+ ~ -
Please report pronunciation problems here. Select and sample other voices. Options Pause Play
Report an Error

nine o'clock until six, in writing the Lord's
Prayer on the lids of very small pill-boxes.
He never spoke to the little crowd gathered
round him, but pursued his task as if he had
been in the privacy of his study. He was a
mystery to me, that I was never able to
clear up. Close to this placid artist was an
individual of a very different character, who,
from morn to dewy eve, kept continually
greasing the collars of willing boys with
candle-ends, and immediately removing the
marks with small green cakes of some
composition, which he sold at a penny each;
keeping up all the while, with unflagging
volubility, a running eulogium upon the
many virtues and uses of his article. I need
not say that my jacket was greased and
recleansed on the average once a day. Then
there was a venerable, bearded, oriental,
Turkish-looking gentleman, who stood bolt
upright in the gutter selling snuff-coloured
cakes of medicine called rhubarb, and who,
like the Lord's Prayer penman, relied for
patronage upon an impressive silence. In
strong contrast to this silent gentleman were
the two talkative benefactors of their species
who sold respectively corn-salve and ginger
to cure the toothache. The man with the
ginger had a soft mumbling tone of voice,
caused by his mouth being always well
supplied with his specific remedy. He had also
a curious way of working his face about, and
rolling the ginger over his tongue to indicate
great facility of movement, and to illustrate
the truth of what he was constantly stating
somewhat in these words: " If you will apply
a portion of the root to the gum when it
feels troublesome, it will remove the pain,
and render the mouth easy and pliable."
The proprietor of the corn-salve was much
more obtrusive, and although his pronunciation
was less affectedly correct than that of
his companion, there was more of it, and it
was more amusing. Any time between nine
and dusk he used to stand there, holding a
small box of the salve in his hand, and giving
utterance to the following short descriptive
lecture: " This is the unrivalled corn-salve
that will cure any corn or bunion: it will
cure a watery bunion! It is extracted from
a 'underd different wild Arabs (meaning
herbs)—the colewort, the ivy, the stinging
nettle, and the common snail that creeps
upon the grass that grows in the fields.
The snail, my friends, is of an ily, slimy,
poo-erful, and penetratin' natur, and
perfectly calcerlated to thoroughly eradicate
the disease of the corn at the second dressin'!
If it does not do so I will forfeit all the stuff
I've got upon the board."

Most of these men, with all their humours
and their failings, have now passed from a
world in which they had a hard struggle to
live, and their children know them no more.
If I have recalled them from their resting
places, it has been in no unkind spirit that I
have done so, but simply because I think it
is good sometimes to go back out of the din
and turmoil of the present, and to try, if only
vainly, to be for a few moments again a boy.


The small but heavy boxes, containing the
rupees, were placed upon the hackeries
(native carts), and the treasure party was
now ready to march to the next encampment.*
The night was warm, and the sepoys
in what might strictly be termed half-dress.
They wore their red cloth coats and their
chacos; but their lower clothing was purely
native: a dhotee (narrow strip of thick
calico) wound round their loins, and falling
in graceful folds about and below the knees.
Some sat upon the boxes of treasure; others,
not in line or military order, walked by the
side thereof. The Lieutenant, Maun Sing
and myself brought up the rear. A syce
(native groom) led the horse, and thus saved
the Lieutenant the trouble of driving. The
buggy was not, certainly, a very elegant
affair. It was of very ancient construction,
and the lining was entirely worn out; nor
had the panels been painted for some years.
The Lieutenant told me that he had bought
this vehicle at a sale, five years previously
for the sum of five pounds, and that since
that time it had travelled (marched, was the
word he used) all over Bengal. The harness
was of Cawnpore make; and, when new,
had cost only two pounds ten shillings.
Cawnpore, until recently, was chiefly famous
for its harness, boots and shoes, bottle-covers,
cheroot-cases, helmets, and other articles
made of leather. A nest of Chinese settled
in the bazaar, many years ago, and
introduced the manufacture of such matters.
The horse which drew the buggy had been a
caster; that is to say, a horse considered no
longer fit for the cavalry or horse artillery,
and sold by public auction, after being
branded with the letter R (signifying
rejected) on the near shoulder. He was a tall,
well-bred animal; and, according to the
Lieutenant's account had won no end of
races since the day he had been knocked
down to the Lieutenant for sixteen rupees,
or one pound twelve shillings. The fault,
or rather the misfortune, for which this
animal had been dismissed the Company's
service, was total blindness of one eye, and
an inability to see much out of the other.

* See Number 401, page 505.

"But, he is a ripper, nevertheless," said
the Lieutenant, touching the animal very
gently with the whip, and making him hold
his head up; "and will put some more
money in my pocket next cold weather, I
hope. He is entered for the merchant's
plate, gentlemen riders, sir, and I am his
jockey." I expressed a hope that he would
be successful.