Chapter V. Return to Panjim

Once more the canoe received us under its canopy, and the boatmen's oars, plunging into the blue wave, sounded an adieu to old Goa. After the last long look, with which the departing vagrant contemplates a spot where he has spent a happy day or two, we mentally reverted to the adventure of the Latin professor, and made all preparations for hearing it to the end.

"Well, Sahib," resumed Salvador, "I told you that my master's known skill in such matters was at first baffled by the professor's bashfulness, and the presence of a grim-looking sister. But he was not a man to be daunted by difficulties: in fact, he became only the more ardent in the pursuit. By dint of labour and perseverance, he succeeded in bringing the lady to look at him, and being rather a comely gentleman, that was a considerable point gained. Presently her eternal blushings gave way, though occasionally one would pass over her fair face when my master's eyes lingered a little too long there: the next step in advance was the selection of an aged sister, who, being half blind with conning over her breviary, and deaf as a dead donkey, made a very suitable escort."

"Pray, how did you learn all these particulars?"

"Ah, Sahib," replied Salvador, "my master became communicative enough when he wanted my services, and during the trip which we afterwards made down the coast.

"I was now put forward in the plot. After two days spent in lecturing me as carefully as a young girl is primed for her first confession, I was sent up to the nunnery with a bundle of lies upon my tongue, and a fatal necessity for telling them under pain of many kicks. I did it, but my repentance has been sincere, so may the Virgin forgive me!" ejaculated Salvador, with fervent piety, crossing himself at the same time.

"And, Sahib, I also carried a present of some Cognac--called European medicine--to the prioress, and sundry similar little gifts to the other officials, not excepting the Latin professor. To her, I presented a nosegay, containing a little pink note, whose corner just peeped out of the chambeli blossoms. (27) With fear and trembling I delivered it, and was overjoyed to see her presently slip out of the room. She returned in time to hear me tell the prioress that my master was too ill to wait upon them that day, and by the young nun's earnest look as she awaited my answer to the superior's question concerning the nature of the complaint, I concluded that the poor thing was in a fair way for perdition. My reply relieved their anxiety. Immediately afterwards their curiosity came into play. A thousand questions poured down upon me, like the pitiless pelting of a monsoon rain. My master's birth, parentage, education, profession, travels, rank, age, fortune, religion, and prospects, were demanded and redemanded, answered and re-answered, till my brain felt tired. According to instructions, I enlarged upon his gallantry in action, his chastity and temperance, his love for his sister, and his sincere devotion to the Roman Catholic faith."

"A pretty specimen of a rascal you proved yourself, then!"

"What could I do, Sahib ?" said Salvador, with a hopeless shrug of the shoulders, and an expression of profound melancholy. "My master never failed to find out a secret, and had I deceived him--"

"Well!"

"My allusion to the sister provoked another outburst of inquisitiveness. On this subject, also, I satisfied them by a delightful description of the dear little creature, whose beauty attracted, juvenile piety edified, and large fortune enchanted every one. The eyes of the old prioress glistened from behind her huge cheeks, as I dwelt upon the latter part of the theme especially: but I remarked the Latin professor was so little interested by it, that she had left the room. When she returned, a book, bound in dirty white parchment, with some huge letters painted on the back of the binding, was handed over to me for transmission to my master; who, it appears, had been very anxious to edify his mind by perusing the life of the holy Saint Augustine.

"After at least three hours spent in perpetual conversation, and the occasional discussion of mango cheese, I was allowed to depart, laden with messages, amidst a shower of benedictions upon my master's head, prayers for his instant recovery, and anticipations of much pleasure in meeting him.

"I should talk till we got to Calicut, Sahib, if I were to detail to you the adventures of the ensuing fortnight. My master passed two nights in the cloisters--not praying, I suppose; the days he spent in conversation with the prioress and subprioress, two holy personages who looked rather like Guzerad apes than mortal women. At the end of the third week a swift-sailing pattimar made its appearance.

"I was present when my master took leave of the Superior, and an affecting sight it was; the fervour with which he kissed the hand of his 'second mother,' his 'own dear sister's future protectress.' How often he promised to return from Bombay, immediately that the necessary preparations were made! how carefully he noted down the many little commissions entrusted to him! And, how naturally his eyes moistened as, receiving the benediction, he withdrew from the presence of the reverend ladies!

