August 7

This morning found us in line about two miles outside of Harper's Ferry, but no signs of an enemy in our immediate front; has been quite warm all day; have written Pert and Will Clark; most of the regiments have had dress parade, but Colonel Henry can't see it quite yet that way. It is rumored that General Sheridan is to command this army—good!

August Seventh

Oh, de cabin at de quarter in de old plantation days,
Wid de garden patch behin' it an' de gode-vine by de do',
An' de do'-yard sot wid roses, whar de chillun runs and plays,
An' de streak o' sunshine, yaller lak, er-slantin' on de flo'!

But ole Mars' wuz killed at Shiloh, an' young Mars' at Wilderness;
Ole Mis' is in de graveyard, wid young Mis' by her side,
An' all er we-all's fambly is scattered eas' an' wes',
An' de gode-vine by de cabin do' an' de roses all has died!
Mary Evelyn Moore Davis

 

 

August 7, 1863

Friday. We have moved our camp across the road to higher and dryer ground. We have the prettiest place for a camp we have yet had. We have a fine view of the river, up and down, for miles. The river falls every day, and grows narrow. I don't think the water is over three-quarters of a mile wide. The natives say it will not get much narrower, though it may get lower. It is about all channel now. It don't seem possible it could ever fill up to the levee. One gets some idea of the amount of water it sometimes carries by looking across it and imagining it full from levee to levee. As fast as the water falls, the mud dries up, and in a few days grass sprouts up, and so it is green almost to the water's edge. We have some glorious swims. The water is always muddy but it loosens up the dirt, which runs off with the water when we come out. The callouses on our hips show most as far as the man. They are a redder red than the rest of the body, and are about as wide as my hand and nearly twice as long. They show how hard have been the beds we have slept on.

August 7

August 7, 1863.--A walk after supper, a sky sparkling with stars, the Milky Way magnificent. Alas! all the same my heart is heavy. At bottom I am always brought up against an incurable distrust of myself and of life, which toward my neighbor has become indulgence, but for myself has led to a régime of absolute abstention. All or nothing! This is my inborn disposition, my primitive stuff, my "old man." And yet if some one will but give me a little love, will but penetrate a little into my inner feeling, I am happy and ask for scarcely anything else. A child's caresses, a friend's talk, are enough to make me gay and expansive. So then I aspire to the infinite, and yet a very little contents me; everything disturbs me and the least thing calms me. I have often surprised in my self the wish for death, and yet my ambitions for happiness scarcely go beyond those of the bird: wings! sun! a nest! I persist in solitude because of a taste for it, so people think. No, it is from distaste, disgust, from shame at my own need of others, shame at confessing it, a fear of passing into bondage if I do confess it.

August 7

August 7, 1874. (Clarens ).--A day perfectly beautiful, luminous, limpid, brilliant.

I passed the morning in the churchyard; the "Oasis" was delightful. Innumerable sensations, sweet and serious, peaceful and solemn, passed over me.... Around me Russians, English, Swedes, Germans, were sleeping their last sleep under the shadow of the Cubly. The landscape was one vast splendor; the woods were deep and mysterious, the roses full blown; all around me were butterflies--a noise of wings--the murmur of birds. I caught glimpses through the trees of distant mists, of soaring mountains, of the tender blue of the lake.... A little conjunction of things struck me. Two ladies were tending and watering a grave; two nurses were suckling their children. This double protest against death had something touching and poetical in it. "Sleep, you who are dead; we, the living, are thinking of you, or at least carrying on the pilgrimage of the race!" such seemed to me the words in my ear. It was clear to me that the Oasis of Clarens is the spot in which I should like to rest. Here I am surrounded with memories; here death is like a sleep--a sleep instinct with hope.

* * * *

Hope is not forbidden us, but peace and submission are the essentials.

Cuttack, August 7, 1843

MOFUSSIL SOCIETY—MORNING VISITS.

I must now give an account of Mofussil society. We will suppose a married couple going to a new station,—as, for instance, my wife and myself coming to Cuttack. Well, we arrive wretched enough about eight o'clock in the morning, after a long dâk journey. All that day we are engaged in setting things to rights. The next morning I order my carriage, and go out to make my calls; for in India, unlike England, the stranger calls first. The hours for calling are from half-past ten to one, after which time you would not be admitted anywhere, as it is supposed that the lady of the house is just going to tiffin (lunch), which she takes at two, and then goes to sleep for two or three hours.

Of course the first person I call on is the commanding officer. I drive in at the gate of the compound, and under some trees, up to the house door, and so under the portico; for every house has a very large carriage portico to protect the horses from the sun. My carriage is a phaëton—the britska, phaëton, and buggy being almost the only vehicles used in India. The britska does very well for a judge, and the buggy a sort of carriage for a single man. Mine is a phaëton with two ponies. On the box sits the coachman—dark-brown face, large black mustachios, white calico tunic and trowsers, white turban, turned up with pale blue, as livery, and blue and white cummerband round the waist; except only when it is wet, and then he wears a crimson skull-cap, and a scarlet full cloak with sleeves. A syce or groom runs by the side of the ponies.

