November 8

November 8, 1862

Snow going fast. A day more like May than November. Hear the regiment is on a vessel off shore waiting for something, I don't know what.

It has rained all day. Well, this is a great day in the States! Probably more depends on what it brings forth than any since Washington's time. As for myself, though, I have no fear but what all will come out right; am still in Vergennes, and have voted for Abraham Lincoln—my first vote. The city's vote is as follows:

Lincoln 310
McClellan 15

Good! This is as it should be.

November Eighth

History will record the events attending this capture as a most extraordinary lapse in the career of a civilized nation—an instance where statesmen and Jurisconsults  betrayed their country to administer to the passions of a mob. Edward Everett ... wrote for the newspapers, vindicating on principles of public law, the act of Captain Wilkes.

James M. Mason

 

The English Royal Mail steamer “Trent” held up by the Federal war-ship “San Jacinto” and the Confederate commissioners, Mason and Slidell, arrested, 1861

 

 

November 8, 1863

Sunday. On duty to-day as officer of the guard. Generally that is a light duty, but with these men it is not so much so. None of the men can read or write, and so the sergeant and corporal of each relief has to have the names of his relief repeated to him until he remembers them. Even then there are many mix-ups that have to be straightened out. The names are strange to me, and after writing them as they sound, I find it difficult to pronounce them.

I went the rounds during every relief, and never failed to find something out of joint. One at the Major's tent, whom I had taken extra pains to educate, I found taking his gun apart to see how it was made. Another had his shoes and stockings off and was walking his beat with bare feet. Another had taken off his accoutrements and piled them up at the end of his beat and was strutting back and forth with folded arms. The only thing to do is to call up a man who speaks both French and English and through him straighten the matter out.

November 8

November 8, 1872. (Friday ).--I have been turning over the "Stoics" again. Poor Louisa Siefert! [Footnote: Louise Siefert, a modern French poetess, died 1879. In addition to "Les Stoïques," she published "L'Année Républicaine," Paris 1869, and other works.] Ah! we play the stoic, and all the while the poisoned arrow in the side pierces and wounds, lethalis arundo. What is it that, like all passionate souls, she really craves for? Two things which are contradictory--glory and happiness. She adores two incompatibles--the Reformation and the Revolution, France and the contrary of France; her talent itself is a combination of two opposing qualities, inwardness and brilliancy, noisy display and lyrical charm. She dislocates the rhythm of her verse, while at the same time she has a sensitive ear for rhyme. She is always wavering between Valmore and Baudelaire, between Leconte de Lisle and Sainte-Beuve--that is to say, her taste is a bringing together of extremes. She herself has described it:

"Toujours extrême en mes désirs, Jadis, enfant joyeuse et folle, Souvent une seule parole Bouleversait tous mes plaisirs."

But what a fine instrument she possesses! what strength of soul! what wealth of imagination!

November 8

November 8, 1852.--Responsibility is my invisible nightmare. To suffer through one's own fault is a torment worthy of the lost, for so grief is envenomed by ridicule, and the worst ridicule of all, that which springs from shame of one's self. I have only force and energy wherewith to meet evils coming from outside; but an irreparable evil brought about by myself, a renunciation for life of my liberty, my peace of mind, the very thought of it is maddening--I expiate my privilege indeed. My privilege is to be spectator of my life drama, to be fully conscious of the tragi-comedy of my own destiny, and, more than that, to be in the secret of the tragi-comic itself, that is to say, to be unable to take my illusions seriously, to see myself, so to speak, from the theater on the stage, or to be like a man looking from beyond the tomb into existence. I feel myself forced to feign a particular interest in my individual part, while all the time I am living in the confidence of the poet who is playing with all these agents which seem so important, and knows all that they are ignorant of. It is a strange position, and one which becomes painful as soon as grief obliges me to betake myself once more to my own little rôle, binding me closely to it, and warning me that I am going too far in imagining myself, because of my conversations with the poet, dispensed from taking up again my modest part of valet in the piece. Shakespeare must have experienced this feeling often, and Hamlet, I think, must express it somewhere. It is a Doppelgängerei, quite German in character, and which explains the disgust with reality and the repugnance to public life, so common among the thinkers of Germany. There is, as it were, a degradation a gnostic fall, in thus folding one's wings and going back again into the vulgar shell of one's own individuality. Without grief, which is the string of this venturesome kite, man would soar too quickly and too high, and the chosen souls would be lost for the race, like balloons which, save for gravitation, would never return from the empyrean.