"But that same pattimar was never intended for Bombay; I knew that!

"My master and I immediately packed up everything. Before sunset all the baggage and servants were sent on board, with the exception of myself, who was ordered to sit under the trees on the side of the wharf, and an Affghan scoundrel, who went out walking with the Sahib about eleven o'clock that night. The two started, in native dresses, with their turbans concealing all but the parts about their eyes; both carried naked knives, long and bright enough to make one shake with fear, tucked under their arms, with dark lanterns in their hands. My master's face--as usual when he went upon such expeditions--was blackened, and with all respect, speaking in your presence, I never saw an English gentleman look more like a Mussulman thief!"

"But why make such preparations against a house full of unprotected women?"

"Because, Sahib," replied Salvador, "at night there are always some men about the nunnery. The knives, however, were only in case of an accident; for, as I afterwards learned, the Latin professor had mixed up a little datura (28) seed with the tobacco served out to the guards that evening.

"A little after midnight I felt a kick, and awoke. Two men hurried me on board the pattimar, which had weighed anchor as the clock struck twelve. Putting out her sweeps she glided down the Rio swiftly and noiselessly.

"When the drowsiness of sleep left my eyelids I observed that the two men were my master and that ruffian Khudadad. I dared not, however, ask any questions, as they both looked fierce as wounded tigers, though the Sahib could not help occasionally showing a kind of smile. They went to the head of the boat, and engaged in deep conversation, through the medium of some tongue to me unknown; and it was not before we had passed under the guns of the Castello, and were dancing merrily over the blue water, that my officer retired to his bed.

"And what became of the Latin professor?"

"The Sahib shall hear presently. In the morning I was called up for examination, but my innocence bore me through that trial safely. My master naturally enough suspected me of having played him some trick. The impression, however, soon wore off, and I was favoured with the following detail of his night's adventure.

"Exactly as the bell struck twelve, my Sahib and his cut-throat had taken their stand outside the little door leading into the back-garden. According to agreement previously made, one of them began to bark like a jackal, while the other responded regularly with the barking of a watch-dog. After some minutes spent in this exercise they carefully opened the door with a false key, stole through the cloisters, having previously forced the lock of the grating with their daggers, and made their way towards the room where the Latin professor slept. But my master, in the hurry of the moment, took the wrong turning, and found himself in the chamber of the sub-prioress, whose sleeping form was instantly raised, embraced, and borne off in triumph by the exulting Khudadad.

"My officer lingered for a few minutes to ascertain that all was right, he then crept out of the room, closed the door outside, passed through the garden, carefully locked the gate, whose key he threw away, and ran towards the place where he had appointed to meet Khudadad, and his lovely burthen. But imagine his horror and disgust when, instead of the expected large black eyes and the pretty little rosebud of a mouth, a pair of rolling yellow balls glared fearfully in his face, and two big black lips, at first shut with terror, began to shout and scream and abuse him with all their might.

"'Khudadad, we have eaten filth,' said my master, 'how are we to lay this she-devil?'

"'Cut her throat?' replied the ruffian.

"'No, that won't do. Pinion her arms, gag her with your handkerchief and leave her--we must be off instantly.'

"So they came on board, and we set sail as I recounted to your honour."

"But why didn't your master, when he found out his mistake, return for the Latin professor?"

"Have I not told the Sahib that the key of the garden-gate had been thrown away, the walls cannot be scaled, and all the doors are bolted and barred every night as carefully as if a thousand prisoners were behind them?"

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The population of Goa is composed of three heterogeneous elements, namely, pure Portuguese. black Christians, and the heathenry. A short description of each order will, perhaps, be acceptable to, the reader.

