What a glad moment it is, to be sure, when the sick and seedy, the tired and testy invalid from pestiferous Scinde or pestilential Guzerat, "leaves all behind him" and scrambles over the sides of his Pattimar.
Ah! we forget. The gondola and barque are household words in your English ears, the budgerow is beginning to own an old familiar sound, but you are right--the "Pattimar" requires a definition. Will you be satisfied with a pure landsman's description of the article in question. We have lost our edition of "The Ship," and to own humbling truth, though we have spent many a weary month on the world of waters, we never could master the intricacies of blocks and braces, skylights and deadlights, starboards and larboards. But if we are to believe the general voice of the amphibious race, we terrestrial animals never fail to mangle the science of seamanship most barbarously. So we will not expose ourselves by pretension to the animadversions of any small nautical critic, but boldly talk of going "up-stairs" instead of "on deck," and unblushingly allude to the "behind" for the "aft" and the "front" instead of the "fore" of our conveyance.
But the Pattimar--
De suite: you shall pourtray it from our description. Sketch a very long boat, very high behind, and very low before, composed of innumerable bits of wood tied together with coir, or cocoanut rope, fitted up with a dark and musty little cabin, and supplied with two or three long poles intended as masts, which lean forward as if about to sink under the weight of the huge lateen sail. Fill up the outline with a penthouse of cadjans (as the leaves of that eternal cocoanut tree are called) to protect the bit of deck outside the cabin from the rays of a broiling sun. People the square space in the middle of the boat with two nags tethered and tied with halters and heel ropes, which sadly curtail the poor animals' enjoyment of kicking and biting; and half-a-dozen black "tars" engaged in pounding rice, concocting bilious-looking masses of curry, and keeping up a fire of some unknown wood, whose pungent smoke is certain to find its way through the cabin, and to terminate its wanderings in your eyes and nostrils. Finally, throw in about the same number of black domestics courting a watery death by balancing themselves over the sides of the vessel, or a fever by sleeping in a mummy case of dirty cotton cloth--
And you have a pattimar in your mind's eye.
Every one that has ever sailed in a pattimar can oblige you with a long list of pleasures peculiar to it. All know how by day your eyes are blinded with glare and heat, and how by night mosquitos, a trifle smaller than jack snipes, assault your defenceless limbs; how the musk rat defiles your property and provender; how the common rat and the cockchafer appear to relish the terminating leather of your fingers and toes; and, finally, how the impolite animal which the transatlantics delicately designate a "chintz," and its companion, the lesser abomination, do contribute to your general discomfort. Still these are transient evils, at least compared with the permanent satisfaction of having "passed the Medical Board"--a committee of ancient gentlemen who never will think you sufficiently near death to meet your wishes--of having escaped the endless doses of the garrison surgeon, who has probably, for six weeks, been bent upon trying the effects of the whole Materia Medica upon your internal and external man--of enduring the diurnal visitation of desperate duns who threaten the bailiff without remorse; and to crown the climax of your happiness, the delightful prospect of two quiet years, during which you may call life your own, lie in bed half or the whole day if you prefer it, and forget the very existence of such things as pipeclay and parade, the Court Martial and the Commander-in-chief. So if you are human, your heart bounds, and whatever its habits of grumbling may be, your tongue involuntarily owns that it is a joyful moment when you scramble over the side of your pattimar. And now, having convinced you of that fact, we will request you to walk up stairs with us, and sit upon the deck by our side, there to take one parting look at the boasted Bay of Bombay, before we bid adieu to it, with a free translation of the celebrated Frenchman's good bye, "Canards, canaux, canaille,"--adieu ducks, dingies, drabs, and duns. (1)
Gentlemen tourists, poetical authors, lady prosers, and, generally, all who late in life, visit the "palm tasselled strand of glowing Ind," as one of our European celebrities describes the country in prose run mad, certainly are gifted with wonderful optics for detecting the Sublime and Beautiful. Now this same bay has at divers and sundry times been subjected to much admiration; and as each succeeding traveller must improve upon his predecessors, the latest authorities have assigned to its charms a rank above the Bay of Naples--a bay which, in our humble opinion, places every other bay in a state of abeyance. At least so we understand Captain Von Orlich--the gentleman who concludes that the Belochees are of Jewish origin because they divorce their wives. To extract Bombay from the Bay of Naples, proceed thus. Remove Capri, Procida, Ischia, and the other little picturesque localities around them. Secondly, level Vesuvius and the rocky heights of St. Angelo with the ground. Thirdly, convert bright Naples, with its rows of white palazzi, its romantic-looking forts, its beautiful promenade, and charming background into a low, black, dirty part, et voici the magnificent Bombahia. (2) You may, it is true, attempt to get up a little romance about the "fairy caves" of Salsette and Elephanta, the tepid seas, the spicy breeze, and the ancient and classical name of Momba-devi.