How, then, is one to recover courage enough for action? By striving to restore in one's self something of that unconsciousness, spontaneity, instinct, which reconciles us to earth and makes man useful and relatively happy.

By believing more practically in the providence which pardons and allows of reparation.

By accepting our human condition in a more simple and childlike spirit, fearing trouble less, calculating less, hoping more. For we decrease our responsibility, if we decrease our clearness of vision, and fear lessens with the lessening of responsibility.

By extracting a richer experience out of our losses and lessons.

Cuttack, November 8, 1843

ANECDOTES OF TIGERS.

I have just been called out to see an enormous Bengal tiger which some native huntsmen shot last night. It has been long prowling about between Cuttack and Chogga, and has carried off many unfortunate men. A party of us intended to go out and look for him next week. He was wounded first by a shot in the shoulder; the second ball went through his eye and killed him at once. It was a magnificent beast.

On the 9th a large leopard was brought in, and also a wild boar. The latter animal is excessively savage and very dangerous. The usual mode of hunting is on horseback, armed with long lances or spears. His strength is very great; he is much larger and longer than the English pig. When enraged his back becomes as much curved as that of the hyæna; indeed, it is a good deal so at all times. From the top of the head to the tail extends a thick mane of bristles, not hanging down like a horse's mane, but standing perfectly upright. I have a young one now in a sty, but the men are obliged to throw his food to him, as he flies at them directly they go within reach. The tusks of the wild boar grow to several inches in length. A friend of mine was out one day when a boar charged his horse; the brute made a spring at its hinder parts, cutting right and left, and both the hind legs of the steed were severed to the bone, and his master was obliged to dismount and shoot him.

This reminds me of another anecdote. Miss D., the sister of the doctor at Balasore, was out riding a short time since; a gentleman of her acquaintance was with her. They were moving slowly along, when suddenly they heard a crackling of the branches by the roadside, and the next instant an enormous tiger sprang into the middle of the lane, just in front of them. The horses appeared paralysed; they could not move, but stood trembling in every joint. The tiger turned round, glared upon them, opened his mouth wide, and gave that horrible ya a-a-a, then made a spring, bounded into the jungle on the other side, and disappeared.

The tiger which they brought in the other day measured ten feet six inches in length, and one foot two inches round his ankle. This species possesses enormous strength; a single blow from his paw is sufficient to crush a man's skull into one frightful mass.

The adjutant of the 8th Bengal Native Regiment told me of a case which he had seen. A tiger seized a large English bullock, tossed it over his shoulders, and then sprang at one bound over a fence several feet in height: so you may easily imagine that a wild tiger is not a very pleasant companion.

We had a sad loss the night before last. I have already mentioned our beautiful little antelope, which used to come and lie at my feet while I was writing. The other night I heard him give a faint scream, and hastened to see what was the matter; he had been bitten by a cobra, and was dead in ten minutes. Poor little fellow! I could have cried,—my wife did . I have seen many, but never knew one so tame before. I doubt whether any of the servants had dry eyes as its body was thrown into the river. The bite of the cobra causes the body to swell to a frightful size.

The other day my wife was walking in the garden, when a large cobra glided past her; she called some of the men, who soon killed it, but it was too large to put into a bottle. A gentleman, happening to call just then, asked me whether I had seen the poison. I said, "No." He took the head between his fingers and squeezed it in such a way as to open the mouth. In the upper jaw were two very large white fangs, corresponding as it were to our eye-teeth. As he squeezed with more force, a tiny drop of perfectly transparent colourless fluid issued through the point of each fang—these were drops of venom that pass into the wound. The gentleman who showed me this was a medical man, and he said that he would not for a lac of rupees have the half of one of those drops get into a cut in his finger.

Last June, when the weather was intensely hot, after we left Pooree, where we had resided for six weeks with Mr. and Mrs. B., I went to Chandapore, a delightful place on the sea-coast, about seven miles from Balasore. The thermometer was 105° in-doors at six o'clock in the evening. When I started from Cuttack the thermometer in my palkee stood at 126°. At Chandapore I was glad to put on a cloth coat and cloth trowsers. That is one great advantage in my station; I have almost every variety of climate, except extreme cold. Indeed, when the bishop asked me how I liked my station, I told him I would not change with any chaplain in India.

