Early in the morning, rudely roused by curiosity, we went on deck to inspect the celebrated view of the Rio de Goa.
The air was soft and fragrant, at the same time sufficiently cool to be comfortable. A thin mist rested upon the lower grounds and hovered half way up the hills, leaving their palm-clad summits clear to catch the silvery light of dawn. Most beautiful was the hazy tone of colour all around contrasted with the painfully vivid tints, and the sharp outlines of an Indian view seen a few hours after sunrise. The uniformity of the cocoa-nut groves, which at first glance appeared monotonous, gradually became tolerable. We could now remark that they were full of human habitations, and intersected by numbers of diminutive creeks. Close by lay Panji Panjim, Panjem or New Goa, with its large palace and little houses, still dark in the shadow of the hill behind it. As for Goa Velha (the Old Goa) we scarcely ventured to look towards it, such were our recollections of Tavernier, Dillon, and Amine Vanderdeeken, and so strong our conviction that a day at least must elapse before we could tread its classic ground. An occasional peep, however, discovered huge masses of masonry--some standing out from the cloudless sky, others lining the edge of the creek,--ruins of very picturesque form, and churches of most unpicturesque hue.
Precisely at six a.m. appeared Mr. John Thomas, whose aristocratic proper name, by the by, is the Señor Ioao Thomas de Sonza. After perpetrating a variety of congees in a style that admirably combined the Moorish salaam with the European bow, he informed us in execrable English that "he show de Goa to de Bombay gentlemens." We rapidly pass over the preliminary measures of securing a house with six rooms, kitchen, stable and back court, for fourteen shillings per mensem--a low rate of rent for which the owner was soundly rated by his compatriots, who have resolved that treble that sum is the minimum chargeable to Englishmen--of landing our bag and baggage, which were afterwards carried to our abode by coolies (6)--the primitive style of transportation universally used here,--and finally of disembarking our steeds by means of a pigmy crane, the manipulation of which called together a herd of admiring gazers.
Then the Señor began to take command. He obligingly allowed us to breakfast, but insisted upon our addressing a note to the aide-de-camp in waiting to ascertain the proper time for waiting upon his Excellency the Governor of Goa. This the Señor warned us was de rigueur, and he bade us be prepared to face the burning sun between eleven and twelve, such being the hour usually appointed. Then with our missive between his sable fingers he performed another ceremonious bow and departed for a while.
Just as the Señor disappeared, and we were preparing to indulge in our morning meal en deshabille, as best suits the climate, an uncomely face, grinning prodigiously, and surmounted by a scampish looking cap, introduced itself through the open window, and commenced a series of felicitations and compliments in high-flown Portuguese.
Who might our visitor be? A medical student, a poet, or a thief? Confused in mind, we could only look at him vacantly, with an occasional involuntary movement of the head, respondent to some gigantic word, as it gurgled convulsively out of his throat. He must have mistaken the sign for one of invitation, for, at the close of his last compliment to the British nation, he withdrew his head from the window, and deliberately walked in by the door, with the usual series of polite bows.
Once in the house, he seemed determined to make himself at home.
We looked up from our breakfast with much astonishment. Close to our elbow stood our new friend in the form of a tall ugly boy about seventeen, habited in a green cloth surtout, with plaited plaid unmentionables, broad-toed boots, and a peculiar appearance about the wrists, and intervals between the fingers, which make us shudder at the thought of extending to him the hand of fellowship. Rapidly deciding upon a plan of action, we assumed ignorance of the lingoa Baxa, (7) and pronounced with much ceremony in our vernacular.
"Whom have I the honour to address?"
Horror of horrors! Our visitor broke out in disjointed English, informed us that his name was the Señor Gaetano de Gama, son of the collector of Ribandar, and a lineal descendant from the Gran Capitao; that he had naturally a great admiration for the British, together with much compassion for friendless strangers; and finally, that he might be of the utmost use to us during our stay at Goa. Thereupon he sat down, and proceeded to make himself comfortable. He pulled a cigar out of our box, called for a glass of water, but preferred sherry, ate at least a dozen plantains, and washed down the sherry with a coffee-cup full of milk. We began to be amused.
"Have you breakfasted?"
