abused, by the sacrifice of the many to the supposed gain of the few, the connexion becomes an inestimable curse.”
“To the natives, certainly,” replied Mr. Carr. “We may observe that the prosperity of colonized countries is not to be measured by circumstances of climate, natural fertility, position, and so on, but by the policy pursued in their government. In the dreariest parts of our American colonies, for instance——I do not know whether you are acquainted with Canada?”
“I am; and with Nova Scotia likewise.”
“Well; in no part of those colonies arc the natural wealth and beauty to be met with which distinguish Ceylon; and in no part, I hope, are the labouring inhabitants to be found in so wretched a state as are too many here.”
“Nowhere; and I do not see that the circumstance of the labourers here being partly natives, and the rest, races long settled in the country, makes any difference in the estimate, while it is certain that they are affected by the common motives to industry and social improvement.”
“The people here are open to such motives. Witness the growing ambition of the cinnamon peelers, in proportion as their services are in request, and are rewarded with regularity. The Challias hold up their heads now, and dispute precedence with other castes; and so would other labouring castes, if they had encouragement to do any better than crouch beneath the cocoa-nut tree, live upon what it may yield, and die when it yields no more.”
“The Nova Scotian is a far more prosperous man than either the native or the settler of Ceylon, though the Nova Scotian is not yet so happy as a perfectly wise government would allow him scope to become. He is not, like our neighbours here, prevented from selling one kind of produce where he pleases, while he is discouraged in the preparation of another kind by excessive taxation. The Nova Scotian can prepare his fish, and carry it where he likes for sale.”
“How rejoiced would our people be to have the same liberty with their pearls and their spice!”
“Yes: but the Nova Scotian has his trammels too, though they are far less grievous. He envies his neighbours of my country, of the United States, as much as the Cingalese may envy him. When he has sold his fish in the wide market which the Brazils afford, he may not take in exchange any Brazilian article that will be most wanted in Nova Scotia. There are many Brazilian commodities which your government will not allow its American colonies to purchase; so that its Nova Scotian subject must return with something of less value, or go home by a round-about way, exchanging and exchanging, till he finds an article that he may lawfully carry. My countryman, meantime, makes the best of his way home with a cargo of something that Brazil wants to sell and the States are ready to buy. This freedom from impediment in his traffic gives him the advantage over the Nova Scotian, as the comparative freedom of the Nova Scotian does over the Cmgalese.”
“And this countryman of yours, or his father, was a fellow-subject of mine. Truly, he seems better off' than when we were under the same king.”
“And how is your country the worse for his being no longer your fellow-subject, for his country being no longer a British colony? Do you buy and sell less of each other? Do you steal one another's trade? Does not America rather deal the more largely with you, the wider and more rapid is her traffic with the rest of the world?”
“Your argument would go to prove that we should be better without colonies; but what will our merchants say to our parting with markets into which we can empty our warehouses?”
“As to being better without colonies, we agreed just now that colonies are good things both for the natives and the settlers, while the one class wants to be civilized and the other to find a home of promise. Let this connexion be modified by circumstances as time rolls on, the child growing up into a state fit for self-government, and the mother country granting the liberty of self-government as the fitness increases. If the control be continued too long, if the colony be not admitted to understand, and allowed to pursue its own interests, its interests must languish, and it will become a proportionate burden to the mother country. It will have only the wages of ill-paid labour, or the scanty profits of feeble speculation to exchange for the productions of the mother country, instead of a store of wealth gathered by commerce with the whole world. Which is worth the most to England at this moment, Ceylon, her servile dependency, or any province of her band of commercial allies, our United States, I leave your merchants to say.”
“It is true, we get nothing now in taxes from your States; but we get incalculably more as the profits of trade; while the heavy taxation of Ceylon will not nearly pay its own expenses, and the mother country must defray the remainder.”
“So much for keeping colonies for the sake of their trade. This notion involves two assumptions; that the colony would not trade with the mother country if it were no longer a colony, and that colonial monopoly is a good to the mother country.”
“The very term ‘colony trade’ involves the notion of monopoly: since, if there were no monopoly, the distinction would be lost between that and any other sort of free trade.”
“Well; if the exclusive trade with the mother country be the best for the interest of the colony, the colony will continue it, after the compulsion is withdrawn. If it be not for the interest of the colony, neither can it be so for the parent; since the interest of the seller demands the prosperity of the customer; and the welfare of the whole demands the welfare of its component parts.”
“Indeed, our colonies are too often used as a special instrument of forcing the means of production into artificial channels, to serve the selfish purposes of classes, or companies, or individuals.”
“Thereby ruining the interests of these selfsame classes, companies, and individuals. If any class of merchants call succeed in making them:selves the only buyers of any article from a colony, or the only sellers of any article in it, they may for a time dictate their own terms to their slaves: but not for long. They may stock the market at home with precious things which they get as cheap as stones and straws in the colony; but their mutual competition will soon bring down the price to the common rate of profit. And if not, if the merchants agree upon a price and keep to it, the colony will not long fulfil its part in this unequal bargain. A losing bargain must come to an end sooner or later; and labour being discouraged, and capital absorbed in the colony, the merchants will inevitably find their supplies fall short.”
“I was going to ask,” observed Mrs. Serle, “why the colony need act in such a bargain? If it had any spirit, it would refuse to traffic.”
