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Himalayan Journals or Notes of A Naturalist Index      Next Chapter III

 

Chapter II

Doomree — Vegetation of table-land — Lieutenant Beadle — Birds — Hot springs of Soorujkoond — Plants near them — Shells in them — Cholera-tree — Olibanum — Palms, form of — Dunwah Pass — Trees, native and planted — Wild peacock — Poppy fields — Geography and geology of Behar and Central India — Toddy-palm — Ground, temperature of — Barroon — Temperature of plants — Lizard — Cross the Soane — Sand, ripple marks on — Kymore hills — Ground, temperature of — Limestone — Rotas fort and palace — Nitrate of lime — Change of climate — Lime stalagmites, enclosing leaves — Fall of Soane — Spiders, etc. — Scenery and natural history of upper Soane valley — Hardwickia binata — Bhel fruit — Dust-storm — Alligator — Catechu — Cochlospermum — Leaf-bellows — Scorpions — Tortoises — Florican — Limestone spheres — Coles — Tiger-hunt — Robbery.


 

In the evening we returned to our tamarind tree, and the next morning regained the trunk road, following it to the dawk bungalow of Doomree. On the way I found the Cæsalpinia paniculuta, a magnificent climber, festooning the trues with its dark glossy foliage and gorgeous racemes of orange blossoms. Receding from the mountain, the country again became barren: at Doomree the hills were of crystalline rocks, chiefly quartz and gneiss; no palms or large trees of any kind appeared. The spear-grass abounded, and a detestable nuisance it was, its long awns and husked seed working through trowsers and stockings.

Balanites was not uncommon, forming a low thorny bush, with Ægle marmelos and Feronia elephantum. Having rested the tired elephant, we pushed on in the evening to the next stage, Baghoda, arriving there at 3 a.m., and after a few hours’ rest, I walked to the


 

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bungalow of Lieutenant Beadle, the surveyor of roads, sixteen miles further.

The country around Baghoda is still very barren, but improves considerably in going westward, the ground becoming hilly, and the road winding through prettily wooded vallies, and rising gradually to 1,446 feet. Nauclea cordifolia, a tree resembling a young sycamore, is very common; with the Semul (Bombax), a very striking tree from its buttressed trunk and gaudy scarlet flowers, swarming with birds, which feed from its honeyed blossoms.

At 10 a.m. the sun became uncomfortably hot, the thermometer being 77°, and the black-bulb thermometer 137°. I had lost my hat, and possessed no substitute but a silken nightcap; so I had to tie a handkerchief over my head, to the astonishment of the passers-by. Holding my head down, I had little source of amusement but reading the foot-marks on the road; and these were strangely diversified to an English eye. Those of the elephant, camel, buffalo and bullock, horse, ass, pony, dog, goat, sheep and kid, lizard, wild-cat and pigeon, with men, women, and children’s feet, naked and shod, were all recognisable.

It was noon ere I arrived at Lieutenant Beadle’s, at Belcuppee (alt. 1,219 feet), glad enough of the hearty welcome I received, being very hot, dusty, and hungry. The country about his bungalow is very pretty, from the number of wooded hills and large trees, especially of banyan and peepul, noble oak-like Mahowa (Bassia), Nauclea, Mango, and Ficus infectoria. These are all scattered, however, and do not form forest, such as in a stunted form clothes the hills, consisting of Diospyros, Terminalia, Gmelina, Nauclea parvifolia, Buchanania, etc. The rocks are still hornblende-schist and granite, with a


 

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covering of alluvium, full of quartz pebbles. Insects and birds are numerous, the latter consisting of jays, crows, doves, sparrows, and maina (Pastor); also the Phœnicophaus tristis (“Mahoka” of the natives), with a note like that of the English cuckoo, as heard late in the season. I remained two days with Lieutenant Beadle, enjoying in his society several excursions to the hot springs, etc. These springs (called Soorujkoond) are situated close to the road, near the mouth of a valley, in a remarkably pretty spot. They are, of course, objects of worship; and a ruined temple stands close behind them, with three very conspicuous trees—a peepul, a banyan, and a white, thick-stemmed, leafless Sterculia, whose branches bore dense clusters of greenish fœtid flowers. The hot springs are four in number, and rise in as many ruined brick tanks about two yards across. Another tank, fed by a cold spring, about twice that size, flows between two of the hot, only two or three paces distant from one of the latter on either hand. All burst through the gneiss rocks, meet in one stream after a few yards, and are conducted by bricked canals to a pool of cold water, about eighty yards off.

The temperatures of the hot springs were respectively 169°, 170°, 173°, and 190°; of the cold, 84° at 4 p.m., and 75° at 7 a.m. the following morning. The hottest is the middle of the five. The water of the cold spring is sweet but not good, and emits gaseous bubbles; it was covered with a green floating Conferva. Of the four hot springs, the most copious is about three feet deep, bubbles constantly, boils eggs, and though brilliantly clear, has an exceedingly nauseous taste. This and the other warm ones cover the bricks and surrounding rocks with a thick incrustation of salts.

Confervæ abound in the warm stream from the springs,


 

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and two species, one ochreous brown, and the other green, occur on the margins of the tanks themselves, and in the hottest water; the brown is the best Salamander, and forms a belt in deeper water than the green; both appear in broad luxuriant strata, wherever the temp. is cooled down to 168°, and as low as 90°. Of flowering plants, three showed in an eminent degree a constitution capable of resisting the heat, if not a predilection for it; these were all Cyperaceæ, a Cyperus and an Eleocharis, having their roots in water of 100°, and where they are probably exposed to greater heat, and a Fimbristylis at 98°; all were very luxuriant. From the edges of the four hot springs I gathered sixteen species of flowering plants, and from the cold tank five, which did not grow in the hot. A water-beetle, Colymbetes(?) and Notonecta, abounded in water at 112°, with quantities of dead shells; frogs were very lively, with live shells, at 90°, and with various other water beetles. Having no means of detecting the salts of this water, I bottled some for future analysis.*

On the following day I botanized in the neighbourhood, with but poor success. An oblique-leaved fig climbs the other trees, and generally strangles them: two epiphytal Orchideæ also occur on the latter, Vanda Roxburghii and an Oberonia. Dodders (Cuscuta) of two species, and Cassytha, swarm over and conceal the bushes with their yellow thread-like stems.

