Page images

door were congregated some two or three, or four or five natives, of a variety of castes acd descriptions. Palankin-bearers, squatting on their haunches, or lying at full length on the hard floor, waiting for their employers in the interior, or perhaps to be paid for their work. Sirdar-bearers, not always of the most respectable aspect, stretched out fast asleep on a little mat, or native carpet, with their turbans lying by their sides. Coolies, with their empty baskets, clamouring for pice, or with full ones depositing beer and wine for the consumption of the young gentlemen in the quarters. Box-wallahs, with their great green tin-boxes, seeking admittance, whereever they could, with their "plenty fine thing got, master.” Mussauljees, * or he-scullions, cleaning plates and dishes, and a variety of other specimens of the genus homo, “ too numerous," as the advertisements say, " to mention—" jabbering, and chattering and making a confusion of noises, somewhat resembling that which an imaginative person might fancy to have disturbed Noah in the Ark.

Up and down the long gallery were walking, as though to give a variety to the scene, two or three fresh looking young gentlemen, in white jackets, who looked like recent arrivals and at one extremity thereof might be seen three or four children playing about, in the neighbourhood of the apothecary's

Mussauljees are properly torch-bearers—they retain the name, though the calling is almost extinct, and are chiefly employed in the capacity of scullions.

quarters, under the surveillance of an ayah, or native nurse, who was squatting on a mat near the door, and trying to console a refractory baby, whose screams, mingled with the groanings of a violincello from No. 4, and the squeaking of a diseased flute in No. 8, gave a pleasant diversity to the Babel of noises, which greeted the ears of our friend.

Having ascertained that neither of the three young gentlemen, who were pacing up and down the passage, was Mr. Unposted-Ensign Phillimore, Julian Jenks thought that the best thing he could do was to inquire from one of them the number of that officer's quarters, and having acted, without loss of time, upon this resolution, he ascertained that his friend was located in No. 15, to “ the best of the belief” of the gentleman he had asked.

So Julian Jenks made his way to No. 15, and, as there was no servant outside the door, he entered it without ceremony, and there he saw Mr. Frederick Phillimore, with his legs on the table, smoking a Manilla cheroot, with a cup of cold tea, and a small pile of cigar ashes upon a blue-and-white cheeseplate, beside him.

The room which Julian now entered, was the most bare and desolate he had ever seen in his life There was no mat on the floor, which was of plaster, made somewhat to resemble rough stone; and the white-washed punkah, which hung inactive from the ceiling by ropes which had once been covered with the commonest unbleached cloth of the country, had three or four large holes in the canvass, no fringe, and no gilding of any kind. In one corner of the room was a common camp-bed, in another a board ship washing-stand, and in a third about three dozen black bottles, which were most probably full of beer, whilst the fourth corner of the apartment was cut off from the main room, by a low embankment of brick and plaster in a circular form, which stretched some way along the side of the apartment, and was, as appeared to Julian, from the red earthen pots, which adorned it, intended to do duty for a bathing-room. In this enclosure were the kedgeree pots aforesaid, about half a dozen empty bottles, one or two full ditto wrapped up in wet straw, as a sort of desperate attempt to cool them; whilst the top of the little wall, that enclosed the space, was set off by a brass basin, two pieces of soap, a sponge, and a wet towel. These, with three or four blackleather bullock trunks, a couple of chairs, a tin-box and the table at which Mr. Phillimore was sitting, were the principal items of furniture which struck the attention of our friend, when first he took a survey of the apartment; and it must be acknowledged that the catalogue is not one of a particularly inviting description.

But rough and untempting as was the aspect of this apartment, there was that within which few of the palaced houses of Calcutta could boast of in such perfection-namely, a rich and overflowing welcome, gushing warm from the heart.

“Well, here you are,” cried Mr. Phillimore, starting on his legs as soon as ever he could get them off the table, “and precious glad I am to see you too. Take a cheroot. Here, qui hai-confound it—why don't they answer?-well, you can light from mine. Take some beer, you look as though you wanted it," and Mr. Phillimore, suiting the action to the word, took a bottle of beer from the corner of the room, drew the cork, placed it on the table, extracted a couple of tumblers from a box, placed them on the table too, and looked as though he was determined to enjoy himself.

"Well,” said Julian, after a variety of commonplace questions and answers had passed between them, “ what do you think of this place ? a con. founded hole-isn't it?"

" Why," returned Mr. Phillimore, "I don't know what to say to that exactly. There's nothing to do, you see, all day, and as long as one has got plenty of money, the world goes pretty smoothly, barring the mosquitoes and a few little things of that kind."

" And the heat,” suggested Julian, glancing upwards at the immoveable punkah, with a look somewhat resembling that with which the fox contemplated the grapes, before he made the notable observation that has passed into a proverb.

"Ah! true," returned Mr. Phillimore, “it is confoundedly hot isn't it? and to say the best of them, these rooms are none of the most comfortable. But we poor devils of subalterns can't live like the magnificoes of Chowringhee, so it's no use grumbling at our fate. A hundred and fifty rupees a month will just keep one in beer and cheroots.”

“ But you must have servants," suggested Julian.

" True,” replied Mr. Phillimore," and so I have -two or three niggers to wait on me; but I've lent them all just now. By the bye, you remember Appleby?"

“ Of course I do," said Julian, " what of him?"

" Why, I've lent him my servants," continued Phillimore, “ for he wants them much more than I do-poor fellow! I'm afraid he is in for it.”

" In for what?" asked Julian Jenks.

"A hop from the twig," rejoined Phillimore; 6 he has got one of those horrid fevers, which I am afraid will carry him off before many hours are over. He was delirious when last I saw him, and that, they say, is the worst of signs.”

" Poor little fellow !" cried Julian, in a voice of genuine concern—" I liked that boy so much for boy he is still —so young, so gentle— I could almost cry for him. Are you sure that nothing can be done?"

“ I'm afraid not,” said Mr. Phillimore.

“I will go and see at all events," continued Julian, tossing away his cigar as he spoke. “Poor little Appleby! I would do any thing for him— that I would with my whole heart. Come, show me the way."

« PreviousContinue »