“Its power to do so depends on the nature of its supplies from the mother country. If it derives only luxuries, it may resist oppression by declining to receive the luxuries of the mother-country, and it may defy oppression by devising luxuries for itself. In these cases, the mother-country sustains a pure loss of the trade. If the colony is dependent for necessaries, it can defy the oppressor no further than by using the smallest possible quantity. Few people discern much value in the trade of a country whose population barely lives. Such a commerce will not repay the trouble of maintaining a monopoly.”
“It does seem to me, certainly, that if any compulsion is used at all, it should be to oblige the colony to sell to none but the parent. If it can buy cheaper elsewhere, so much is saved of the resources of the empire. It would be a loss to the British empire to have Ceylon buy its wine from London alone, if wine might be obtained cheaper from Madeira. The extra price which the carriage and the profits of the middlemen would demand, would be just so much withdrawn from the customer's means of production and of future purchase.”
“And the case is no better when the prohibition regards selling from the colony. If the colonial article produces just the ordinary profits of stock, the purchasing country takes needless trouble in enforcing the monopoly. If less than the ordinary profits of stock, the article will cease to be produced. If more, the purchascr may feel perfectly secure of being thanked for her custom, instead of its being necessary to intrude it by force of law. All this applies as well to a trade-driving government, or an exclusive company, as to a general body of merchants; the only difference being that such a government or company, having a more despotic power by the absence of competition, the tyranny may be consummated sooner, and the mischief wrought more effectually. Your government keeps its pearl-fishers, and your Honourable Company its spice-gatherers, impoverished more effectually than a general body of British pearl and spice merchants could have done.”
“Yet the general body of merchants can carry on the work of impoverishment with tolerable vigour and success, even upon a dependency so near at hand as to have great facilities for remonstrance. In the case of Ireland, towards the close of the last century, they contrived to rivet the chains of monopoly for a few years longer, after having done wonders in beggaring the Green Island.”
“They were helped by the country gentlemen there, my dear,” replied Mrs. Serle, who was an English woman, “and by the manufacturers and shipowners and others. I remember how my grandfather used to talk after dinner about the ruin which would come upon us all if the Irish, with their low wages and light taxation, were allowed to get their own sugar from the West Indies, and to pay for it with some articles of their own produce. And my uncle Joe and the curate used to agree that we were quite kind enough already to Ireland in giving her permission from year to year to send beef and butter to our colonies, and to clothe her own troops, then serving in America, with her own manufactures. The squire and the clergyman and the shopkeeper in the next village got up a petition to parliament against letting the Irish have any more trade, lest they should spoil ours.”
“And Liverpool expected to dwindle into a fishing village again, and Manchester that her deserted factories would become the abode of the owl and the bat; and Glasgow pleaded an hereditary right to the sugar trade which lreland must not be permitted to invade. Where this right came from it was for Glasgow to say; but, in enforcing it, Glasgow seemed much tempted to sink audacious Ireland into the sea. It is a pity, my dear, that your grandfather did not live to see Liverpool at the present day, after tea times as much having been granted to Ireland as was titan asked for. In proportion as the commerce between England and Ireland has grown into the similitude of a coasting trade, the prosperity of Liverpool and many another English town has increased, while the resources of Ireland (however deplorably cramped by bad government to this day) have steadily though slowly improved. The same fears, the same opposition, were excited, I think, Mr. Carr, when a relaxation was proposed in some departments of your Company's monopoly, and with the same results.
“Yes. There was an idea, some time ago, that nothing remained to be done in the way of traffic with India. It was thought that the private trader could find no new channels of commerce, and that India could not benefit in any way by a change.”
“Can anything equal the presumption of human decisions on untried matters!” cried Mr. Serle. “Did your Company really amply supply the whole of India with all that Hindoo hearts and Mahomedan minds could desire? Was nothing more wanted by a people who died by thousands ill a year for want of salt; who fell sick by hundreds of thousands for want of clothing, habitations, and the wholesome arts of life, and who groaned by millions under privation and excessive toil? If your Company thus reported itself the faithful and wise steward, giving to the people under him meat in their season, I, for one, would have besought, in that, day as in this, to have him cast out. His weeping and gnashing of teeth would have been unheard amidst the shout of joy when the door closed behind him.”
“Well, but he was not cast out,” said Mrs. Serle. “He was only compelled to relax his rude. Was there any rejoicing?”
“Much, very much, my dear. The direct commerce between England and India has already been more than doubled. Private traders have proved that there were still desirable articles that India had not. and that more and more became invented and wished for in proportion as people are allowed to minister to each other. I question whether any man will be again found between this and doomsday to say that India cannot want any thing more, and that there is nothing left for anybody out of the Honourable Company to do.”
“The persuasion arose,” observed Mr. Carr, “from the character of the people, their wants being so simple and few, their domestic habits and pursuits so uniform, and their resort to the productions of their own country so invariable, that they did not seem to need anything that foreigners could give.”