I left Belcuppee on the 8th of February, following Mr. Williams’ camp. The morning was clear and cold, the temperature only 56°. We crossed the nearly dry broad bed of the Burkutta river, a noble stream during the rains, carrying along huge boulders of granite and gneiss. Near this I passed the Cholera-tree, a famous peepul by

* For an account of the Confervæ, and of the mineral constituents of the waters, etc. see Appendix B.


 

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the road side, so called from a detachment of infantry having been attacked and decimated at the spot by that fell disease; it is covered with inscriptions and votive tokens in the shape of rags, etc. We continued to ascend to 1,360 feet, where I came upon a small forest of the Indian Olibanum (Boswellia thurifera), conspicuous from its pale bark, and spreading curved branches, leafy at their tips; its general appearance is a good deal like that of the mountain ash. The gum, celebrated throughout the East, was flowing abundantly from the trunk, very fragrant and transparent. The ground was dry, sterile, and rocky; kunker, the curious formation mentioned at p. 12, appears in the alluvium, which I had not elsewhere seen at this elevation.

Descending to the village of Burshoot, we lost sight of the Boswellia, and came upon a magnificent tope of mango, banyan, and peepul, so far superior to anything hitherto met with, that we were glad to choose such a pleasant halting-place for breakfast. There are a few lofty fan-palms here too, great rarities in this soil and elevation: one, about eighty feet high, towered above some wretched hovels, displaying the curious proportions of this tribe of palms: first, a short cone, tapering to one-third the height of the stem, the trunk then swelling to two-thirds, and again tapering to the crown. Beyond this, the country again ascends to Burree (alt. 1,169 feet), another dawk bungalow, a barren place, which we left on the following morning.

So little was there to observe, that I again amused myself by watching footsteps, the precision of which in the sandy soil was curious. Looking down from the elephant, I was interested by seeing them all in relief, instead of depressed, the slanting rays of the sun in front producing


 

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this kind of mirage. Before us rose no more of those wooded hills that had been our companions for the last 120 miles, the absence of which was a sign of the nearly approaching termination of the great hilly plateau we had been traversing for that distance.

Chorparun, at the top of the Dunwah pass, is situated on an extended barren flat, 1,320 feet above the sea, and from it the descent from the table-land to the level of the Soane valley, a little above that of the Ganges at Patna, is very sudden. The road is carried zizgag down a rugged hill of gneiss, with a descent of nearly 1000 feet in six miles, of which 600 are exceedingly steep. The pass is well wooded, with abundance of bamboo, Bombax, Cassia, Acacia, and Butea, with Calotropis, the purple Mudar, a very handsome road-side plant, which I had not seen before, but which, with the Argemone Mexicana, was to be a companion for hundreds of miles farther. All the views in the pass are very picturesque, though wanting in good foliage, such as Ficus would afford, of which I did not see one tree. Indeed the rarity of the genus (except F. infectoria) in the native woods of these hills, is very remarkable. The banyan and peepul always appear to be planted, as do the tamarind and mango.

Dunwah, at the foot of the pass, is 620 feet above the sea, and nearly 1000 below the mean level of the highland I had been traversing. Every thing bears here a better aspect; the woods at the foot of the hills afforded many plants; the bamboo (B. stricta) is green instead of yellow and white; a little castor-oil is cultivated, and the Indian date (low and stunted) appears about the cottages.

In the woods I heard and saw the wild peacock for the first time. Its voice is not to be distinguished from that of the tame bird in England, a curious instance of the


 

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perpetuation of character under widely different circumstances, for the crow of the wild jungle-fowl does not rival that of the farm-yard cock.

In the evening we left Dunwah for Barah (alt. 480 feet), passing over very barren soil, covered with low jungle, the original woods having apparently been cut for fuel. Our elephant, a timid animal, came on a drove of camels in the dark by the road-side, and in his alarm insisted on doing battle, tearing through the thorny jungle, regardless of the mahout, and still more of me: the uproar raised by the camel-drivers was ridiculous, and the danger to my barometer imminent.

We proceeded on the 11th of February to Sheergotty, where Mr. Williams and his camp were awaiting our arrival. Wherever cultivation appeared the crops were tolerably luxuriant, but a great deal of the country yielded scarcely half-a-dozen kinds of plants to any ten square yards of ground. The most prevalent were Carissa carandas, Olax scandens, two Zizyphi, and the ever-present Acacia Catechu. The climate is, however, warmer and much moister, for I here observed dew to be formed, which I afterwards found to be usual on the low grounds. That its presence is due to the increased amount of vapour in the atmosphere I shall prove: the amount of radiation, as shown by the cooling of the earth and vegetation, being the same in the elevated plain and lower levels.*

The good soil was very richly cultivated with poppy (which I had not seen before), sugar-cane, wheat, barley, mustard, rape, and flax. At a distance a field of poppies looks like a green lake, studded with white water-lilies. The houses, too, are better, and have tiled roofs; while, in such situations, the road is lined with trees.

* See Appendix A.


 

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A retrospect of the ground passed over is unsatisfactory, as far as botany is concerned, except as showing how potent are the effects of a dry soil and climate during one season of the year upon a vegetation which has no desert types. During the rains probably many more species would be obtained, for of annuals I scarcely found twenty. At that season, however, the jungles of Behar and Birbhoom, though far from tropically luxuriant, are singularly unhealthy.

In a geographical point of view the range of hills between Burdwan and the Soave is interesting, as being the north-east continuation of a chain which crosses the broadest part of the peninsula of India, from the Gulf of Cambay to the junction of the Ganges and Hoogly at Rajmahal. This range runs south of the Soane and Kymore, which it meets I believe at Omerkuntuk;* the granite of this and the sandstone of the other, being there both overlaid with trap. Further west again, the ranges separate, the southern still betraying a nucleus of granite, forming the Satpur range, which divides the valley of the Taptee from that of the Nerbudda. The Paras-nath range is, though the most difficult of definition, the longer of the two parallel ranges; the Vindhya continued as the Kymore, terminating abruptly at the Fort of Chunar on the Ganges. The general and geological features of the two, especially along their eastern course, are very different. This consists of metamorphic gneiss, in various highly inclined beds, through which granite hills protrude, the loftiest of which is Paras-nath. The north-east Vindhya (called Kymore), on the other hand, consists of nearly horizontal beds of sandstone, overlying inclined beds of non-fossiliferous limestone. Between the latter and the Paras-nath

* A lofty mountain said to be 7000-8000 feet high.