The European portion of Goanese society may be subdivided into two distinct parts--the officials, who visit India on their tour of service, and the white families settled in the country. The formcr must leave Portugal for three years; and if in the army get a step by so doing. At the same time as,

unlike ourselves, they derive no increase of pay from the expatriation, their return home is looked forward to with great impatience. Their existence in the East must be one of endurance. They complain bitterly of their want of friends, the disagreeable state of society, and the dull stagnant life they are compelled to lead. They despise their dark brethren, and consider them uncouth in manner, destitute of usage in society, and deficient in honour, courage, (29) and manliness. The despised retort by asserting that the white Portuguese are licentious, ill-informed, haughty, and reserved. No better proof of how utterly the attempt to promote cordiality between the European and the Asiatic by a system of intermarriage and equality of rights has failed in practice can be adduced, than the utter contempt in which the former holds the latter at Goa. No Anglo-Indian Nabob sixty years ago ever thought less of a "nigger" than a Portuguese officer now does. But as there is perfect equality, political (30) as well as social, between the two colours, the "whites," though reduced to the level of the herd, hold aloof from it; and the "blacks" feel able to associate with those who despise them but do so rarely and unwillingly. Few open signs of dislike appear to the unpractised observer in the hollow politeness always paraded whenever the two parties meet; but when a Portuguese gentleman becomes sufficiently intimate with a stranger to be communicative, his first political diatribe is directed against his dark fellow-subjects. We were assured by a high authority that the native members of a court-martial, if preponderating, would certainly find a European guilty, whether rightly or wrongly, n'importe. The same gentleman, when asked which method of dealing with the natives he preferred, Albuquerque's or that of Leadenhall Street, unhesitatingly replied, "the latter, as it is better to keep one's enemies out of doors." How like the remark made to Sir A. Burnes by Runjeet Singh, the crafty old politician of Northern India.

The reader may remember that it was Albuquerque (31) who advocated marriages between the European settlers and the natives of India. However reasonable it might have been to expect the amalgamation of the races in the persons of their descendants, experience and stern facts condemn the measure as a most delusive and treacherous political day dream. It has lost the Portuguese almost everything in Africa as well as Asia. May Heaven preserve our rulers from following their example! In our humble opinion, to tolerate it is far too liberal a measure to be a safe one.

The white families settled in the country were formerly called Castissos to distinguish them from Reinols. In appearance there is little difference between them; the former are somewhat less robust than the latter, but both are equally pallid and sickly-looking-- they dress alike, and allow the beard and mustachios (32) to grow. This colonist class is neither a numerous nor an influential one. As soon as intermarriage with the older settlers takes place the descendants become Mestici--in plain English, mongrels. The flattering term is occasionally applied to a white family which has been settled in the country for more than one generation, "for although," say, the Goaanese, "there is no mixture of blood, still there has been one of air or climate, which comes to the same thing." Owing to want of means, the expense of passage, and the unsettled state of the home country, children are very seldom sent to Portugal for education. They presently degenerate, from the slow but sure effects of a debilitating climate, and its concomitant evils, inertness, and want of excitement, Habituated from infancy to utter idleness, and reared up to consider the far niente their summum bonum, they have neither the will nor the power of active exertion in after years.

There is little wealth among the classes above described. Rich families are rare, landed property is by no means valuable; salaries small; (33) and in so cheap a country as Goa anything beyond 200l or 300l a-year would be useless. Entertainments are not common; a ball every six months at Government House, a few dinner parties, and an occasional soirée or nautch, make up the list of gaieties. In the different little villages where the government employés reside, once a week there is quadrilling and waltzing, à l'antique, some flirting, and a great deal of smoking in the verandah with the ladies, who are, generally speaking, European. Gambling is uncommon; high play unknown. The theatre is closed as if never to open again. No serenades float upon the evening gale, the guitarra hangs dusty and worm-eaten against the wall, and the cicisbeo is known only by name. Intrigue does not show itself so flauntingly as in Italy, and other parts of Southern Europe. Scandal, however, is as plentiful as it always is in a limited circle of idle society. The stranger who visits Goa, persuaded that he is to meet with the freedom of manners and love of pleasure which distinguish the people of the Continent, will find himself grievously mistaken. The priesthood is numerous, and still influential, if not powerful. The fair sex has not much liberty here, and their natural protectors are jealous as jailers.