But you'll fail.
Remember all we can see is a glowing vault of ultramarine-colour sky, paved with a glaring expanse of indigo-tinted water, with a few low hills lining the horizon, and a great many merchant ships anchored under the guns of what we said before, and now repeat, looks like a low, black, dirty port.
We know that you are taking a trip with us to the land flowing with rupees and gold mohurs--growing an eternal crop of Nabobs and Nawwabs (3)--showing a perpetual scene of beauty, pleasure and excitement.
But we can't allow you to hand your rouse-coloured specs, over to us. We have long ago superseded our original "greens" by a pair duly mounted with sober French grey glasses, and through these we look out upon the world as cheerily as our ophthalmic optics will permit us to do.
Now the last "nigger," in a manifest state of full-blown inebriation, has rolled into, and the latest dun, in a fit of diabolical exasperation, has rolled out of, our pattimar. So we will persuade the Tindal, as our Captain is called, to pull up his mud-hook, and apply his crew to the task of inducing the half acre of canvas intended for a sail to assume its proper place. Observe if you please, the Tindal swears by all the skulls of the god Shiva's necklace, that the wind is foul--the tide don't serve--his crew is absent--and the water not yet on board.
But as you are a "griff," and we wish to educate you in native peculiarities, just remark how that one small touch of our magic slipper upon the region of the head, and the use of that one little phrase "Suar ka Sala" (Anglice, "O brother-in-law of a hog!") has made the wind fair, the tide serve, the crew muster, and the water pots abound in water. And, furthermore, when you have got over your horror of seeing a "fellow-creature" so treated--and a "fellow subject" subjected to such operation, kindly observe that the Tindal has improved palpably in manner towards us;--indeed, to interpret his thoughts, he now feels convinced that we are an "Assal Sahib"--a real gentleman.
Evening is coming on, the sea-breeze (may it be increased!) is freshening fast, and Dan Phoebus has at last vouchsafed to make himself scarce. After watching his departure with satisfaction--with heartfelt satisfaction, we order our hookah up, less for the pleasure of puffing it, than for the purpose of showing you how our servant delights to wander through heaps of hay and straw, canvas, and coir rope, with that mass of ignited rice ball, rolling about on the top of our pipe. You are looking curiously at our culinary arrangements. Yes, dear sir, or madam, as the case may be, that dreadful looking man, habited in a pair of the dingiest inexpressibles only, excepting the thick cap on his furzy head--that is our cook. And we dare say you have been watching his operations. If not, you must know that he prepared for our repast by inserting his black claw into that hencoop, where a dozen of the leanest possible chickens have been engaged for some time in pecking the polls of one another's heads, and after a rapid examination of breast-bone, withdrew his fist full of one of the aforementioned lean chickens, shrieking in dismay. He then slew it, dipped the corpse in boiling water to loose the feathers, which he stripped off in masses, cut through its breast longitudinally, and with the aid of an iron plate, placed over a charcoal fire, proceeded to make a spatchcock, or as it is more popularly termed, a "sudden death." After this we can hardly expect the pleasure of your company at dinner to-day. But never mind! you will soon get over the feeling nolens, if not volens. Why, how many Scinde "Nabobs" have not eaten three hundred and sixty-five lean chickens in one year?
We will not be in any hurry to go to bed. In these latitudes, man lives only between the hours of seven P.M. and midnight. The breeze gives strength to smoke and converse; our languid minds almost feel disposed to admire the beauty of the moonlit sea, the serenity of the air, and the varying tints of the misty coast. Our lateen sail is doing its duty right well, as the splashing of the water and the broad stripe of phosphoric light eddying around and behind the rudder, prove. At this rate we shall make Goa in three days, if kindly fate only spare us the mortification of the morning calms which infest these regions. And we being "old hands" promise to keep a sharp look out upon the sable commander of the "Durrya Prashad" the "Joy of the Ocean," as his sweetheart of a pattimar is called. Something of the kind will be necessary to prevent his creeping along the shore for fear of squalls, or pulling down the sail to ensure an unbroken night's rest, or slackening speed so as not to get the voyage over too soon. As he is a Ilindoo we will place him under the surveillance of that grim looking bushy-bearded Moslem, who spends half his days in praying for the extermination of the infidel, and never retires to rest without graining over the degeneracy of the times, and sighing for the good old days of Islam, when the Faithful had nothing to do but to attack, thrash, rob, and murder, the Unfaithful.