At Chandapore four of us one morning started for a walk over the sands. We took no shoes nor stockings, and had our trowsers tucked up to the knees. How we did laugh at eyeing ourselves! we were like a set of merry boys. Every now and then one of us would step upon a quicksand and sink down half up his legs, and have to scramble out. Then, as we ran along in the water about six or eight inches deep, we would suddenly see two or three sea-scorpions, and run away, or perhaps slip or stumble over a piece of rock, and then down we came, and all roared with laughter, and then the magistrate sang out,—

"There was an old man at Barbago,He lived upon nothing but sago;—Oh! how he did jump,When a doctor said, plump,'To a roast leg of mutton you may go.'"
SEA-SCORPIONS.

I caught a couple of the sea-scorpions; they do not sting, but cut with the edge of their tails, and it is said that the wound is incurable. They are covered with a hard shell.

RELIEF FUND.

There is a great deal of illness about now, although the weather is most delightful: the thermometer seldom above 80°; the morning quite chilly. I am very well; the only complaint I have is that of getting exceedingly fat. I think I have mentioned our relief fund. There are a number of poor Christians here who have lived by beggary, stealing, and all sorts of wretchedness. We are trying to induce them to work, and give them materials, and purchase at a high rate what they produce, and I quite hope our plan will succeed.

You would have laughed to have seen me to-day, surrounded by a crowd of half-black women, measuring out prints and calicoes for dresses, &c.; I being obliged to do it, as my wife was poorly. The things they make are to be given, as rewards, in our new Christian school.

The Villager

      "Venio nunc ad voluptates agricolarum, quibus ego" (like the
      Famine Commissioners) "incredibiliter delector."

[November 8, 1879.]

I missed two people at the Delhi Assemblage of 1877. All the gram-fed secretaries and most of the alcoholic chiefs were there; but the famine-haunted villager and the delirium-shattered, opium-eating Chinaman, who had to pay the bill, were not present.

I cannot understand why Viceroys and English newspapers call the Indian cultivator a "riot." He never amounts to a riot if you treat him properly. He may be a disorderly crowd sometimes; but that is only when you embody him in a police force or convert him into cavalry. The atomic disembodied villager has no notion of rioting, ça-ira  singing, or any of the tomfooleries of revolution. These pastimes are for men who are both idle and frivolous. When our villager wants to realise a political idea, he dies of famine. This has about it a certain air of seriousness. A man will not die of famine unless he be in earnest.

Lord Bacon's apothegm was that Eating maketh a full man ; and it would be better to give the starving cultivator Bacon than the report of that Commission (which we cannot name without tears and laughter) which goes to work on the assumption that writing maketh a full man —that to write over a certain area of paper will fill the collapsed cuticles of the agricultural class throughout India.

When [Sir Richard Temple] first started the idea of holding famines, I proposed that he should illustrate his project by stopping the pay and allowances of the Government of India for a month. But he did not listen to my proposal. People seldom listen to my proposals; and sometimes I think that this accounts for my constitutional melancholy.

You will ask, "What has all this talk of food and famine to do with the villager?" I reply, "Everything." Famine is the horizon of the Indian villager; insufficient food is the foreground. And this is the more extraordinary since the villager is surrounded by a dreamland of plenty. Everywhere you see fields flooded deep with millet and wheat. The village and its old trees have to climb on to a knoll to keep their feet out of the glorious poppy and the luscious sugar-cane. Sumptuous cream-coloured bullocks move sleepily about with an air of luxurious sloth; and sleek Brahmans utter their lazy prayers while bathing languidly in the water and sunshine of the tank. Even the buffaloes have nothing to do but float the livelong day deeply immersed in the bulrushes. Everything is steeped in repose. The bees murmur their idylls among the flowers; the doves moan their amorous complaints from the shady leafage of pipal trees; out of the cool recesses of wells the idle cooing of the pigeons ascends into the summer-laden air; the rainbow-fed chameleon slumbers on the branch; the enamelled beetle on the leaf; the little fish in the sparkling depths below; the radiant kingfisher, tremulous as sunlight, in mid-air; and the peacock, with furled glories, on the temple tower of the silent gods. Amid this easeful and luscious splendour the villager labours and starves.

Reams of hiccoughing platitudes lodged in the pigeon-holes of the Home Office by all the gentlemen clerks and gentlemen farmers of the world cannot mend this. While the Indian villager has to maintain the glorious phantasmagoria of an imperial policy, while he has to support legions of scarlet soldiers, golden chuprassies, purple politicals, and green commissions, he must remain the hunger-stricken, overdriven phantom he is.