The ancient Portuguese costume de dame, a plain linen cap, long white waistcoat, with ponderous rosary slung over it, thick striped and coloured petticoat, and, out of doors, a huge white, yellow, blue, or black calico sheet, muffling the whole figure--is now confined to the poor--the ladies dress according to the Parisian fashions. As, however, steamers and the overland route have hitherto done little for Goa, there is considerable grotesqueness to be observed in the garments of the higher as well as the lower orders. The usual mode of life among the higher orders is as follows: They rise early, take a cold bath, and make a light breakfast at some time between seven and nine. This is followed by a dinner, usually at two; it is a heavy meal of bread, meat, soup, fish, sweetmeats, and fruits, all served up at the same time, in admirable confusion. There are two descriptions of wine, in general use; the tinto and branco, (34) both imported from Portugal. About five in the evening some take tea and biscuits, after awaking from the siesta and bathing; a stroll at sunset is then indulged in, and the day concludes with a supper of fish, rice, and curry. Considering the little exercise in vogue, the quantity of food consumed is wonderful. The Goanese smoke all day, ladies as well as gentlemen; but cheroots, cigars, and the hookah are too expensive to be common. A pinch of Virginia or Maryland, uncomfortably wrapped up in a dried plantain leaf, and called a cannundo, is here the poor succedaneum for the charming little cigarita of Spain. The talented author of a "Peep at Polynesian Life" assures us, that, "strange as it may seem, there is nothing in which a young and beautiful female appears to more advantage than in the act of smoking." We are positive that nothing is more shocking than to see a Goanese lady handling her biree, (35) except to hear the peculiarly elaborate way in which she ejects saliva when enjoying her weed.

The reader who knows anything of India will at once perceive the difference between English and Portuguese life in the East. The former is stormy from perpetual motion, the latter stagnant with long-continued repose. Our eternal "knocking about" tells upon us sooner or later. A Portuguese lieutenant is often greyheaded before he gets his company; whereas some of our captains have scarcely a hair upon their chins. But the former eats much and drinks little, smokes a pinch of tobacco instead of Manillas, marries early, has a good roof over his head, and, above all things, knows not what marching and counter-marching mean. He never rides, seldom shoots, cannot hunt, and ignores mess tiffins and guest nights. No wonder that he neither receives nor gives promotion.

An entertainment at the house of a Goanese noble presents a curious contrast to the semi-barbarous magnificence of our Anglo-Indian "doings." In the one as much money as possible is lavished in the worst way imaginable; the other makes all the display which taste, economy, and regard for effect combined produce. The balls given at the palace are, probably, the prettiest sights of the kind in Western India. There is a variety of costumes, which if not individually admirable, make up an effective tout ensemble; even the dark faces, in uniforms and ball dresses, tend to variegate and diversify the scene. The bands are better than the generality of our military musicians, European as well as Native, and the dancing, such as it is, much more spirited. For the profusion of refreshments,--the ices, champagne, and second suppers, which render a Bombay ball so pernicious a thing in more ways than one, here we look in vain.

The dinner parties resemble the other entertainments in economy and taste; the table is decorated, as in Italy, with handsome China vases, containing bouquets, fruits, and sweetmeats, which remain there all the time. Amongst the higher classes the cookery is all in the modified French style common to the South of Europe. The wines are the white and red vins ordinaires of Portugal; sometimes a bottle of port, or a little bitter beer from Bombay, are placed upon the table. The great annoyance of every grand dinner is the long succession of speeches which concludes it. A most wearisome recreation it is, certainly, when people have nothing to do but to propose each other's healths in long orations, garnished with as many facetious or flattering platitudes as possible. After each speech all rise up, and with loud "vivas" wave their glasses, and drain a few drops in honour of the accomplished caballero last lauded. The language used is Portuguese; on the rare occasions when the person addressed or alluded to is a stranger, then, probably, Lusitanian French will make its appearance. We modestly suggest to any reader who may find himself in such predicament the advisability of imitating our example.

On one occasion after enduring half an hour's encomium delivered in a semi-intelligible dialect of Parisian, we rose to return thanks, and for that purpose selecting the English language, we launched into that inexhaustible theme for declamation, the glories of the Portuguese eastern empire, beginning at De Gama, and ending with his Excellency the Governor-General of all the Indies, who was sitting hard by. It is needless to say that our oratory excited much admiration, the more, perhaps, as no one understood it. The happiest results ensued--during our stay at Goa, we never were urged to address the company again.