Yes, he had. At Goa they generally do so betimes. However, for the sake of companionship he would lay down his cigar and join us. He was certainly a good trencher-companion, that young gentleman. Witness his prowess upon a plate of fish, a dish of curry, a curd cheese, a water melon, and half-a-dozen cups of cafe au lait. Then after settling the heterogeneous mass with a glass of our anisette, he re-applied himself to his cheroot.
We were in hopes that he had fallen into a state of torpor. By no means! The activity of his mind soon mastered the inertness of the flesh. Before the first few puffs had disappeared in the thin air, our friend arose, distinctly for the purpose of surveying the room. He walked slowly and calmly around it, varying that recreation by occasionally looking into our bed, inspecting a box or two, opening our books, addressing a few chance words to us, generally in the style interrogative, trying on our hat before the looking-glass, defiling our brushes and combs with his limp locks, redolent of rancid cocoa-but oil, and glancing with fearful meaning at our tooth-brushes.
Our amusement now began to assume the form of indignation. Would it be better to disappear into an inner room, send for Salvador to show our bete-noire the door, or lead him out by the ear? Whilst still deliberating, we observed with pleasure the tawny face of John Thomas.
The Señor Ioao Thomas de Sonza no sooner caught sight of the Señor Gaetano de Gama than his countenance donned an expression of high indignation, dashed with profound contempt; and the latter Señor almost simultaneously betrayed outward and visible signs of disappointment and considerable confusion. The ridiculous scene ended with the disappearance of the unsuccessful aspirant to ciceronic honours, a homily from John Thomas upon the danger of having anything to do with such rabble, and an injunction to Salvador never to admit the collector's son again.
"His Excellency the Governor General of all the Indies cannot have the exalted honour of receiving your Excellency this morning, on account of the sudden illness of Her Excellency the Lady of the Governor General of all the Indies; but the Governor General of all the Indies will be proud to receive your Excellency to-morrow--if Heaven be pleased!" said John Thomas, tempering dignity with piety.
Thank Goodness for the reprieve!
"So, if the measure be honoured with your Excellency's approval, we will now embark in a covered canoe, and your servant will have the felicity of pointing out from the sea the remarkable sites and buildings of New Goa; after which, a walk through our celebrated city will introduce your Excellency to the exteriors and interiors of its majestic edifices, its churches, its theatre, its hospital, its library, and its barracks."
A few minutes' rowing sufficed to bring our canoe to the centre of the creek, along side and in full view of the town. Around us lay the shipping, consisting of two or three vessels from Portugal and China, some score of native craft, such as pattimars, cottias, canoes, and bunderboats, with one sloop of war, composing the Goanese navy.
Panjim is situated upon a narrow ledge, between a hill to the south, and, on the north, the Rio de Goa, or arm of the sea, which stretches several miles from west to east. A quay of hewn stone, well built, but rather too narrow for ornament or use, lines the south bank of the stream, if we may so call it, which hereabouts is a little more than a quarter of a mile in breadth. The appearance of the town is strange to the Indian tourist. There are many respectable-looking houses, usually one story high, solidly constructed of stone and mortar, with roofs of red tile, and surrounded by large court-yards overgrown with cocoa-nut trees. Bungalows are at a discount; only the habitations of the poor consist solely of a ground floor. In general the walls are whitewashed,--an operation performed regularly once a year, after the Monsoon rains; and the result is a most offensive glare. Upon the eminence behind the town is a small telegraph, and half-way down the hill, the Igreja (church) de Conceicao, a plain and ill-built pile, as usual, beautifully situated. The edifices along the creek which catch the eye, are the Palacio, where the Governor resides, the Archbishop's Palace, the Contadorin or Accomptant's Office, and the Alfandega or Custom House. All of them are more remarkable for vastness than neatness of design.
"We will now row down the creek, and see the Aldeas or villages of St. Agnes and Verim," quoth our guide, pointing towards a scattered line of churches, villas, and cottages, half concealed from view by the towering trees, or thrown forward in clear relief by the green background.
To hear was to obey: though we anticipated little novelty. On landing we were surprise to find the shore so thickly inhabited. Handsome residences, orientally speaking, appeared here and there; a perfect network of footpaths ramified over the hills; in a word, every yard of ground bore traces of life and activity. Not that there was much to be seen at St. Agnes, with its huge, rambling old pile, formerly the archiepiscopal palace, or at Verim, a large village full of Hindoos, who retreat there to avoid the places selected for residence by the retired officers, employés of government, students and Christian landed proprietors.