 

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gneiss, come (in order of superposition) shivered and undulating strata of metamorphic quartz, hornstone, hornstone-porphyry, jaspers, etc. These are thrown up, by greenstone I believe, along the north and north-west boundary of the gneiss range, and are to be recognised as forming the rocks of Colgong, of Sultangunj, and of Monghyr, on the Ganges, as also various detached hills near Gyah, and along the upper course of the Soane. From these are derived the beautiful agates and cornelians, so famous under the name of Soane pebbles, and they are equally common on the Curruckpore range, as on the south bank of the Soane, so much so in the former position as to have been used in the decoration of the walls of the now ruined palaces near Bhagulpore.

In the route I had taken, I had crossed the eastern extremity alone of the range, commencing with a very gradual ascent, over the alluvial plains of the west bank of the Hoogly, then over laterite, succeeded by sandstone of the Indian coal era, which is succeeded by the granite table-land, properly so called. A little beyond the coal fields, the table-land reaches an average height of 1,130 feet, which is continued for upwards of 100 miles, to the Dunwah pass. Here the descent is sudden to plains, which, continuous with those of the Ganges, run up the Soane till beyond Rotasghur. Except for the occasional ridges of metamorphic rocks mentioned above, and some hills of intruded greenstone, the lower plain is stoneless, its subjacent rocks being covered with a thicker stratum of the same alluvium which is thinly spread over the higher table-land above. This range is of great interest from its being the source of many important rivers,* and of all

* The chief rivers from this, the great watershed of western Bengal, flow north-west and south-east; a few comparatively insignificant streams running north to the Ganges. Amongst the former are the Rheru, the Kunner, and the Coyle, which contribute to the Soane; amongst the latter, the Dammooda, Adji, and Barakah, flow into the Hoogly, and the Subunrika, Braminee, and Mahanuddee into the Bay of Bengal.


 

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those which water the country between the Soane, Hoogly, and Ganges, as well as from its deflecting the course of the latter river, which washes its base at Rajmahal, and forcing it to take a sinuous course to the sea. In its climate and botany it differs equally from the Gangetic plains to the north, and from the hot, damp, and exuberant forests of Orissa to the south. Nor are its geological features less different, or its concomitant and in part resultant characters of agriculture and native population. Still further west, the great rivers of the peninsula have their origin, the Nerbudda and Taptee flowing west to the gulf of Cambay, the Cane to the Jumna, the Soane to the Ganges, and the northern feeders of the Godavery to the Bay of Bengal.

On the 12th of February, we left Sheergotty (alt. 463 feet), crossing some small streams, which, like all else seen since leaving the Dunwah Pass, flow N. to the Ganges. Between Sheergotty and the Soane, occur many of the isolated hills of greenstone, mentioned above, better known to the traveller from having been telegraphic stations. Some are much impregnated with iron, and whether for their colour, the curious outlines of many, or their position, form quaint, and in some cases picturesque features in the otherwise tame landscape.

The road being highly cultivated, and the Date-palm becoming more abundant, we encamped in a grove of these trees. All were curiously distorted; the trunks growing zigzag, from the practice of yearly tapping the alternate sides for toddy. The incision is just below the


 

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crown, and slopes upwards and inwards: a vessel is hung below the wound, and the juice conducted into it by a little piece of bamboo. This operation spoils the fruit, which, though eaten, is small, and much inferior to the African date.

At Mudunpore (alt. 440 feet) a thermometer, sunk 3 feet 4 inches in the soil, maintained a constant temperature of 71·5°, that of the air varying from 77·5°, at 3 p.m., to 62 at daylight the following morning; when we moved on to Nourunga (alt. 340 feet), where I bored to 3 feet 8 inches with a heavy iron jumper through an alluvium of such excessive tenacity, that eight natives were employed for four hours in the operation. In both this and another hole, 4 feet 8 inches, the temperature was 72° at 10 p.m.; and on the following morning 71·5° in the deepest hole, and 70° in the shallower: that of the external air varied from 71° at 3 p.m., to 57° at daylight on the following morning. At the latter time I took the temperature of the earth near the surface, which showed,

Surface 53°
1 inch 57°
2 inches 58°
4 inches 62°
7 inches 64°

The following day we marched to Baroon (alt. 345 feet) on the alluvial banks of the Soane, crossing a deep stream by a pretty suspension bridge, of which the piers were visible two miles off, so level is the road. The Soane is here three miles wide, its nearly dry bed being a desert of sand, resembling a vast arm of the sea when the tide is out: the banks are very barren, with no trees near, and but very few in the distance. The houses were scarcely visible on the opposite side, behind which the Kymore mountains rise. The Soane is a classical river,


 

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being now satisfactorily identified with the Eranoboas of the ancients.*

The alluvium is here cut into a cliff, ten or twelve feet above the bed of the river, and against it the sand is blown in naked dunes. At 2 p.m., the surface-sand was heated to 110° where sheltered from the wind, and 104° in the open bed of the river. To compare the rapidity and depth to which the heat is communicated by pure sand, and by the tough alluvium, I took the temperature at some inches depth in both. That the alluvium absorbs the heat better, and retains it longer, would appear from the following, the only observations I could make, owing to the tenacity of the soil.

2 p.m. Surface 104°
  2·5 inches 93°
  5 inches 88°
  Sand at this depth 78°
5 a.m. Surface 51°
  28 inches 68·5°

Finding the fresh milky juice of Calotropis to be only 72°, I was curious to ascertain at what depth this temperature was to be obtained in the sand of the river-bed, where the plant grew.

