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Lord Charles the Second,' reckoning the beginning of the reign, not from the Restoration in 1660, but from the execution of Charles I. in 1649. But just as the Compleat Angler,' in company with 'honest Nat and R. Roe,' went a-fishing along the banks of the Lea for chubs and trouts in the dangerous days of the Great Rebellion, so did our friend the squire of Maple Durham quietly continue his researches in herbalism in spite of the disturbances of the time. Rumours of Naseby and of Marston Moor might reach the little hamlet beneath the slopes of Butser, or the story of the sacking of Basing-house, in the north of the county, yet the course of the seasons moved quietly on, 'their glorious tasks in silence perfecting. The summer migrants returned as usual to their ancient haunts, the swallows to the eaves of the manor-house, the swifts to the church tower, the cuckoo to the copse beside the stream. The long-leaved cowslips of Jerusalem continued every Easter-tide to put forth their blue and purple blossoms in the damp woods of Beaulieu Abbey, and the round-headed rampions on 'the chalkie hills' by Maple Durham, while in the garden the flowering plants succeeded each other in regular order, from the snowdrop in February to the hellebores at Christmas-time. And it was for these things that Mr. John Goodyer chiefly cared. More to him was the discovery of a new Geranium 'in the beginning of August 1654' than the assembling of Cromwell's First Parliament in the autumn of that year. He was the Gilbert White of the seventeenth century. And, like the great naturalist of Selborne, he deserves to be remembered.
WILDFOWL AND PARLAKIMEDI.
Here happy souls (their blessed bower
Free from the rude resort
In harmless mirth and sport.-MICHAEL DRAYTON.
THE rather inane question, 'Do you like India ? ' may as a rule be answered summarily by a monosyllable. The answer depends less on the person than on the place where he is cast, for the varieties of life met with in India, the different kinds of interest, work, and sport, and the different conditions of climate and degrees of comfort and the reverse are incalculable. The question may mean ‘Do you like Dera Ismail Khan, Coconada, or Quilon?' Yet the answer will infer a grotesque generalisation. India is everything and nothing, and everything between. There are places where life is an idyll, places where it is made just endurable by the prospect of furlough, places where one feels that one's own particular case ought to be set beside the stories of Marsyas and Sisyphus in a classical dictionary, and places so hideous and unattractive that to escape from them one might consent to be immured permanently in a new mahogany-and-brass-fitted public-house outside Clapham Junction, if only to watch life through the windows.
Everyone has his own peculiar social ideals and takes his own intellectual equipment with him wherever he goes, but to content the ordinary man the country must provide somewhere to ride or at least a good deal to shoot. If there is plenty of room to let a horse out and good shooting as well, and if in addition to these advantages the place has some natural beauty of its own and a certain sylvan or desert, as well as human, charm, the dweller there can pity folk who dwell anywhere else, and the retired AngloIndian who has had the wit or luck to live in such a place, though only for a short time, when he is asked the trite old question, 'Do you like India ?' will unhesitatingly answer “Yes.' For by a special providence that accounts for all that is optimistic in man, such places live in the mind when the horror of a clammy backwater in Bengal or one's own particular gridiron elsewhere is forgotten.
Of course this is prefatory to an appreciation, a eulogy it may be, of a certain sequestered valley and haunt of wildfowl, which I always think of when people ask me if I like India. The tribute must out. It is Parlakimedi in Ganjam. A beautiful name worthy of the place, and not to be pronounced with the English' a it were a new kind of indoor game, but with the soft Hunteriana and a purring 'r' as a Scotchman would pronounce 'pearl,' the second accent being on the antepenultimate syllable. Parlakimedi, as if the word had been conceived by a poet to lend music to his hexameters
Deep in the bosky shade of the Parlakimedi valleys.
If you want to see India as it has been the last few thousand years go to Parlakimedi. It is true there is a new college and a brand new palace, but these toys look as if some meddler had introduced them just to see if they were any good, and as if the honest folk finding they were not had left them there looking as incongruous as a model of a Hottentot village stuck in a glass exhibition house. Big as they are they are too much by-the-way to make the place look hybrid ; rather, they are so palpably incidental that they emphasise the inveterate Brahminism of Parlakimedi—that is to say, the constitutional inability of the inhabitants to depart in any detail from the ritual prescribed by Manu, that legendary old man whom they make responsible for their instinct of segregation, attributing to him the narrow and prohibitive restrictions that have bound them up in close corporations since Vedic times.