“Shut an infant into a dungeon, and bring him out when he is twenty,” said Mrs. Serle, “and, if he has never tasted anything but bread and water, he will want no other food. than bread and water. If his dress has always been sacking, his ignorant choice will be of sacking still, though broadcloth be lying” beside it. But have patience with him till he has tasted beef and wine, and seen every other man of twenty dressed in broadcloth, and by the time he is thirty, we shall hear no more of his simple tastes, and of his resort to primitive productions. Our ancestors, Mr. Carr, had a very simple taste for acorns of native growth: they resorted to native productions, wolf-skins, for clothing; their pursuits were uniform enough, picking up acorns and hunting wolves; they gathered round their murderous wicker deity, as the Hindoos round the pile of the suttee; and the one people venerated the mistletoe as the other glorifies cow-dung: nevertheless, here are we at this day, you dressed in broadcloth, and I in silk, and both of us philosophizing on civilization. Why should it not be the same with the Hindoo in due time?”
“And before so many hundred years as it took to civilize the Britons,” observed Mr. Carr. “The exports from Great Britain to the countries east of the Cape have quadrupled since the relaxation of the monopoly; and the difficulty now is for traders with India to find returns lot the variety of goods demanded by India. Formerly, England paid in gold and silver; now we pay ill iron, copper, and steel, in woollens and cottons, and in a hundred other articles, of which few Hindoos dreamed a century ago. India sends back indigo,—the best of a very few articles which may be imported into Great Britain by individuals. Whenever the day shall arrive for the Company's monopoly of China to be abolished, tea, mother-of-pearl, and nankeens, will afford a larger variety, India will make a new start in the career of civilization, and Great Britain a mighty acquisition in her foreign commercial relations.”
“In all the cases you have mentioned,” observed Mrs. Serle, “the restrictions have been imposed with a view to the welfare of the mother-country, and at the expense of the colony. Are there not cases of a reverse policy?”
“Many; but here, as in many cases, the reverse of wrong is not right. Whether it be attempted to enrich the parent at the expense of the child, or the child at the expense of the parent, a great folly is perpetrated, if, by letting both alone, they might enrich each other. Perhaps the most flagrant instance of this kind of impolicy is the management of the British timber trade. Your government, Mr. Carr, loads Norwegian timber with excessive duties, that the interior timber of Canada may have the preference in the market. By this means, not only is Norway deprived of its just right of priority, and Britain of a useful customer, but Canada is tempted to neglect some very important processes of improvement for the sake of——”
“Of pushing the lumber trade,” interrupted Mr. Carr. “I am aware that the Canadians carry their felling, squaring, and floating of timber a great deal too far, to the injury of agriculture, and of the condition of the people in every way. I am aware that any depression of this artificial timber-trade, however felt by mdi-viduals, is a decided gain to the colony at large. Great Britain has, in that instance, made a sacrifice in a wrong place.”
“And what a sacrifice! If no partiality were shown, Great Britain might have unexceptionable timber from Norway, and from Canada a supply of the corn she so much needs, instead of the indifferent wood, from the use of which her houses and her shipping are suffering. Let her still procure wood from her colony, which may serve the inferior purposes for which its texture fits it; but to refuse European timber, and persist in building frigates and dwelling-houses which shall hold out only half as long as they might last for the same money,—the people crying out all the while for Canadian wheat,—is a policy whose wisdom is past my comprehension.”
“Such is generally the result, it seems to me,” observed, Mrs. Serle, “when one party is grasping, and a second self-denying, in order to exclude a third. The matter generally ends in the injury of all three. If they would only follow the old saying, ‘Live and let live,' all would do well,—all would do best.”
“Where is that rule so violated as here?” said Mr. Serle. looking abroad from the verandah upon the approach of a fleet of barks with firewood, for the nightly sacrifice to the Moloch of monopoly. “Your colonial government here, Mr. Carr, manages to live, to sustain itself by shifts and devices; but as to letting live, let the extinguished fires on the shore, and the cry of the jackal in the woods, bear their testimony.”
“And your evening countenance,” added his wife. “I almost dread to see you come home from visiting your neighbours.”
“Mamma said yesterday,” observed Alice, “that she wished Mr. Serle would stay away, unless he would look as merry as he used to do. She says——”
“My dear love, what can you be thinking of?” cried Mrs. Carr, now roused to something like energy of manner.
“She is thinking of your happy exemption from beholding the signs of suffering which are daily brought before my eyes in the pursuit of my vocation,” mildly replied Mr. Serle. “But if I were to stay away till I saw nothing to make me look grave, if I were to stay away till I saw the men grow honest, and the women cheerful, and the children comely, till there were no struggles of poverty by day, or of death by night, I fear we should both be grey-haired before we could meet again.”
Mrs. Carr did not mean anything, by her own account; and the group were, therefore, left to ponder the full significance of the missionary's word.
