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birds,* like overgrown herons, with their long thin legs and stupendous beaks and pouches, were drowsing upon the topmost ballustrades, only moving, every now and then, in a sort of sleepy attempt to inflict condign punishment upon an adventurous crow, who was pert enough to come within their reach.
It was a fine day in August, if an Indian August day can ever be called fine. It was a fine day-we use the word as it is used with reference to the Gorgons of social life, who go by the name of " fine women." It was a fine day, because it did not rain, and there was plenty of blue sky and an intolerably fierce sun, but it was nevertheless one of those days, which require the physical endurance of a washerwoman to carry one well through them; for the atmosphere was steamy to a degree-no other word can do it justice. The pleasant vapour that is exhaled from a wet blanket, hung before a kitchen fire to dry, may give the reader some faint idea of the steaminess, that a scorching August sun draws out of a saturated Bengal plain; but nothing else comes any where near to it. It is worse than the dry heat; for it steams into you; it stews you down instead of roasting you, and completely takes all the strength and the succour out of you like a vapour-bath. Nothing flourishes at this season, but
• Called “ Adjutants," after those laborious gentlemen, who do all the work of a regiment for a little extra-pay, and the privilege of wearing spurs in a drawing-room.
the vegetation and the adjutants, and they are unnatural enough to live in a state of excitement, from the beginning of " the rains” to the end of them. Human life degenerates into one great complaint, and the world is privileged to swear at the weather. There is some comfort, at all events, in that.
But we must not forget Peregrine Pultuney, who has entered the house in Chowringhee, found a wandering bearer on the staircase, sent up his card to the mehm-sahib, and arrived safe on the upper landing-place. Here he remarked two or three men, in the same costume as his friend Peer Khan, whom from this circumstance he knew to be Mussulmans, sitting on the floor, with a number of gowns, or frocks, or chemises, or something, strewn out on the mat before them; and at these gowns, or frocks, or chemises, or something, they were working with considerable assiduity, scarcely ever raising their eyes from their needle, or vouchsafing a word to one another. These men were the dhurzies or tailors—the most useful race of people in the world, and as essential to every Indian household, as a cook, a punkah, or a bathing-tub.
Passing these worthies, and ushered by a bearer, Peregrine entered a large room, which he immediately guessed to be Mrs. Poggleton's drawingroom, for it was fitted up in a very ambitious manner, and was not unlike an upholsterer's shop, when it has been got all ready for show. It was a long and somewhat badly proportioned apartment, very lofty, as all Indian rooms are, and very unfinished in appearance. The walls were white, but relieved every here and there by doors, prints, and wall-shades. Of the former article Peregrine Pultuney counted no less than six in the room; they were all open, so as to give free circulation to the little air that might chance to struggle into the house, but, as in a dwelling where there are no passages between the rooms this open system must have its inconveniences, a kind of half-door made of toon-wood and crimson silk, which neither reached nearly to the top nor the bottom of the aperture, had been contrived so as to answer tolerably well for all purposes of concealment; though Peregrine Pultuney did think that he saw something like the feet of a bedstead beneath one of them. The prints were principally large mezzotinto ones, from the paintings of Cooper, Martin, and Danby, and with the exception of one from Lawrence's picture of that angel-boy, young Lambton, Peregrine thought that they were all monstrosities, and it is very probable that he was right. Besides the doors and the pictures, which relieved the dead white expanse of the walls, our hero observed every here and there what to him were branch-candlesticks, bracketted on to the walls, with great large glasses, in shape like large inverted sugar-loaves, to keep the candles, when they were lit, from blowing out; these things which Peregrine afterwards found were called wall-shades, being set off by a number of glass “ drops," and a
great deal of gold leaf about the brackets, had a somewhat theatrical effect, and Peregrine thought, wisely enough, that if they were all of them, for he counted about thirty sugar-loaf glasses, set alight at the same time, the quantum of caloric they would produce, on a moderate calculation, would be equal to that of an ordinary-sized kitchen fire on the day that a young marquis comes of age.
Having completed his survey of the walls, our hero lifted his eyes towards the ceiling, and there he saw the same unfinished appearance, for the beams of the room were visible; large square bars of wood, painted pea-green, running across the roof, and smaller dittos running lengthways, with little rectangular patches of whitewash between them, made up the ceiling of this elaborate show-room; but from these beams, which if not ornamental, were certainly useful, hung three large chandeliers, which doubtless were very handsome, but their beauty was carefully concealed from the vulgar cye by the great red stuff bags, which enveloped them, and made them look like gigantic fly-traps. Besides these, were suspended from the beams two large punkahs, most elaborately moulded and gilt, with deep fringes attached to the bottom, and semi-circular spaces cut at the top of them, to give a clear berth to the above described chandeliers, which would otherwise have been smashed to atoms at the first swing of these formidable ventilators.
At either end of the long room, Peregrine saw
that there was a magnificent row of windows, or rather of high glass doors, at the outside of which were heavy green-painted “ venetians,” which effectually excluded the glare, so dreaded by the inhabitants of Calcutta, and so disregarded by those of Madras. One of these windows, or rather rows of windows, was a bay; but there was nothing like a curtain about it, the absence of which, together with the absence of carpets, for there was nothing but a large finely-textured mat on the floor, struck forcibly the attention of the griffin, who thought that there was a grand inconsistency between the unfinished aspect of the apartment itself and the splendour and number of the articles of furniture, which so ambitiously blocked up the room.
Near the bay-window. was a large round table, which consisted of a beautiful white marble slab upon a massive mahogany pedestal. In the centre of this table was a China flower-vase, and round it were scattered, in elegant confusion, a Book of Beauty, and a Book of Royalty, and a Book of Loveliness. Near this table was a mahogany sofa, covered with the finest bright yellow damask silk (very hideous indeed to look at, but very excellent for “ lighting up”); and then came another marbletable, but not a round one, it being of a rectangular shape, with a twist-about leg at either end of it, and on this was a China-inkstand (to look literary), an alabaster cupid or so, and a bronze stag. Next to this, proceeding along the centre of the