 
Surface 104·5°
1 inch 102°
2 inches 94°
2·5 inches 90°
3·5 inches 85°  (Compact)
8 inches 73°  (Wet)
15 inches 72°  (Wet)

The power this plant exercises of maintaining a low temperature of 72°, though the main portion which is subterraneous is surrounded by a soil heated to between 90° and 104°, is very remarkable, and no doubt proximately due to the rapidity of evaporation from the foliage,

* The etymology of Eranoboas is undoubtedly Hierrinia Vahu (Sanskrit), the golden-armed. Sons is also the Sanskrit for gold. The stream is celebrated for its agates (Soane pebbles), which are common, but gold is not now obtained from it.


 

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and consequent activity in the circulation. Its exposed leaves maintained a temperature of 80°, nearly 25° cooler than the similarly exposed sand and alluvium. On the same night the leaves were cooled down to 54°, when the sand had cooled to 51°. Before daylight the following morning the sand had cooled to 43°, and the leaves of the Calotropis to 45·5°. I omitted to observe the temperature of the sap at the latter time; but the sand at the same depth (15 inches) as that at which its temperature and that of the plant agreed at mid-day, was 68°. And assuming this to be the heat of the plant, we find that the leaves are heated by solar radiation during the day 8°, and cooled by nocturnal radiation, 22·5°.

Mr. Theobald (my companion in this and many other rambles) pulled a lizard from a hole in the bank. Its throat was mottled with scales of brown and yellow. Three ticks had fastened on it, each of a size covering three or four scales: the first was yellow, corresponding with the yellow colour of the animal’s belly, where it lodged, the second brown, from the lizard’s head; but the third, which was clinging to the parti-coloured scales of the neck, had its body parti-coloured, the hues corresponding with the individual scales which they covered. The adaptation of the two first specimens in colour to the parts to which they adhered, is sufficiently remarkable; but the third case was most extraordinary.

During the night of the 14th of February, I observed a beautiful display, apparently of the Aurora borealis, an account of which will be found in the Appendix.

February 15.—Our passage through the Soane sands was very tedious, though accomplished in excellent style, the elephants pushing forward the heavy waggons of mining tools with their foreheads. The wheels were sometimes


 

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buried to the axles in sand, and the draught bullocks were rather in the way than otherwise. The body of water over which we ferried, was not above 80 yards wide. In the rains, when the whole space of three miles is one rapid flood, 10 or 12 feet deep, charged with yellow sand, this river must present an imposing spectacle. I walked across the dry portion, observing the sand-waves, all ranged in one direction, perpendicular to that of the prevailing wind, accurately representing the undulations of the ocean, as seen from a mast-head or high cliff. As the sand was finer or coarser, so did the surface resemble a gentle ripple, or an ocean-swell. The progressive motion of the waves was curious, and caused by the lighter particles being blown over the ridges, and filling up the hollows to leeward. There were a few islets in the sand, a kind of oases of mud and clay, in laminæ no thicker than paper, and these were at once denizened by various weeds. Some large spots were green with wheat and barley-crops, both suffering from smut. We encamped close to the western shore, at the village of Dearee (alt. 330 feet); it marks the termination of the Kymore Hills, along whose S.E. bases our course now lay, as we here quitted the grand trunk road for a rarely visited country. On the 16th we marched south up the river to Tilotho (alt. 395 feet), through a rich and highly cultivated country, covered with indigo, cotton, sugar-cane, safflower, castor-oil, poppy, and various grains. Dodders (Cuscuta) covered even tall trees with a golden web, and the Capparis acuminata was in full flower along the road side. Tilotho, a beautiful village, is situated in a superb grove of Mango, Banyan, Peepul, Tamarind, and Bassia. The Date or toddy-palm and fan-palm are very abundant and tall: each had a pot hung under the crown. The


 

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natives climb these trunks with a hoop or cord round the body and both ancles, and a bottle-gourd or other vessel hanging round the neck to receive the juice from the stock-bottle, in this aerial wine-cellar. These palms were so lofty that the climbers, as they paused in their ascent to gaze with wonder at our large retinue, resembled monkeys rather than men. Both trees yield a toddy, but in this district they stated that that from the Phœnix (Date) alone ferments, and is distilled; while in other parts of India, the Borassus (fan-palm) is chiefly employed. I walked to the hills, over a level cultivated country interspersed with occasional belts of low wood; in which the pensile nests of the weaver-bird were abundant, but generally hanging out of reach, in prickly Acacias.

The hills here present a straight precipitous wall of horizontally stratified sandstone, very like the rocks at the Cape of Good Hope, with occasionally a shallow valley, and a slope of débris at the base, densely clothed with dry jungle. The cliffs are about 1000 feet high, and the plants similar to those at the foot of Paras-nath, but stunted: I climbed to the top, the latter part by steps or ledges of sandstone. The summit was clothed with long grass, trees of Diospyros and Terminalia, and here and there the Boswellia. On the precipitous rocks the curious white-barked Sterculia fœtida “flung its arms abroad,” leafless, and looking as if blasted by lightning.

A hole was sunk here again for the thermometers, and, as usual, with great labour; the temperatures obtained were—


 
  Air. 4 feet 6 inches,
under good shade
of trees
9 p.m. 64·5°   77°
11 p.m.   76°  
5.30 a.m. 58·5°   76°

This is a very great rise (of 4°) above any of those


 

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previously obtained, and certainly indicates a much higher mean temperature of the locality. I can only suppose it due to the radiation of heat from the long range of sandstone cliff, exposed to the south, which overlooks the flat whereon we were encamped, and which, though four or five miles off, forms a very important feature. The differences of temperature in the shade taken on this and the other side of the river are 2·75° higher on this side.

On the 17th we marched to Akbarpore (alt. 400 feet), a village overhung by the rocky precipice of Rotasghur, a spur of the Kymore, standing abruptly forward.