Few indeed were the places in the island where there were no struggles of poverty by day, or of death by night. In Rayo's hut, the poverty struggle seemed to be drawing near its close, and that of death impending. There needed the agency of no hag to touch the dwellers in the jungle with leprosy; no curse from above to make them feel as outcasts in their own land. The sunny days and starlight nights of the dry season were full of dreariness. Rayo, now the victim of leprosy in its most fearful form, passed the day in solitude,—now creeping from his mat to his threshold, and there finding that his swollen limbs would carry him no farther; now achieving with much toil, his daily walk in search of the honeycomb of the hollow tree, or of any windfall of the fruit he could no longer climb to reach. The pitcher-plant grew all around his hut, and regularly performed its silent service of preparing the lnnpid draught to satisfy his feverish longing; but the monkeys were now too strong for him; and often, in a state of desperate thirst, he saw a pert ape, or an insolent baboon, twist the green cup from its tendril, and run up a tree with it, or upset the draught before his eyes. If ever he got far enough to look out upon the open landscape, it stirred his spirit to see the herds of buffaloes on the hill-side, and the proud vessels on the distant main, blmging luxuries from many a clime; feeling, as he did, that the food and the wine thus exhibited to him would have preserved him from his disease, and kept Marana, in all her youth and strength, by his side. If he met a countryman, with whom to speak, his tumultuous thoughts were not calmed; for he heard tell of the high price which emnamon bore this season, on account of the lucky damage done by lightning to the crop. To him and his countrymen it signified little whether the Honourable Company were enabled to ask the prices of such a scarce season as this, or whether they sought from government a compensation for the loss occasioned by an over-supply; Rayo and his countrymen had no part nor lot in the harvests of their native island; but Rayo had in the concerns of the rulers the deep stake of unsatisfied revenge. As often as he became sensible of a new loss of strength, as often as any of the horrible symptoms of elephantiasis met Ms consciousness, he drew sharp and brief inferences respecting the philosophy of colonization, which might have been worthy the ear of a British parliament, if they could have been echoed so far over the sea.
Marana, meanwhile, was hurrying northwards with all the speed of which her wasted frame was capable. She pushed on eagerly by day, now in heat and now in damp, and halted unwillingly at night under the shelter of some rest-house provided for travellers of a different caste. When she looked upon the withered garlands that dangled from the corner-posts, and longed for the draperies of cotton by which healthier persons than herself had been sheltered from the night-dews, she too felt, though of a milder and more placable nature than her husband, that some one had stepped in between them and Providence, and turned their native paradise into a dreary wilderness. She had heard strangers marvel at the absence of singing-birds in her native glades at noon, and among the bowers of the banian, when the sinking sun peeps beneath its arches, and she had accounted for it to such marvellers, by tales of the wars between the serpent and his feathered prey; but to her it seemed strange that none should ask why the warbhngs of human gladness were so seldom heard in a region whence their outpourings should echo to heaven. If asked to account for this silence also, she would have told of the wily and venomous agency of monopoly, which wages war against the helpless, from generation to generation, till the music of joy is forgotten in the land.
Marana's spirits rose as she approached the northern parts of the island, and, leaving woods and hills behind her, entered upon the level and sandy region, whose aspect never changed but as the sea, which was its boundary, was gleaming or grey, as the heavens were clear or clouded. The bare shore near her father's dwelling was above all beloved; and she stopped for all instant to listen to the tide as it made itself heard above her throbbing pulses, before she stole across the well-known threshold.
The cottage looked as It used to look, except that there were no remains of the, household decorations which the neat-handed love to prepare in countries where decoration requires no expenditure but of skill. Her mother-of-pearl shells, her embroidery of fish-bones, her tutts of many-coloured sea-weed, had disappeared, and instead ot there, there were more snake skins, a new set of sharks' fins, and a larger variety of inexplicable charms. Her father slept upon his mat, a ray of moonlight falling across his brow from a chink in the frail roof of his cottage.
Marana was afraid to waken and alarm him while there was no more light than this in the cottage. She refrained till she had caught a handful of fire-flies, and fixed them in her hair, there being no sign of fire in any, neighbouring cottage. This done, she bent over the Charmer, and charmed away his sleep. He gazed at her long; and, common as was the sight of his dark countrywomen crowned with a green flame, the figure before him was so like one which he had often expected to see in vision, that the repeated sound ot her voice was necessary to assure him that it was indeed his daughter.
“You are flying before Amoottra, my child, or she has already laid her hand upon you. Not the less shall your head rest on my bosom.”
Before she could rest, Marana said, she must confess her impiety in parting with her charm, and obtain another. She sorely repented having sold the chank. The gold it brought was presently consumed; and what was gold in a country where it could not be made to reproduce itself, or answer any purpose beyond delaying want for a time? She would take any vow Father Anthony should prescribe, not to part with any other charm.
“Father Anthony will tell you,” replied her father, with a smile, “that it is better to grow and sell cinnamon than to get a charm blessed, and then part with it.”
Marana prayed her father not to mock her, not to speak of forbidden traffic to one who was deep in sin already. She was told in reply that growing cinnamon was not one of the crimes on which the heavens frown, but an act which the will of man makes innocent or guilty. It was now the will of man to pronounce it innocent, and every man in Ceylon might have his cinnamon garden, and go unharmed by the powers of the earth or of the air.
But how had this miracle taken place? And was it so with pearls?
“The pearl banks are still sacred, my child; but, as for the spice, it is no miracle that the owners are tired of their losses. Much gold must they pay to the Challias, and much more must they risk on the seas; and when the spice is landed in their own country, the buyers com-plain that any thing that grows upon a common tree should be worth so much. Three years since, even the rich would not buy half that was prepared, though much was burned, as usual. Then the king gave up some of his share of the price, and immediately there were three eaters of cinnamon where there was one before; and, instead of the king losing, the people gained by more of them being able to consume the spice. What wonder, after this. if more cinnamon is permitted to be grown, that more may eat, and more grow rich by selling it?”
“But who will buy it of us. father?”