"And now for a trip to the eastward!"
"What!" we exclaimed, "isn't the lionizing to stop here?"
"By no means," replied John Thomas, solemnly; "all English gentlemen visit Ribandar, Britona, and the Seminary of Chorao."
Ribandar is about two miles to the east of Panjim, and is connected with it by a long stone bridge, built by the viceroy Miguel de Noronha. It seems to be thriving upon the ruins of its neighbour, San Pedro or Panelly, an old village, laid waste by the devastator of Velha Goa--intermittent fever. From some distance we saw the noble palace, anciently inhabited by the archbishops, and the seat of the viceroys and governors, called the Casa de Polvora, from a neighbouring manufactory of gunpowder. Here, however, we became restive, and no persuasion could induce us to walk a mile in order to inspect the bare walls.
Being somewhat in dread of Britona, which appeared to be a second edition of St. Agnes and Verim, we compounded with John Thomas, and secured an exemption by consenting to visit and inspect the Seminary.
Choräo was formerly the noviciate place of the Jesuits. (8) It is an island opposite Ribandar, small and thinly populated, the climate being confessedly most unwholesome. We were informed that the director was sick and the rector suffering from fever. The pallid complexion of the resident pupils told a sad tale of malaria.
The building is an immense mass of chapels, cloisters, and apartments for the professors and students. There is little of the remarkable in it. The walls are ornamented with abominable frescoes and a few prints, illustrating the campaigns of Napoleon and Louis Quatorze. The crucifixes appear almost shocking. They are, generally speaking, wooden figures as large as life, painted with most livid and unnatural complexions, streaked with indigo-coloured veins, and striped with streams of blood. More offensive still are the representations of the Almighty, so common in Roman Catholic countries.
In the sacristy, we were shown some tolerable heads of apostles and saints. They were not exactly original Raphaels and Guidos, as our black friends declared, but still it was a pleasure to see good copies of excellent exemplars in India, the land of colored prints and lithographs of Cerito and Taglioni.
Ah! now we have finished our peregrinations.
"Yes," responded John Thomas; "your Excellency has now only to walk about and inspect the town of Panjim."
Accordingly we landed and proceeded to make our observations there.
That Panjim is a Christian town appears instantly from the multitude and variety of the filthy feeding hogs, that infest the streets. The pig here occupies the social position that he does in Ireland, only he is never eaten when his sucking days are past. Panjim loses much by close inspection. The streets are dusty and dirty, of a most disagreeable brick colour, and where they are paved, the pavement is old and bad. The doors and window-frames of almost all the houses are painted green, and none but the richest admit light through anything more civilized than oyster-shells. The balcony is a prominent feature, but it presents none of the gay scenes for which it is famous in Italy and Spain.
We could not help remarking the want of horse and carriages in the streets, and were informed that the whole place did not contain more than half a dozen vehicles. The popular conveyance is a kind of palanquin, composed of a light sofa, curtained with green wax cloth, and strung to a bamboo pole, which rests upon the two bearers' heads or shoulders. This is called a mancheel, and a most lugubrious-looking thing it is, forcibly reminding one of a cotlin covered with a green pall.
At length we arrived at the Barracks, a large building in the form of a an irregular square, fronting the Rio, and our British curiosity being roused by hearing that the celebrated old thief, Phonde Sawunt, (9) was living there under surveillance, we determined to visit that rebel on a small scale. His presence disgraces his fame; it is that of a wee, ugly, grey, thin, old and purblind Maharatta. He received us, however, with not a little dignity and independence of manner, motioned us to sit down with a military air, and entered upon a series of queries concerning the Court of Lahore, at that time the only power on whose exertions the agitators of India could base any hopes. Around the feeble, decrepit old man stood about a dozen stalworth sons, with naked shoulders, white cloths round their waists and topknots of hair, which the god Shiva himself might own with pride. They have private apartments in the barracks, full of wives and children, and consider themselves personages of no small importance; in which opinion they are, we believe, by no means singular. Their fellow-countrymen look upon them as heroes, and have embalmed, or attempted to embalm their breakjaw names in immortal song. They are, in fact, negro Robin Hoods and Dick Turpins--knights of the road and the waste it is true, but not accounted the less honourable for belonging to that celebrated order of chivalry. The real Maharatta is by nature a thorough-bred plundered, and will entitled to sing the Suliot ditty--
" ,"<Greek> (10)
with the slight variation of locality only. Besides, strange to say, amongst Orientals, they have a well-defined idea of what patriotism means, and can groan under the real or fancied wrongs of the "stranger" or the "Sassenach's" dominion as loudly and lustily as any Hibernian or Gael in the land.
