Page:Views in India, chiefly among the Himalaya Mountains.djvu/23

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grandeur of the kings and princes who reigned and revelled in Rajmhal, is visited by every European traveller voyaging on the Ganges, many finding a pensive pleasure in musing over those vicissitudes of fortune which have reared the red-cross banner of St. George over the fallen glories of the crescent. While some persons consider the conversion of the marble hall into a depot for coals a shocking desecration, others are of opinion that the element of this new power, which is changing all the moral, political, and physical relations in the world, and is working a revolution more stupendous and radical than any that history records, is well lodged in a palace. The hall, once filled with courtiers blazing in diamonds, now contains the true diamond; while the emblem of that astonishing power, whose gigantic resources it is impossible to calculate, lying at anchor under the buttresses of the ancient towers of Rajmhal, in the shape of a steam-vessel, can scarcely fail to fill the contemplative mind with gorgeous visions of the future.

A voyage on the Ganges, interesting even when made under all the disadvantages attending the slow and clumsy craft in which travellers ascending the stream were, when the wind was against them, towed by the crew, perhaps at the rate of five or six miles per day, is now performed in the most delightful manner possible in the government iron steamers. The arrangement of these commodious vessels is very judicious and convenient. The cuddy, a cheerful apartment, with a sky-light above, and four large windows on either side, stands athwart-ship, about the centre of the vessel, with eight cabins abaft, and six before it; a narrow passage runs between each range of cabins, and terminates in the cuddy, which thus enjoys the most ample ventilation. The vessel, which is in technical language denominated a flat, is towed by a steamer, also of iron; and in consequence of the difficulties which at present attend the navigation of a river beset with shifting sand-banks, the whole concern is brought to anchor at sunset every evening, the commandant not being allowed to put the steam up until sunrise the following morning. As Government despatches treasure by these boats, they are accompanied by a guard of soldiers who live and mess in the steamer, but at eight bells post a sentinel on the flat; thus enabling the passengers to throw open their windows at night with the strongest feelings of security—feelings which they would not otherwise enjoy, the thieves of India being exceedingly expert, and frequently committing great depredations on the river, by means of the small boats, in which they glide noiselessly to any unguarded vessel, which they speedily strip of every thing valuable.

Native pilots are stationed along the river, who are taken on board at different points; they receive eighteen rupees (thirty-six shillings) a month, for which they have to provide a small dingee (wherry) and crew, to sound all the depths and shoals of the river. These men are at the present period exceedingly useful in pointing out the hidden sand-banks which lie perdu at every angle of the stream, and in time, under the discipline of a good system, may be made invaluable. The roof or deck of the flat is covered with an awning, and affords a delightful promenade during those periods of the twenty-four hours, and that season of the year, in which Anglo-Indians may venture to emerge into open air. The eve of the cold weather is certainly the best time for river travelling, since, while enjoying a gentle and balmy breeze, the voyager can, without the slightest personal inconvenience, look out upon the rapid succession of villages, groves,