“Come and see, at the next fishery. Any man of whatever nation, who wishes to buy of you, may do it in the open market, and no punishmen't shall follow to him or you.”
“And if Ravo had a boat, father, and carried spice to any ships he might meet upon the sea, would not that be a crime?”
“A crime no longer, Marana. He may take dollars from the Spaniard, and silk from the Italian, and cotton from the Englishman, and iron from the Russian, and grain from the American, and no one will ask him how he got his wealth, or threaten those who exchange with him. I will go with you, and plant and bless your first shrub with my own hands.”
“Ravo's bands arr too feeble to dig, and he cannot kneel for your blessing,” observed Marana, mournfully. “Will there be any more burning of cinnamon, father?”
“Never more till all people in every land shall have had their fill, and the cinnamon twigs with which we light our fires shall be used un-barked through their abundance. Why should there be destruction of any good thing when the many are to decide what price they will give, instead of the few what price they will take?”
This was the best news Marana had yet heard, and her father had no more to tell. While he was moving about, preparing for the exercise of his art, and leaving his mat for his daughter's repose, he told of poverty and sickness among his neighbours, to whom it mattered not whether the fishery proved a rich or a ruinous one. In the former case, they derived none of the benefits; in the latter, they could scarcely be starved down to a lower point than they were sure to reach in the intervals of the seasons. His representations were confirmed to Marana when she went abroad in the morning to seek Father Anthony, and accost any friends she might meet by the way.
Old Gomgode, her father-in-law, lay on the beach, glancing about him with his restless eyes for something to feed his inquisitiveness. There was no inducement at present to go to sea in search of curiosities, there being no fair at this season, and none of his neighbours being wealthy enough to make purchases when each had nothing to do but to secure his own scanty provision for the day. Gomgode's sole employment was asking questions of any one he could meet, and longing for the sight of an unaccustomed face.
He started up as he recognized Marana's form, though wasted, and her gait, though feeble and spiritless. When he had asked a multitude of questions, where was Rayo? how was Rayo? why did not Rayo come? and so forth, he was struck dumb by the tidings of his son's afflictions. He silently pointed to the cottage where Neyna, his daughter, might be found, and lay down on his face to importune the saints with prayers for his children; for Neyna, who was awaiting a dowry he could not earn for her; for Marana, who was likely to be a widow before she was a mother; and for the sufferer who was pining in his distant solitude. Before his prayers were ended, Father Anthony had joined him, and was uniting in his intercessions when the young women appeared to ask the priest's blessing.
Marana had not found Neyna in the cottage, but bathing with her companions in a reedy pool behind the dwellings. There was something left among these maidens of the sportiveness which seems to belong to the most refreshing exercise of bathing, and which was Marana's wont in her younger days, There was now a song and now a laugh; now a conspiracy to empty all the waterpots at once on the head. of one, and then the chace of a dusky beauty among the rushes, of Neyna, who had forgotten for the moment her hopelessness of a dowry. She was startled by the apparition of a stranger, intercepting her with outstretched arms in her flight, and recovered her gravity at the first recognition of Marana's faint smile. The other girls wrung out their dripping hair, and came up from the water to crowd round their old companion, to ask tidings of the rich land to the south, where, if there were no pearl-banks, there was every other wealth of nature, where, as the songs of their dancing-girls told them, life under the cocoa-nat trees was all that could be desired; where thousands of yards of cotton might be had from abroad, and hundreds of thousands of bags of rice were landed from foreign fleets. Marana pointed to her tattered garment, and let fall that it was long since she had tasted rice.
Why did she not seek relief from the English? she was asked. Did not the English come to provide for and protect the natives? Had not the English cotton enough to tapestry Adam's Peak, and could not they purchase the rice grounds of the globe?
“We,” said they, “are too far off from this fountain of wealth and mercy. The English come for our pearls once a year, and then they see us gay, and observe that our shore is spread with wealth. They do not know how little of this wealth is ours, or suspect what our hunger and nakedness are when they withdraw the light of their faces. But you live in that light, and yet you are wasted and sorrowful.”
“The English themselves complain,” answered Marana. “When there is a bad cinnamon harvest, the Government complains that the richer of our countrymen pay no dues, and that feeding the poor is a costly burden. When there is a good cinnamon harvest, the Company complains of the abundance, and burns half the crop; so that the strangers are always complaining, and the labourers of the country are always poor. This is the way with us in the south.”
“And with us in the north. Why then did the English come? And why now do they not go away?”
This question was too puzzling for any maiden of them all to answer, and they hastened to refer it to Father Anthony.
“Would you have me go away?” inquired he, smiling. “Shall I set the example to my countrymen, and leave you to your woods and waters in peace?”
“You do not forbid our fishing in our waters; you do not hark and burn our woods; you do not live upon our wealth, paying us only a pittance for getting it for you. Why, therefore, should you go?”
“My children, you speak as if the English settlers were thieves. you speak You speak as if it was nothing to have wise and skilful strangers come to teach you the arts of life. You speak as if you forgot the protection afforded to you by the government of the mother country, and the expense incurred by her for your support.”
“Who is it that robs us, not only of our spice and our pearls, but of all that many another country would give us for our spice and our pearls, if it be not the English?” cried one.