The range, in proceeding up the Soane valley, gradually approaches the river, and beds of non-fossiliferous limestone are seen protruding below the sandstone and occasionally rising into rounded hills, the paths upon which appear as white as do those through the chalk districts of England. The overlying beds of sandstone are nearly horizontal, or with a dip to the N.W.; the subjacent ones of limestone dip at a greater angle. Passing between the river and a detached conical hill of limestone, capped with a flat mass of sandstone, the spur of Rotas broke suddenly on the view, and very grand it was, quite realising my anticipations of the position of these eyrie-like hill-forts of India. To the left of the spur winds the valley of the Soane, with low-wooded hills on its opposite bank, and a higher range, connected with that of Behar, in the distance. To the right, the hills sweep round, forming an immense and beautifully wooded amphitheatre, about four miles deep, bounded with a continuation of the escarpment. At the foot of the crowned spur is the village of Akbarpore, where we encamped in a Mango tope;* it occupies some

* On the 24th of June, 1848, the Soane rose to an unprecedented height, and laid this grove of Mangos three feet under water.


 

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pretty undulating limestone hills, amongst which several streams flow from the amphitheatre to the Soane. During our two days’ stay here, I had the advantage of the society of Mr. C. E. Davis, who was our guide during some rambles in the neighbourhood, and to whose experience, founded on the best habits of observation, I am indebted for much information. At noon we started to ascend to the palace, on the top of the spur. On the way we passed a beautiful well, sixty feet deep, and with a fine flight of steps to the bottom. Now neglected and overgrown with flowering weeds and creepers, it afforded me many of the plants I had only previously obtained in a withered state; it was curious to observe there some of the species of the hill-tops, whose seeds doubtless are scattered abundantly over the surrounding plains, and only vegetate where they find a coolness and moisture resembling that of the altitude they elsewhere affect. A fine fig-tree growing out of the stone-work spread its leafy green branches over the well mouth, which was about twelve feet square; its roots assumed a singular form, enveloping two sides of the walls with a beautiful net-work, which at high-water mark (rainy season), abruptly divides into thousands of little brushes, dipping into the water which they fringe. It was a pretty cool place to descend to, from a temperature of 80° above, to 74° at the bottom, where the water was 60°; and most refreshing to look, either up the shaft to the green fig shadowing the deep profound, or along the sloping steps through a vista of flowering herbs and climbing plants, to the blue heaven of a burning sky.

The ascent to Rotas is over the dry hills of limestone, covered with a scrubby brushwood, to a crest where are the first rude and ruined defences. The limestone is


 

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succeeded by the sandstone cliff cut into steps, which led from ledge to ledge and gap to gap, well guarded with walls and an archway of solid masonry. Through this we passed on to the flat summit of the Kymore hills, covered with grass and forest, intersected by paths in all directions. The ascent is about 1,200 feet—a long pull in the blazing sun of February. The turf consists chiefly of spear-grass and Andropogon muricatus, the kus-kus, which yields a favourite fragrant oil, used as a medicine in India. The trees are of the kinds mentioned before. A pretty octagonal summer-house, with its roof supported by pillars, occupies one of the highest points of the plateau, and commands a superb view of the scenery before described. From this a walk of three miles leads through the woods to the palace. The buildings are very extensive, and though now ruinous, bear evidence of great beauty in the architecture: light galleries, supported by slender columns, long cool arcades, screened squares and terraced walks, are the principal features. The rooms open out upon flat roofs, commanding views of the long endless table-land to the west, and a sheer precipice of 1000 feet on the other side, with the Soane, the amphitheatre of hills, and the village of Akbarpore below.

This and Beejaghur, higher up the Soane, were amongst the most recently reduced forts, and this was further the last of those wrested from Baber in 1542. Some of the rooms are still habitable, but the greater part are ruinous, and covered with climbers, both of wild flowers and of the naturalised garden plants of the adjoining shrubbery; the Arbor-tristis, with Hibiscus, Abutilon, etc., and above all, the little yellow-flowered Linaria ramosissima, crawling over every ruined wall, as we see the walls of our old English castles clothed with its congener L. Cymbalaria.


 

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In the old dark stables I observed the soil to be covered with a copious evanescent efflorescence of nitrate of lime, like soap-suds scattered about.

I made Rotas Palace 1,490 feet above the sea, so that this table-land is here only fifty feet higher than that I had crossed on the grand trunk road, before descending at the Dunwah pass. Its mean temperature is of course considerably (4°) below that of the valley, but though so cool, agues prevail after the rains. The extremes of temperature are less marked than in the valley, which becomes excessively heated, and where hot winds sometimes last for a week, blowing in furious gusts.

The climate of the whole neighbourhood has of late changed materially; and the fall of rain has much diminished, consequent on felling the forests; even within six years the hail-storms have been far less frequent and violent. The air on the hills is highly electrical, owing, no doubt, to the dryness of the atmosphere, and to this the frequent recurrence of hail-storms may be due.

The zoology of these regions is tolerably copious, but little is known of the natural history of a great part of the plateau; a native tribe, prone to human sacrifices, is talked of. Tigers are common, and bears are numerous; they have, besides, the leopard, panther, viverine cat, and civet; and of the dog tribe the pariah, jackal, fox, and wild dog, called Koa. Deer are very numerous, of six or seven kinds. A small alligator inhabits the hill streams, said to be a very different animal from either of the Soane species.

During our descent we examined several instances of ripple-mark (fossil waves’ footsteps) in the sandstone; they resembled the fluting of the Sigillaria stems, in the coal-measures, and occurring as they did here, in sandstone, a


 

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little above great beds of limestone, had been taken for such, and as indications of coal.

On the following day we visited Rajghat, a steep ghat or pass leading up the cliff to Rotas Palace, a little higher up the river. We took the elephants to the mouth of the glen, where we dismounted, and whence we followed a stream abounding in small fish and aquatic insects (Dytisci and Gyrini), through a close jungle, to the foot of the cliffs, where there are indications of coal. The woods were full of monkeys, and amongst other plants I observed Murraya exotica, but it was scarce. Though the jungle was so dense, the woods were very dry, containing no Palm, Adroideæ, Peppers, Orchideæ or Ferns. Here, at the foot of the red cliffs, which towered imposingly above, as seen through the tree tops, are several small seams of coaly matter in the sandstone, with abundance of pyrites, sulphur, and copious efflorescences of salts of iron; but no coal. The springs from the cliffs above are charged with lime, of which enormous tuff beds are deposited on the sandstone, full of impressions of the leaves and stems of the surrounding trees, which, however, I found it very difficult to recognize, and could not help contrasting this circumstance with the fact that geologists, unskilled in botany, see no difficulty in referring equally imperfect remains of extinct vegetables to existing genera. In some parts of their course the streams take up quantities of the efflorescence, which they scatter over the sandstones in a singular manner.