      While the eagle of Thought rides the tempest in scorn,
      Who cares if the lightning is burning the corn?

If Old England is going to maintain her throne and her swagger in our vast Orient she ought to pay up like a—man, I was going to say; for, according to the old Sanscrit proverb, "You can get nothing for nothing, and deuced little for a halfpenny." These unpaid-for glories bring nothing but shame.

But even the poor Indian cultivator has his joys beneath the clouds of Revenue Boards and Famine Commissions. If we look closely at his life we may see a soft glory resting upon it. I am not Mr. Caird, and I do not intend entering into the technical details of agriculture—"Quid de utilitate loquar stercorandi?"—but I would say something of that sweetness which a close communion with earth and heaven must shed upon the silence of lonely labour in the fields. God is ever with the cultivator in all the manifold sights and sounds of this marvellous world of His. In that mysterious temple of the Dawn, in which we of noisy mess-rooms, heated courts, and dusty offices are infrequent worshippers, the peasant is a priest. There he offers up his hopes and fears for rain and sunshine; there he listens to the anthems of birds we rarely hear, and interprets auguries that for us have little meaning.

The beast of prey skulking back to his lair, the stag quenching his thirst ere retiring to the depths of the forest, the wedge of wild fowl flying with trumpet notes to some distant lake, the vulture hastening in heavy flight to the carrion that night has provided, the crane flapping to the shallows, and the jackal shuffling along to his shelter in the nullah, have each and all their portent to the initiated eye. Day, with its fierce glories, brings the throbbing silence of intense life, and under flickering shade, amid the soft pulsations of Nature, the cultivator lives his daydream. What there is of squalor, and drudgery, and carking care in his life melts into a brief oblivion, and he is a man in the presence of his God with the holy stillness of Nature brooding over him. With lengthening shadows comes labour and a re-awaking. The air is once more full of all sweet sounds, from the fine whistle of the kite, sailing with supreme dominion through the azure depths of air, to the stir and buzzing chatter of little birds and crickets among the leaves and grass. The egret has resumed his fishing in the tank where the rain is stored for the poppy and sugarcane fields, the sand-pipers bustle along the margin, or wheel in little silvery clouds over the bright waters, the gloomy cormorant sits alert on the stump of a dead date-tree, the little black divers hurry in and out of the weeds, and ever and anon shoot under the water in hot quest of some tiny fish; the whole machinery of life and death is in full play, and our villager shouts to his patient oxen and lives his life. Then gradual darkness, and food with homely joys, a little talk, a little tobacco, a few sad songs, and kindly sleep.

The villages are of immemorial antiquity; their names, their traditions, their hereditary offices have come down out of the dim past through countless generations. History sweeps over them with her trampling armies and her conquerors, her changing dynasties and her shifting laws—sweeps over them and leaves them unchanged.

The village is self-contained. It is a complete organism, protoplastic it may be, with the chlorophyll of age colouring its institutions, but none the less a perfect, living entity. It has within itself everything that its existence demands, and it has no ambition. The torment of frustrated hope and of supersession is unknown in the village. We who are always striving to roll our prospects and our office boxes up the hill to Simla may learn a lesson here:

      Sisyphus in vita quoque nobis ante oculos est
      Qui petere a populo fasces sævasque secures
      Imbibit et semper victus tristisque recedit.
      Nam petere imperium quod inanest nec datur umquam,
      Atque in eo semper durum sufferre laborem,
      Hoc est adverse nixantem trudere monte
      Saxum quod tamen e summojam vertice rusum
      Volvitur et plani raptim petit sequora campi.

In this idyllic existence, in which, as I have said, there is no ambition, several other ills are also wanting. There is, for instance, no News in the village. The village is without the pale of intelligence. This must indeed be bliss. Just fancy, dear Vanity, a state of existence in which there are no politics, no discoveries, no travels, no speculations, no Garnet Wolseleys, no Gladstones, no Captain Careys, no Sarah Bernhardts! If there be a heaven upon earth, it is surely here. Here no Press Commissioner sits on the hillside croaking dreary translations from the St. Petersburg press; here no Pioneer  sings catches with Sir John Strachey in Council. But here the lark sings in heaven for evermore, the sweet corn grows below, and the villager, amid these quiet joys with which the earth fills her lap, dreams his low life.—ALI BABA, K.C.B.