“Are we the happier for their wisdom and their skill?” cried another. “And as for the arts of life, do we need strangers to teach us to lie beneath the fig-tree, and sleep away our hunger?”
“From what do they protect us?” asked a third. “If they will go away, we will protect ourselves against their returning; and our own expenses we can bear as soon as ships from every land may come to trade on our shores.”
Father Anthony reminded them of the social institutions which had been established among them, with the entire good-will of the natives: but his pupils were obstinate in the opinion that slavery could not be said to be abolished while labourers were dependent for daily bread on the arbitrary will of a monopolizing party; and that, excellent as was trial by jury, the prevention of the manifold crimes which spring from oppression would be still better.
“If the English were to withdraw their protection,” said Father Anthony, “would you forbid them your shores?”
“They should be more welcome than they have ever been yet,” declared the old fisherman. “Let them land here, and we will spread white cloth for them to tread upon, and carry them on our shoulders to Columbo. If they will buy our pearls, the Dutchman, and the Frenchman, and the Spaniard shall all stand back till the English are served, and the money that we shall receive in our fairs and our markets shall buy the merchandise that comes from Britain. “We have dealt with the English so long, that we would deal with them rather than with people of strange tongues and ways, if they would but traffic as fairly as other people.”
“Why, then, should the English go? Why should they not live in the houses they have themselves built, and walk in the gardens they themselves have planted?”
“Let them do so—the merchant, and the priest, and the judge, and the labourer be there be British labourers here. Of these we can make countrymen and friends. But we do not wish for rulers, if they make us poor, and so tempt us to wickedness. We do not wish for soldiers, if we must give our daughters' dowries to maintain them. And as for the government agent, who takes our pearls, and the Company, that forbid us to grow cinnamon for anybody but themselves, if they will go, we will work hard, and soon make a beautiful ship to carry them away.”
“Then it is not the English you object to, but some of their conduct towards you? Let us hope that the time will come when you will live together, not quarrelling for the possession of what Providence has given to all, but finding that there is enough for all.”
“Why do not the wise English see this?”
“Many of them do. The wisest of the English see that there is little honour or advantage in calling any colony a possession of her own, if it would bring her profit instead of loss by being her friend, instead of her servant. The wisest among the English see, that to make a colony poor is to make it unprofitable, and that colonies cannot be very rich while they are dependent. To protect and cherish a colony till it can take care of itself, is wise and kind; but to prevent its taking care of itself, and is folly and crime. It is as if every man here should keep his grown up son in the bondage of childhood. Such fathers and such sons can never be prosperous and virtuous.”
“Who prevents the wise among the English from acting wisely?”
“Some who are not so wise. Though it may be clear that all England and all Ceylon would be more prosperous if the trade of Ceylon were free, some few would cease to make gains which they will not forego. Some hope that their sons may be made soldiers, if there should be a war in the colony, and others expect that a brother or a cousin may be a judge, or a priest, or a servant of the government.”
“But there cannot be many such.”
“Very few; but those few have been enough to burden England with expensive colonies up to this day. They are few, but they are powerful, because the many do not know what a grievance they are submitting to. The selfish are few; but it does not follow that all others are wise, or England would leave off maintaining colonies expensively for the sake of their trade, when she would trade more profitably with them free.”
“Why do the people not know this?”
“It is strange that they do not bestir themselves, and look abroad, and judge.”
“Where should they look?”
“To the east or to the west, as they please. In the east they may see how their trade has been more than twice doubled since they have allowed some little freedom of traffic; and they are told every year how expensive is this island, where no trade is free. They might know that, with the greatest natural wealth, this island is among the least profitable of their colonies. They might know that its total revenue does not pay its expenses, and that no making shifts, no gathering in of money from all quarters, can prevent its being a burden to them and to their children, if they persevere in their present management.”
“And what may they learn by looking westward?”
“That the States of America are a source of much greater wealth and power to Great Britain now than when she had a ruler in each of them. She is saved the expense of governing at a great distance, and has more trade with America than when she called it her own. Also, the colonies that she still holds in the west are an enormous expense to her—as fearful a burden as America is an advantage. Besides the loss which the mother country incurs for the sake of the colonies, (and which loss does those very colonies nothing but harm,) there is a direct expenditure of upwards of a million and a half in time of peace, for the apparatus of defence alone. How much more there is laid out in times of war, and in the necessary expenses of a government far from home, the people of England can never have considered, or they would long ago have permitted, ay, encouraged, Canada and Jamaica to govern themselves.”
“If the English will but let us take care of ourselves, they may, perhaps, learn a new lesson about the places in the west.”
“I am happy to tell you that a beginning is already made. There is only one among you— your father, made. Marana—to whom I have yet told the news. Every man may now plant cinnamon in his garden, and sell it to whomsoever he pleases. The news will not be long in flying round the world, and then more and more will ask for cinnamon continually; your countrymen will grow a greater quantity, and obtain a larger variety of comforts in exchange.”
“Then you will have to preach to us as they say you preach to the strangers,—against gay dresses, and rich food, and too much love of gold,” said the old man, chuckling.
“And if so, less against theft, and fraud, and hypocrisy, and indolence,” replied the priest. “There will be little stealing of chanks when all may fish them; little false bargaining when bargains shall have opportunity to become fair; little pretence of penitence hiding a mocking heart, when there is room for real thankfulness, and for a sense of ingratitude to a bountiful God; and much more industry when the rewards of industry are within reach. However true it may be that mortal men sin while they are mortal men, it is certain that they change their sine with their outward state, and change them for the better as their state improves.”