At Akbarpore I had sunk two thermometers, one 4 feet 6 inches, the other 5 feet 6 inches; both invariably indicated 76°, the air varying from 56° to 79·5°. Dew had formed every night since leaving Dunwah, the grass being here cooled 12° below the air.

On the 19th of February we marched up the Soane to


 

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Tura, passing some low hills of limestone, between the cliffs of the Kymore and the river. On the shaded riverbanks grew abundance of English genera—Cynoglossum, Veronica, Potentilla, Ranunculus sceleratus, Rumex, several herbaceous Compositæ and Labiatæ; Tamarix formed a small bush in rocky hillocks in the bed of the river, and in pools were several aquatic plants, Zannichellia, Chara, a pretty little Vallisneria, and Potamogeton. The Brahminee goose was common here, and we usually saw in the morning immense flocks of wild geese overhead, migrating northward.

Here I tried again the effect of solar and nocturnal radiation on the sand, at different depths, not being able to do so on the alluvium.

Noon,
Temperature
of air, 87°
  Daylight of
following
morning
Surface 110° 52°
1 inch 102° 55°
2 inches 93·5° 58°
4 inches 84° 67°
8 inches 77° sand wet 73° wet
12 inches 76° sand wet 74°

From Tura our little army again crossed the Soane, the scarped cliffs of the Kymore approaching close to the river on the west side. The bed is very sandy, and about one mile and a half across.

The elephants were employed again, as at Baroon, to push the cart: one of them had a bump in consequence, as large as a child’s head, just above the trunk, and bleeding much; but the brave beast disregarded this, when the word of command was given by his driver.

The stream was very narrow, but deep and rapid, obstructed with beds of coarse agate, jasper, cornelian and chalcedony pebbles. A clumsy boat took us across to the village of Soanepore, a wretched collection of hovels. The crops were thin and poor, and I saw no palms or good trees.


 

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Squirrels however abounded, and were busy laying up their stores; descending from the trees they scoured across a road to a field of tares, mounted the hedge, took an observation, foraged and returned up the tree with their booty, quickly descended, and repeated the operation of reconnoitering and plundering.

The bed of the river is here considerably above that at Dearee, where the mean of the observations with those of Baroon, made it about 300 feet. The mean of those taken here and on the opposite side, at Tura, gives about 400 feet, indicating a fall of 100 feet in only 40 miles.

Near this the sandy banks of the Soane were full of martins’ nests, each one containing a pair of eggs. The deserted ones were literally crammed full of long-legged spiders (Opilio), which could be raked out with a stick, when they came pouring down the cliff like corn from a sack; the quantities are quite inconceivable. I did not observe the martin feed on them.

The entomology here resembled that of Europe, more than I had expected in a tropical country, where predaceous beetles, at least Carabideæ and Staphylinideæ, are generally considered rare. The latter tribes swarmed under the clods, of many species but all small, and so singularly active that I could not give the time to collect many. In the banks again, the round egg-like earthy chrysalis of the Sphynx Atropos (?) and the many-celled nidus of the leaf-cutter bee, were very common.

A large columnar Euphorbia (E. ligulata) is common all along the Soane, and I observed it to be used everywhere for fencing. I had not remarked the E. neriifolia; and the E. tereticaulis had been very rarely seen since leaving Calcutta. The Cactus is nowhere found; it is abundant in many parts of Bengal, but certainly not indigenous.


 

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Crossing the Soane, with the Kymore Hills in the distance.

 

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From this place onwards up the Soane, there was no road of any kind, and we were compelled to be our own road engineers. The sameness of the vegetation and lateness of the season made me regret this the less, for I was disappointed in my anticipations of finding luxuriance and novelty in these wilds. Before us the valley narrowed considerably, the forest became denser, the country on the south side was broken with rounded hills, and on the north the noble cliffs of the Kymore dipped down to the river. The villages were smaller, more scattered and poverty-stricken, with the Mahowa and Mango as the usual trees; the banyan, peepul, and tamarind being rare. The native, are of an aboriginal jungle race; and are tall, athletic, erect, much less indolent and more spirited than the listless natives of the plains.

February 21.—Started at daylight: but so slow and difficult was our progress through fields and woods, and across deep gorges from the hills, that we only advanced five miles in the day; the elephant’s head too was aching too badly to let him push, and the cattle would not proceed when the draught was not equal. What was worse, it was impossible to get them to pull together up the inclined planes we cut, except by placing a man at the head of each of the six, eight, or ten in a team, and simultaneously screwing round their tails; when one tortured animal sometimes capsizes the vehicle. The small carts got on better, though it was most nervous to see them rushing down the steeps, especially those with our fragile instruments, etc.

Kosdera, where we halted, is a pretty place, elevated 440 feet, with a broad stream front the hills flowing past it. These hills are of limestone, and rounded, resting upon others of hornstone and jasper. Following up the stream


 

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I came to some rapids, where the stream is crossed by large beds of hornstone and porphyry rocks, excessively hard, and pitched up at right angles, or with a bold dip to the north. The number of strata was very great, and only a few inches or even lines thick: they presented all varieties of jasper, hornstone, and quartz of numerous colours, with occasional seams of porphyry or breccia. The racks were elegantly fringed with a fern I had not hitherto seen, Polypodium proliferum, which is the only species the Soane valley presents at this season.

Returning over the hills, I found Hardwickia binata, a most elegant leguminous tree, tall, erect, with an elongated coma, and the branches pendulous. These trees grew in a shallow bed of alluvium, enclosing abundance of agate pebbles and kunker, the former derived from the quartzy strata above noticed.

On the 23rd and 24th we continued to follow up the Soane, first to Panchadurma (alt. 490 feet), and thence to Pepura (alt. 587 feet), the country becoming densely wooded, very wild, and picturesque, the woods being full of monkeys, parrots, peacocks, hornbills, and wild animals. Strychnos potatorum, whose berries are used to purify water, forms a dense foliaged tree, 30 to 60 feet high, some individuals pale yellow, others deep green, both in apparent health. Feronia Elephantum and Ægle marmelos* were very abundant, with Sterculia, and the dwarf date-palm.