Now the last hookah has gone out, and the most restless of our servants has turned in. The roof of the cabin is strewed with bodies anything but fragrant, indeed, we cannot help pitying the melancholy fate of poor Morpheus, who is traditionally supposed to encircle such sleepers with his soft arms. Could you believe it possible that through such a night as this they choose to sleep under those wadded cotton coverlets, and dread not instantaneous asphixiation? The only waker is that grisly old fellow with the long white mustachios flourishing over his copper coloured mouth like cotton in the jaws of a Moslem body. And even he nods as he sits perched at the helm with his half-closed eyes mechanically directed towards the binnacle, and its satire upon the mariner's compass, which had not shifted one degree these last two years. However there is little to fear here. The fellow knows every inch of shore, and can tell you to a foot what depth of water there is beneath us. So as this atmosphere of drowsiness begins to be infectious, we might as will retire below. Not into the cabin, if you please. The last trip the Durrya Prashad made was, we understand, for the purpose of conveying cotton to the Presidency. You may imagine the extent of dark population left to colonise her every corner. We are to sleep under the penthouse, as well as we may; our servants, you observe, have spread the mats of rushes--one of the much vaunted luxuries of the East--upon our humble couches, justly anticipating that we shall have a fair specimen of the night tropical. Before you "tumble in" pray recollect to see that the jars of cold water have been placed within reach, for we are certain to awake as soon after our first sleep as possible, suffering from the torments of Tantalus. And we should advise you to restore the socks you have just removed, that is to say, if you wish the mosquitos to leave you the use of your feet to-morrow.
The wish is certainly a benevolent one, but it sounds queer as a long grace emphatically prefixed to a "spread" of cold mutton or tough beefsteak, for which nothing under a special miracle could possibly make one "truly thankful." However, good night!
From Bombay southwards as far as Goa, the coast, (4) viewed from the sea, merits little admiration. It is an unbroken succession of gentle rises and slopes, and cannot evade the charge of dulness and uniformity. Every now and then some fort or rock juts out into the water breaking the line, but the distance we stand out from land prevents our distinguishing the features of its differing "lions," such as Severndroog "the Golden Fortress," Rutnageree "the Hill of Jewels," and the Burnt Islands (5), or Vingorla Rocks. The voyage, therefore, will be an uninteresting one--though at this season of the year, early spring, it will not be tedious.
The ancient Hindoos have a curious tradition concerning the formation and population of this coast. They believe that Parasu Rama, one of their demigods, after filling the earth with the blood of the offending Kshatriya, or regal and military caste, wished to perform an expiatory sacrifice. As, however, no Brahmin would attend, his demigodship found himself in rather an awkward predicament. At length, when sitting on the mountains of Concan (i.e. the Sayhadree Range, or Western Ghauts), he espied on the shore below, the putrefied corpses of fourteen Mlenchhas (any people not Hindoos), which had floated there borne by the tides from distant lands to the westward. Rama restored them to life, taught them religious knowledge, and, after converting them into Brahmins, performed his sacrifice. He afterwards, by means of his fiery darts, compelled Samudra, the Indian Neptune, to retire several miles from the food of the Ghauts, and allotted to his proteges the strip of land thus recovered from the sea. From these fourteen men sprang the Kukanastha or Concanese tribe of Maharattas, and the pious Hindoo still discovers in their lineaments, traces of a corpse-like expression of countenance inherited from their forefathers.
We remarked that it was a glad moment when we entered the pattimar. We will also observe that it was another when our sable Portuguese "butler," as he terms himself, ecstasied by his propinquity to home--sweet home, and forgetting respect and self-possession in an elan of patriotism, abruptly directed our vision towards the whitewashed farol, or lighthouse, which marks the north side of the entrance to the Goa creek. And now, as we glide rapidly in, we will take a short military coup d'oeil at the outward defences of the once celebrated Portuguese capital.
The hill, or steep, upon which the farol stands, is crowned with batteries, called the Castello de Agoada, as ships touch there to water. There are other works, a fleur d'eau, all round the point. These defences, however, are built of stone, without any embankments of earth, and suggest uncomfortable ideas of splinters. In fact, a few gun-boats would drive any number of men out of them in half an hour. The entrance of the creek is at least two miles broad, and the southern prong, the "Cabo de Convento," is occupied, as its name shows, by a monastery instead of a fort. Moreover, none but a native general would ever think of thrusting an invading force through the jaws of the bay, when it might land with perfect safety and convenience to itself a few miles to the north or south.