“Some tempters from above must be worse than others, I suppose,” said Gomgode; “but it is surprising to think that our rulers have power to send away the worst, that some less bad may come in.”
Marana hoped that her husband might benefit by the change. If his elephantiasis could but turn into some disease less dreadful, how would she bless the relaxation of the cinnamon monopoly!
Father Anthony could not encourage his dear daughter to look for such a result as this. But there were no bounds to the mercy of God towards one who repented,—as it was to be hoped Rayo did. Father Anthony would journey southwards with Marana and her father, to visit and console and pray with his unhappy charge, Rayo. He was ready at any moment to set forth.
Marana's ecstacies of gratitude and joy were checked only by the fear of what spectacle might meet her in her hut on her return, and by the mournful farewells of Neyna and her young companions, to whom no immediate prospect of a dowry was opened by the new change of policy. They regarded Marana as about to enter a land of promise whither they would fain follow her; unless, indeed, some similarly precious permission respecting the pearl banks should arrive, and convert their dreary shore into a region of hope and activity, They silently received their priest's parting blessing and injunctions as to their duties during his absence, and then watched him on his way. Setting forth laboriously on his mission of charity, he looked, indeed, little like one of the intruding strangers whom they had been taught to wish far from their shores.
UP AND DOING.
Marana scarcely knew what to hope or fear when she had cast the first hasty glance round the hut in which she expected to find her husband. Rayo was not there, and she dreaded to inquire where he was; whether his ashes had been given to the winds, or whether some of these winds had brought him vigour to go abroad into the neighbouring wood. All the way as she came, sights and sounds of pleasure had been presented to her, and she had endeavoured to share the satisfaction of the priest and of her father at seeing the bustle of the country people in clearing their ground for the growth of the long-forbidden shrub; and the joyous parties returning from the thickets with the young plants which, when improved by cultivation, were to form the foundation of their wealth; and the dancing girls spreading the news through the land. She had striven to thank her saint with the due devotion when Father Anthony spread the blessing around him as he travelled; but the dread of what might be awaiting her at home had borne down her spirits. A circumstance which had occurred the day before had alarmed her grievously at the moment, and now explained only too clearly, she apprehended, the deserted state of the but. She had stolen out early to bathe, and when she came up out of the water, she found that a thievish bird was flying away with her necklace, the symbol of her married state. It was true that a shout from her father had caused the necklace to be dropped, and that it was at this moment safe; but was not the pang which shot through her yesterday prophetic of the worse pangs of today? Whether her father believed that his spells could bring back a departed spirit, he did not declare; but he now hastened to utter them on the threshold, while Marana flitted about the hut, taking up first the empty cocoa-nut from the floor, then the dry skin which was wont to hold oil. and then the mat on which it was impossible to tell by the mere examination whether any one had slept on the preceding night.
While she was sinking, at length, in utter inability to inquire further, the priest, who had walked a little way into the jungle on seeing that nothing was to be learned within doors, approached the entrance with a smile on his countenance, No one thought of waiting till the charm was ended. The three west forth; and, not far off, in an open space to which sunshine and air were admitted, appeared a group of people, whose voices sounded cheerily in the evening calm.
Mr. Carr was on horseback, with Alice before him, watching the proceedings of the others. Mr. Serle was digging a hole in the newly prepared soil, while Rayo stood by, holding the young cinnamon shrub which was about to be planted. Mrs. Serle was busy, at some distance, training the pepper-vine against the garden fence.
“Stop, stop!” cried the broken voice of the Charmer; “I have a vow, Rayo,—a vow! I have vowed to plant and bless the first cinnamon shrub in your garden.”
“And my blessing is yours, my son,” added Father Anthony.
“And mine has been given already,” observed the missionary, smiling.
“When was ever any property of your Honourable Company so hallowed?” Mrs. Serle inquired of Mr. Carr, with a smile, as she turned away to avoid seeing the meeting of Rayo and Marana.
“Property is sacred in the eye of God and man,” replied Mr. Cart, gravely.
“So it has been ever agreed between God and man,” said Mrs. Serle. “Therefore, whenever that which is called property is extensively desecrated, the inevitable conclusion is that it is not really property. The time will never come when this island will rise up against Rayo's cinnamon plantation, even if it should spread, by gradual and honourable increase, to the sea on one side, and to Candy on the other. As long as it prospers by means which interfere with no one's rights, Rayo's property will be sacred in the eyes of his country. But the whole island has long risen against your monopoly gardens. There have been not only curses breathed within its shade, and beyond its bounds, but pilfering, and burning, and studious waste.”
“I think it is a pity, papa,” said Alice, “that the Company did not get a Charmer to charm the great garden at the beginning, and a Catholic priest to give it a blessing, and then it would have been as safe as Rayo's is to be.”
“Nonsense, my dear,” was Mr. Carr's reply. He was full of trouble at the responsibility which would fall upon him if the opening of the cinnamon trade should prove a disaster.