One of my carts was here hopelessly broken down; advancing on the spokes instead of the tire of the wheels. By the banks of a deep gully here the rocks are well exposed: they consist of soft clay shales resting on the

* The Bhel fruit, lately introduced into English medical practice, as an astringent of great effect, in cases of diarrhœa and dysentery.


 

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limestone, which is nearly horizontal; and this again, unconformably on the quartz and hornstone rocks, which are confused, and tilted up at all angles.

A spur of the Kymore, like that of Rotas, here projects to the bed of the river, and was blazing at night with the beacon-like fires of the natives, lighted to scare the tigers and bears from the spots where they cut wood and bamboo; they afforded a splendid spectacle, the flames in some places leaping zig-zag from hill to hill in front of us, and looking as if a gigantic letter W were written in fire.

The night was bright and clear, with much lightning, the latter attracted to the spur, and darting down as it were to mingle its fire with that of the forest; so many flashes appeared to strike on the flames, that it is probable the heated air in their neighbourhood attracted them. We were awakened between 3 and 4 a.m., by a violent dust-storm, which threatened to carry away the tents. Our position at the mouth of the gulley formed by the opposite hills, no doubt accounted for it. The gusts were so furious that it was impossible to observe the barometer, which I returned to its case on ascertaining that any indications of a rise or fall in the column must have been quite trifling. The night had been oppressively hot, with many insects flying about; amongst which I noticed earwigs, a genus erroneously supposed rarely to take to the wing in Britain.

At 8.30 a.m. it suddenly fell calm, and we proceeded to Chanchee (alt. 500 feet), the native carts breaking down in their passage over the projecting beds of flinty rocks, or as they burned down the inclined planes we cut through the precipitous clay banks of the streams. Near Chanchee we passed an alligator, just killed by two men, a foul beast, about nine feet long, of the mugger kind. More


 

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absorbing than its natural history was the circumstance of its having swallowed a child, that was playing in the water as its mother was washing her utensils in the river. The brute was hardly dead, much distended by the prey, and the mother was standing beside it. A very touching group was this: the parent with her hands clasped in agony, unable to withdraw her eyes from the cursed reptile, which still clung to life with that tenacity for which its tribe are so conspicuous; beside these the two athletes leaned on the bloody bamboo staffs, with which they had all but despatched the animal.

This poor woman earned a scanty maintenance by making catechu: inhabiting a little cottage, and having no property but two cattle to bring wood from the hills, and a very few household chattels; and how few of these they only know who have seen the meagre furniture of Danga hovels. Her husband cut the trees in the forest and dragged them to the hut, but at this time he was sick, and her only boy, her future stay, it was, whom the beast had devoured.

This province is famous for the quantity of catechu its dry forests yield. The plant (Acacia) is a little thorny tree, erect, and bearing a rounded head of well remembered prickly branches. Its wood is yellow, with a dark brick-red heart, most profitable in January and useless in June (for yielding the extract).

The Butea frondosa was abundantly in flower here, and a gorgeous sight. In mass the inflorescence resembles sheets of flame, and individually the flowers are eminently beautiful, the bright orange-red petals contrasting brilliantly against the jet-black velvety calyx. The nest of the Megachile (leaf-cutter bee) was in thousands in the cliffs, with Mayflies, Caddis-worms, spiders, and many predaceous

Soane Valley and Kymore Hills. <i>Cochlospermum gossypium</i> and <i>Butea frondosa</i> in flower.

 

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beetles. Lamellicorn beetles were very rare, even Aphodius, and of Cetoniæ I did not see one.

We marched on the 28th to Kota, at the junction of the river of that name with the Soane, over hills of flinty rock, which projected everywhere, to the utter ruin of the elephants’ feet, and then over undulating hills of limestone; on the latter I found trees of Cochlospermum, whose curious thick branches spread out somewhat awkwardly, each tipped with a cluster of golden yellow flowers, as large as the palm of the hand, and very beautiful: it is a tropical Gum-Cistus in the appearance and texture of the petals, and their frail nature. The bark abounds in a transparent gum, of which the white ants seem fond, for they had killed many trees. Of the leaves the curious rude leaf-bellows are made, with which the natives of these hills smelt iron. Scorpions appeared very common here, of a small kind, 1.5 inch long; several were captured, and one of our party was stung on the finger; the smart was burning for an hour or two, and then ceased.

At Kota we were nearly opposite the cliffs at Beejaghur, where coal is reported to exist; and here we again crossed the Soane, and for the last time. The ford is three miles up the river, and we marched to it through deep sand. The bed of the river is here 500 feet above the sea, and about three-quarters of a mile broad, the rapid stream being 50 or 60 yards wide, and breast deep. The sand is firm and siliceous, with no mica; nodules of coal are said to be washed down thus far from the coal-beds of Burdee, a good deal higher up, but we saw none.

The cliffs come close to the river on the opposite side, their bases clothed with woods which teemed with birds. The soil is richer, and individual trees, especially of Bombax, Terminalia and Mahowa, very fine; one tree of


 

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the Hardwickia, about 120 feet high, was as handsome a monarch of the forest as I ever saw, and it is not often that one sees trees in the tropics, which for a combination of beauty in outline, harmony of colour, and arrangement of branches and foliage, would form so striking an addition to an English park.

There is a large break in the Kymore hills here, beyond the village of Kunch, through which our route lay to Beejaghur, and the Ganges at Mirzapore; the cliff’s leaving the river and trending to the north in a continuous escarpment flanked with low ranges of rounded hills, and terminating in an abrupt spur (Mungeesa Peak) whose summit was covered with a ragged forest. At Kunch we saw four alligators sleeping in the river, looking at a distance like logs of wood, all of the short-nosed or mugger kind, dreaded by man and beast; I saw none of the sharp-shouted (or garial), so common on the Ganges, where their long bills, with a garniture of teeth and prominent eyes peeping out of the water, remind one of geological lectures and visions of Ichthyosauri. Tortoises were frequent in the river, basking on the rocks, and popping into the water when approached.