We now leave Phonde Sawunt and the Barracks to thread our way through a numerous and disagreeable collection of yelping curs and officious boatmen.
"Would your Excellency prefer to visit the hospital, the churches of St. Sebastian and Conceicao, the jail, the library, the printing-house, and the bazaars now or to-morrow morning?"
"Neither now nor ever--thank you--we are going to the promenade."
After a few minutes' walk we came to the west end of Panjim, where lies a narrow scrap of seabeach appropriated to "constitutionals." On our way there we observed that the Goanese, with peculiar good taste, had erected seats wherever a pretty point de vue would be likely to make one stand and wish to sit awhile.
Had we expected a crowded corso, we should have been disappointed; half-a-dozen mancheels, two native officers on horseback, one carriage, and about a dozen promenaders, were moving lazily and listlessly down the lugubrious-looking strand.
Reader, has it ever been your unhappy fate to be cooped up in a wretched place called Pisa? If so, perhaps you recollect a certain drive to the Cascine--a long road, down whose dreary length run two parallel rows of dismal poplars, desolating to the eye, like mutes at a funeral. We mentally compared the Cascine drive and the Panjim corso, and the result of the comparison was, that we wished a very good evening to the Señor, and went home.
"Salvador, what is that terrible noise--are they slaughtering a pig--or murdering a boy?"
"Nothing," replied Salvador, "nothing whatever--some Christian beating his wife."
"Is that a common recreation?"
So we found out to our cost. First one gentleman chastised his spouse, then another, and then another. To judge by the ear, the fair ones did not receive the discipline with that patience, submission, and long-suffering which Eastern dames are most apocryphally believed to practise. In fact, if the truth must be told, a prodigious scuffling informed us that the game was being played with similar good will, and nearly equal vigour by both parties. The police at Goa never interfere with these little domesticalities; the residents, we suppose, lose the habit of hearing them, but the stranger finds them disagreeable. Therefore, we should strongly advise all future visitors to select some place of residence where they may escape the martial sounds that accompany such tours de force when displayed by the lords and ladies of the creation. On one occasion we were obliged to change our lodgings for others less exposed to the nuisance. Conceive inhabiting a snug corner of a locality devoted to the conversion of pig into pork!
"Sahib," exclaimed Salvador, "you had better go to bed, or retire into another room, for I see the Señor Gaetano coming here as fast as his legs can carry him."
"Very well," we whispered, slipping rapidly through the open door, "tell him we are out." And behind the wall we heard the message duly delivered.
But the Señor saw no reason in our being out why he should not make himself at home. He drew two chairs into the verandah, called for cigars and sherry, fanned himself with his dirty brown cotton pocket-handkerchief, and sat there patiently awaiting our return.
We did not forcibly eject that Señor. The fact is, memory began to be busily at work, and dim scenes of past times, happy days spent in our dear old distant native land were floating and flashing before our mental eye. Again we saw our neat little rooms at ----- College, Oxford, our omnipresent dun, Mr. Joye--what a name for a tailor!--comfortably ensconsed in the best arm-chair, with the best of our regalias in his mouth, and the best of our Port wine at his elbow, now warming his lean hands before the blazing coal fire--it was very near Christmas--now dreamily gazing at the ceiling as if £ s. d. were likely to drop through its plaster.
And where were we?
Echo cannot answer, so we must.
Standing in the coal-hole--an aperture in the wall of our bedchamber--whence seated upon a mass of coke, we could distinctly discern through the interstices of the door, Mr. Joye enjoying himself as above described.
Years of toil and travel and trouble had invested that coal-hole with the roseate hue which loves to linger over old faces and old past times; so we went quietly to bed, sacrificing at the shrine of Mnemosyne the sherry and the cheroots served to us, and the kick-out deserved by the Señor Gaetano de Gama, son of the Collector of Ribandar, and a lineal descendent of the Gran Capitaõ.