“The same charm and blessing will not suit, I believe, Alice,” replied Mrs. Serle. “The charm is, in fact, against hopeless poverty and its attendant miseries,—a lot which the Honourable Company has never had to fear. The blessing is, in fact, on the exchange of fraud and hypocrisy—the vices which spring from oppression,—for honesty,—the virtue which grows up where labour is left free to find its recompense. The Honourable Company—”
“Has never found its recompense, in this instance, I am sure,” said Mr. Carr. “We are heartily tired of our bargain; and not all that we have obtained from Government, from time to time, to compensate for fluctuations, has prevented our losing very seriously from our cinnamon trade. We have been thoroughly disappointed in our markets, and cannot open any fresh ones. I hope now——”
“O, yes! You will do welt enough now, if you will manage your concerns as economically as private traders, and put yourselves on equal terms with the people of the country. There can be no lack of a market when it is once known that every one may sell and every one buy that which every body likes.”
“I believe so; and that there will henceforth be no such considerable fluctuations as there have been while there were fewer parties interested in checking and balancing each other. Still,—convinced as I am that we have done wisely in abolishing this monopoly,—I cannot but feel it to be a serious thing to witness so vigorous a preparation for supplying the new demand.”
“It is indeed a serious filing to see a new era established among a people to whom we stand in the relation of a secondary Providence. It is a serious thing to have the power of lifting up the impotent who have long lain hopeless at this beautiful gate of God's temple, and to see them instantly paying the homage of activity and joy. But this is surely not the moment to distrust the exercise of their new strength, and to fear its consequences.”
“Will poor Rayo ever be able to walk like other people, do you think, papa?” inquired Alice.
Mr. Carr had no hope of cure; but it was not an uncommon thing for the victims of this disease to live on for many years, without much pain, if well fed and taken care of. So great a change had already taken place ill Rayo since something had been given him to do and to hope for, that it seemed very probable that he might revive much further, and prune his own vines, and bark his own shrubs for many a season to come. He must be assisted to erect a cottage on the dry soil of his new garden, instead of remaining in the damp nook which had been the home of his poverty. He must be assisted to obtain wholesome food till the next cinnamon harvest, after which it might be hoped that he would be able first to supply his slmple wants, and then to afford to let them become more complex.
“He is gone to confession with the priest,” observed Mrs. Serle, as she watched the two proceeding towards the hut, while Marana's beads bung from her hand. “Henceforth, Mr. Carr, let Rayo's sins be his own: but I think the Honourable Company can hardly refuse to take his past offences on themselves, however long they have made him bear the penalty.”
“Certainly, if we strike out of the catalogue of crimes,” said Mr. Carr, “all that are originated by institutions, and by social customs, against which an individual can do no more than protest, but few will remain for which any Christian priest will dare to prescribe individual penance. If the heads of colonial governments at home were fully and perpetually aware of this, under what solemn emotions would they step into their office!”
Perhaps Father Anthony was such a Christian priest as Mr. Cart had just spoken of, for he returned from hearing Ravo's confession with a countenance full of mildness, and a voice full of pity. Marana no longer detected under her husband's submissive manner the workings of passion which had often terrified her; and, in addition to this. and to the decided improvement she witnessed in his health, she had the satisfaction of learning from her father that he had so far recovered his confidence in his own spells that he was sure the charmed shrub would prosper, and would avail better to make Amoottra keep her distance than any chank in the Indian seas.
The rest of the party were about to go in search of rice or other good food. They had been too much struck by their accidental meeting with Rayo in the wood,—too deeply touched by witnessing his feeble attempts to pluck up the cinnamon suckers,—to think of leaving him to his own resources in his present state of health. As they were quitting the enclosure, and looked back to see how the slanting sunbeams lit up the eyes of the care-worn family, the two priests of a religion of promise assured one another that the time was at hand when here every man should sit under his vine and his fig-tree, and none should make him afraid.
Summary of Principles illustrated in this Volume.
Colonies are advantageous to the mother-country as affording places of settlement for her emigrating members, and opening markets where her merchants will always have the preference over those of other countries, from identity of language and usages.
Colonies are not advantageous to the mother-country as the basis of a peculiar trade.
The term ‘colony trade’ involves the idea of monopoly; since, in a free trade, a colony bears the same relation as any other party to the mother-country.
Such monopoly is disadvantageous to the mother-country, whether possessed by the government, as a trading party, by an exclusive company, or by all the merchants of the mother-country.
It is disadvantageous as impairing the resources of the dependency, which are a part of the resources of the empire, and the very material of the trade which is the object of desire.
If a colony is forbidden to buy of any but the mother-country, it must do without some articles which it desires, or pay dear for them;—it loses the opportunity of an advantageous exchange, or makes a disadvantageous one. Thus the resources of the colony are wasted.
If a colony is forbidden to sell its own produce to any but the mother-country, either the prohibition is not needed, or the colony receives less in exchange from the mother-country than if might obtain elsewhere. Thus, again, the resources of the colony are wasted.
If a colony is forbidden either to buy of or sell to any but the mother-country, the resources of the colony are wasted according to both the above methods, and the colony is condemned to remain a poor customer and an expensive dependency.
In proportion, therefore, as trade with colonies is distinguished from trade with other places, by restriction on buyers at home, or on sellers in the colonies, that trade (involving the apparatus of restriction) becomes an occasion of loss instead of gain to the empire.
London: Printed by William Clowes, Duke-sheet. Lambeth