On the 1st of March we left the Soane, and struck inland over a rough hilly country, covered with forest, fully 1000 feet below the top of the Kymore table-land, which here recedes from the river and surrounds an undulating plain, some ten miles either way, facing the south. The roads, or rather pathways, were very bad, and quite impassable for the carts without much engineering, cutting through forest, smoothing down the banks of the watercourses to be crossed, and clearing away the rocks as we best might. We traversed the empty bed of a mountain torrent, with perpendicular banks of alluvium 30 feet high, and thence plunged into a dense forest. Our course was


 

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directed towards Mungeesa Peak, the remarkable projecting spur, between which and a conical hill the path led. Whether on the elephants or on foot, the thorny jujubes, Acacias, etc. were most troublesome, and all our previous scratchings were nothing to this. Peacocks and jungle-fowl were very frequent, the squabbling of the former and the hooting of the monkeys constantly grating on the ear. There were innumerable pigeons and a few Floricans (a kind of bustard—considered the best eating game-bird in India). From the defile we emerged on an open flat, halting at Sulkun, a scattered village (alt. 684 feet), peopled by a bold-looking race (Coles)* who habitually carry the spear and shield. We had here the pleasure of meeting Mr. Felle, an English gentleman employed in the Revenue department; this being one of the roads along which the natives transport their salt, sugar, etc., from one province to another.

In the afternoon, I examined the conical hill, which, like that near Rotas, is of stratified beds of limestone, capped with sandstone. A stream runs round its base, cutting through the alluvium to the subjacent rock, which is exposed, and contains flattened spheres of limestone. These spheres are from the size of a fist to a child’s head, or even much larger; they are excessively hard, and neither laminated nor formed of concentric layers. At the top of the hill the sandstone cap was perpendicular on all sides, and its dry top covered with small trees, especially of Cochlospermum. A few larger trees of Fici clung to the edge of the rocks, and by forcing their roots into the interstices detached enormous masses, affording good dens

* The Coles, like the Danghas of the Rajmahal and Behar hills, and the natives of the mountains of the peninsula, form one of the aboriginal tribes of British India, and are widely different people from either the Hindoos or Mussulmen.


 

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for bears and other wild animals. From the top, the view of rock, river, forest, and plain, was very fine, the eye ranging over a broad flat, girt by precipitous hills;—West, the Kymore or Vindhya range rose again in rugged elevations; South, flowed the Soane, backed by ranges of wooded hills, smoking like volcanos with the fires of the natives;—below, lay the bed of the stream we had left at the foot of the hills, cutting its way through the alluvium, and following a deep gorge to the Soane, which was there hidden by the rugged heights we had crossed, on which the greater part of our camp might be seen still straggling onwards;—east, and close above us, the bold spur of Mungeesa shot up, terminating a continuous stretch of red precipices, clothed with forest along their bases, and over their horizontal tops.

From Sulkun the view of the famed fort and palace of Beejaghur is very singular, planted on the summit of an isolated hill of sandstone, about ten miles off. A large tree by the palace marks its site; for, at this distance, the buildings are themselves undistinguishable.

There are many tigers on these hills; and as one was close by, and had killed several cattle, Mr. Felle kindly offered us a chance of slaying him. Bullocks are tethered out, over-night, in the places likely to be visited by the brute; he kills one of them, and is from the spot tracked to his haunt by natives, who visit the stations early in the morning, and report the whereabouts of his lair. The sportsman then goes to the attack mounted on an elephant, or having a roost fixed in a tree, on the trail of the tiger, and he employs some hundred natives to drive the animal past the lurking-place.

On the present occasion, the locale of the tiger was doubtful; but it was thought that by beating over several


 

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miles of country he (or at any rate, some other game) might be driven past a certain spot. Thither, accordingly, the natives were sent, who built machans (stages) in the trees, high out of danger’s reach; Mr. Theobald and myself occupied one of these perches in a Hardwickia tree, and Mr. Felle another, close by, both on the slope of a steep hill, surrounded by jungly valleys. We were also well thatched in with leafy boughs, to prevent the wary beast from espying the ambush, and had a whole stand of shall arms ready for his reception.

When roosted aloft, and duly charged to keep profound silence (which I obeyed to the letter, by falling sound asleep), the word was passed to the beaters, who surrounded our post on the plain-side, extending some miles in line, and full two or three distant from us. They entered the jungle, beating tom-toms, singing and shouting as they advanced, and converging towards our position. In the noonday solitude of these vast forests, our situation was romantic enough: there was not a breath of wind, an insect or bird stirring; and the wild cries of the men, and the hollow sound of the drums broke upon the ear from a great distance, gradually swelling and falling, as the natives ascended the heights or crossed the valleys. After about an hour and a half, the beaters emerged from the jungle under our retreat; one by one, two by two, but preceded by no single living thing, either mouse, bird, deer, or bear, and much less tiger. The beaters received about a penny a-piece for the day’s work; a rich guerdon for these poor wretches, whom necessity sometimes drives to feed on rats and offal.

We were detained three days at Sulkun, from inability to get on with the carts; and as the pass over the Kymore to the north (on the way to Mirzapore) was to be still worse, I took advantage of Mr. Felle’s kind offer of camels


 

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and elephants to make the best of my way forward, accompanying that gentleman, en route, to his residence at Shahgunj, on the table-land.

Both the climate and natural history of this flat on which Sulkun stands, are similar to those of the banks of the Soane; the crops are wretched. At this season the dryness of the atmosphere is excessive: our nails cracked, and skins peeled, whilst all articles of wood, tortoiseshell, etc., broke on the slightest blow. The air, too, was always highly electrical, and the dew-point was frequently 40° below the temperature of the air.

The natives are far from honest: they robbed one of the tents placed between two others, wherein a light was burning. One gentleman in it was awake, and on turning saw five men at his bedside, who escaped with a bag of booty, in the shape of clothes, and a tempting strong brass-bound box, containing private letters. The clothes they dropped outside, but the box of letters was carried off. There were about a hundred people asleep outside the tents, between whose many fires the rogues must have passed, eluding also the guard, who were, or ought to have been, awake.

Next Chapter III