"What are we pulling up for?"
The Tindal informs us that we may expect a visit from the "Portingal Captain," who commands the Castello, for the purpose of ascertaining our rank, our wealth, and our object in visiting Goa. He warns us to conceal our sketch-book, and not to write too much; otherwise, that our ardour for science may lead us into trouble. But, mind, we laugh him to scorn; natives must have something mysterious to suspect, or expect, or affect.
But here comes the officer, after keeping us waiting a good hour. He is a rhubarb-coloured man, dressed in the shabby remains of a flashy uniform; his square inch of blackish brown mustachio, and expression of countenance, produce an appearance which we should pronounce decidedly valiant, did we not know that valour here seldom extends below or beyond the countenance. How respectfully our butler bows to him, and with what fellow-feeling the same valuable domestic grasps the hand of that orderly in shell jacket, but not in pantaloons, who composes the guard of his superior officer! Behold! he has a bundle of cigarettos, made of the blackest tobacco, rolled up in bits of plantain leaf; and he carries his "weeds" in a very primitive cigar-case, namely, the pouch formed by the junction of his huge flap of an ear, with the flat and stubby poll behind it. As the favourite narcotic goes round, no Portuguese refuses it. The Hindoos shake their heads politely and decliningly, the Moslems grimly and with a suspicion of a curse.
But we must summon our domestic to mediate between us and our visitor, who speaks nothing but most Maharatta-like Portuguese and Portuguese-like Maharatta.
We begin by offering him a glass of wine, and he inquires of Salvador, our acting interpreter,--"Why?" Being assured that such is the practice among the barbarous Anglo-Indians, he accepts it with a helpless look, and never attempts to conceal the contortions of countenance produced by the operation of a glass of Parsee sherry, fiery as their own divinity, upon a palate accustomed to tree-toddy and thin red wine. However, he appears perfectly satisfied with the inspection, and after volunteering an introductory epistle to one Ioaõ Thomas--i.e. John Thomas, a cicerone of Goanese celebrity--which we accept without the slightest intention of delivering, he kindly gives us permission to proceed, shakes our hand with a cold and clammy palm, which feels uncommonly like a snake, and with many polite bows to our servants, disappears over the side, followed by his suite. Whilst the anchor is being re-weighed, before we forget the appearance of the pair, we will commit them to the custody of the sketchbook.
The old lateen creeps creaking crankily up the mast once more, and the Durrya Prashad recommences to perambulate the waters as unlike a thing of life as can be imagined. Half an hour more will take us in. Perched upon the topmast angle of our penthouse, we strain our eyes in search of the tall buildings and crowded ways that denote a capital; we can see nought but a forest of lanky cocoa-nut trees, whose stems are apparently growing out of a multitude of small hovels.
Can this be Goa?
Rendered rabid by the query our patriotic domestic, sneering as much as he safely can, informs us that this is the village of Verim, that St. Agnes, and proceeds to display his store of topographical lore by naming or christening every dirty little mass of hut and white-washed spire that meets the eye.
Bus, Bus--enough in the name of topography! We will admire the view to-morrow morning when our minds are a little easier about John Thomas, a house, &c.
We turn the last corner which concealed from view the town of Panjim, or as others call it, the city of New Goa, and are at last satisfied that we are coming to something like a place. Suddenly the Tindal, and all his men, begin to chatter like a wilderness of provoked baboons; they are debating as to what part of the narrow creek which runs parallel with the town should be selected for anchor ground. Not with an eye to our comfort in landing, observe, but solely bearing in mind that they are to take in cargo to-morrow.
At length our apology for an anchor once more slides down the old side of the Durrya Prashad, and she swings lazily round with the ebb tide, like an elephant indulging in a solitary roll. It is dark, we can see nothing but a broken line of dim oil-lamps upon the quay, and hear nought save the unharmonious confusion of native music with native confabulation. Besides the wind that pours down the creek feels damp and chilly, teeming with unpleasant reminiscences of fever and ague. So after warning our domestics, that instant dismissal from the service will follow any attempt to land to-night, a necessary precaution if we wish to land to-morrow, we retire to pass the last of three long nights in slapping our face in the desperate hope of crushing mosquitos, dreaming of De Gama and Albuquerque, starting up every two hours with jaws glowing like those of a dark age dragon, scratching our legs and feet, preferring positive excoriation to the exquisite titillation produced by the perpetual perambulation, and occasional morsication (with many other -ations left to the reader's discrimination) of our nocturnal visitations, and in uttering emphatic ejaculations concerning the man with the rhinoceros hid and front of brass who invented and recommended to his kind the pattimar abomination.