Arrived at the door, I call out "Sahib hy?" Gentleman in? meaning, Is your master at home? If not, I leave a card: if he is, I enter the house, and follow the servant who has answered me. I should have told you that there are no such things as knockers or bells here. Every door is open, unless in the very hot weather, and there are always six or eight servants lounging about in the verandah. As I step out of the carriage, each one of these stoops down, touches the ground with the back of his hand, and then pats his forehead three or four times, signifying, I suppose, that, if I were to order him, he would even throw dirt upon his own head.

In reply to the question "Sahib hy?" one of the men answers, "Hy, khadawum"—He is, O representative of God; at the same time holding his hands pressed together as if he were saying his prayers. He precedes me into the house, still in the same attitude. He sets me a chair, whilst another man comes in, unfastens the rope of the punkah, and, taking the end of it out into the verandah, sits down and pulls it, and very soon falls asleep, still, however, continuing his occupation.

Presently in comes the master of the house, dressed in white jacket, black neckerchief (if any), white shirt, white trowsers, white stockings, and shoes made of some white skin. I should have told you that the servant who shows me in takes my card to his master, with which card his master plays the whole time I am there. In a few minutes in comes the lady, in clothes hanging loosely around her; she probably does not wear stays in the morning: her dress is white muslin, and her face, as well as those of her children, if she have any, is of a ghastly pale colour. This is universal in India.

There is not much conversation at a first visit, so I soon rise and go to some person to whom I have a letter of introduction, when he at once volunteers to accompany me on the rest of my calls. These first visits are made by the gentleman only; his wife does not accompany him. In the course of a few days the gentlemen return the call, bringing their wives with them. Daughters are out of the question: beyond the age of six they are a genus unknown in India. They go to England at that age, come out again to India at eighteen, and probably marry in Calcutta, and settle at once some four or five months' journey from their parents, who have been so anxiously looking forward to seeing them.

DINNER-PARTIES.

A few days after the form of calling has been gone through, some half-dozen different persons send you invitations to dinner, kindly wishing to welcome the stranger to the station. From half-past seven to eight is the usual hour in India; for if people dined earlier they would necessarily lose their evening drive. The carriage enters the compound; a servant runs in to the sahib, and, pressing his own hands together, says, "Ghairee ata" (carriage comes). Out issues the sahib into the front verandah: the lady is handed out; the gentleman offers his arm, and walks off, leaving me to follow as best I may.

From the verandah we enter the dining-room. There are no halls or passages or cupboards in the Mofussil. Down the whole length of the room is a long table laid for dinner, round which we must wind to get to the opposite door leading into the drawing-room. Here are a number of ladies seated on one side the room, on the other side the gentlemen. After a little while an old Indian with a long silvery beard, and dressed completely in white, comes in, and, pressing his hands together, says, "Canna mig" (dinner on table).

Then the master of the house gives his arm to the most important lady present; the others do likewise, according to the most strict precedence of rank, the lady of the house being taken first. She does not take the top of the table, but assigns that place to whoever has led her in, herself occupying the seat next him on his right hand. Each person brings his khitmutgar; accordingly, behind each chair stands a man in white, who, as you sit down, unfolds and hands you the napkin which was on your plate; he then falls back a step, and crosses his arms over his chest. As soon as grace has been said, the cover is taken off the soup-tureen, and those who like it are helped to a rich sort of chicken-broth.

After that, you hear on every side—"Mrs. So-and-so, may I have the pleasure of taking a glass of wine with you?" "I shall be very happy." "Which do you take, beer or wine?" "Thank you; I will take a little beer," or "wine," as the case may be. Suppose the former, and myself the speaker, I turn round and say to my khitmutgar, "Beer, shraubs meem Sahib, ki do" (beer-wine, Mrs. Lady, give).

In the mean time they are uncovering the dishes. At the top is a pair of fine roast fowls, at the bottom a pair of boiled ditto. At the sides, fowl cutlets, fowl patties, fowl rissoles, stewed fowls, grilled fowl, chicken-pie, &c. &c. No ham, no bacon, and little tiny potatoes not larger than a cherry, with stewed cucumbers, and some sticky Indian vegetables, are handed round. But for the second course a great treat is reserved. Six or seven mutton-chops, each equal to one mouthful, are brought in, and with much ceremony placed at the top of the table; at the other end are slices of potatoes fried. Your hostess tells you how glad she was that Mr. So-and-so had sent her the loin of a Patna sheep to-day: she hoped we should like it. Then comes curried fowl and rice; then pine-apple pie, custard, jelly, plantain, oranges, pine-apples, &c. &c.; but directly these sweets appear, there appear also, behind the chairs of many of the gentlemen, servants carrying a little carpet, with a neat fringe to it. These they place at the back of their masters' chairs, on the floor, and then each servant brings in a large hookah, places it on the little carpet, and, whilst the ladies and others are eating the custards, pies, and fruits, you have all around you the incessant bubble from the hookah, and smell the filthy smoke from an abominable compound of tobacco and various noxious drugs.

The ladies rarely sit for above one glass of wine, when they retire and leave the smokers to themselves. Cigars are then produced for the use of the other gentlemen; and, after they have all smoked and drunk a little more wine than enough, they join the ladies. Then there is a little general talking, then a little music: then come cards—I never play—and then the good-byes, and so home to bed—a nightmare during one's sleep, and a headache in the morning! When alone, we always dine at four.