The houses of the astrologers on the other hand are part of the place. There is a whole street of them, the walls polished and clean, rising from a high plinth and covered with pictures and designs which might be the signs of the zodiac, but are not. The passage opens into a wide courtyard, at the back of which stands a substantial house barely discernible from the road through the narrow lintel, for in this land either through respect to the Raja who alone might possess a substantial roof, or by his command, or out of fear of making any display of property the rule has held through many centuries that the buildings abutting on the street should be thatched. Perhaps a few generations ago, before we crippled the oppressor, the doors in many of the houses were so contrived that the interior buildings could not be seen. The astrologers indeed may have been exempt from the rule, for they
were and are still, though insidiously, the most influential men in the place, and the Raja in his uncomfortable English palace is guided by their oracles, which are of course incapable of any new or subversive utterance.
The autocrat himself, if he is like other Rajas of the district, belongs to the most prescribed and fettered class in Hindustan He can have few, if any friends, and intimacy even with his relatives is impossible in strictly orthodox families, for palace etiquette, founded on suspicion, forbids any free intercourse between father and son, and brother and brother. It is often impossible for neighbours of similar rank and caste to meet, since each family has its own ideas about its relative dignity and importance, and the traditions of no two families correspond. A' may not take more than six steps forward from the gadi to meet 'B'; and the pride of 'B's ' ancestors, respected by the family from a date before Asoka, makes it impossible for him to proceed more than three steps beyond the threshold to meet 'A.' Consequently there is
‘' an irreducible space between.
There are many such spaces, and they give a kind of cellular tissue to the community, which no doubt preserves its existence. The provision implies in the framers of the mechanism an obscure and penetrating wisdom, which in its fixity seems to operate as surely and instinctively as the immanent and plastic spirit which informs nature. The cell that by evading the law ceases to pursue its function is destroyed as far as the social fabric is concerned, which to the Hindu is life. Therefore the fabric is indestructible. Whether it is worth preserving on the terms prescribed by Manu is another thing.
At Parlakimedi there is one man who has decided that it is not. In a little round hut of wattle and grass, shaped like a dove-house, propped against a galvanised wire telegraph pole, and offering little protection from the sun and rain, lives an outcast of the fisher caste, who gave up his birthright more than forty years ago for a Pariah woman, and ever since has lived apart from his kind. Near by in more substantial houses, thatched but floored with chunan and exposing narrow verandahs to the streets, where two or three may lie abreast, live the people to whom he belonged. They speak to him if they meet him on the road and help him sometimes when ague catches him and he cannot make nets fast enough to live. Outside his hut squats a woman, short and angular, of indefinite age. Her hair is still black and hangs in clots like pictures of
Medusa in the school books—it is easier to search so. Her eyes
are like a wounded worm. Her skin is wrinkled into weals and her mouth and nose hazily intermingled as in the snout of an animal. She is the subject of his romance. Over the pair the telegraph wires stretch and messages fly between stout brokers quoting stocks and dividends, and the man and the woman are nearer in spirit to these practical folk than is anyone else in the place. For in spite of the palace and its billiard table, and the college with its English text-books, its affiliation to the Madras University and its professor, the antiquary with his ear-trumpet and voluminous European correspondence, they are the most English-minded people in Parlakimedi because they once dared to take a risk and meet a responsibility.
I remember a smell as of cowslips oozing up from the scum of the jhils, at each end of the town. The fisherman used to sit on the ghat steps and bake his old bones in the sun. The thought of him always brings to my mind the fragrance of cowslips in the clay meadows of High Suffolk, just as the patches of sunshine glimmering on the dim purple background of the mountains behind the jhil, when a shaft of light broke through a cloud, used to recall the golden harvest fields by the Suffolk coast.
It was the jhils that made the place a paradise. A mile to the north and south of the town were great expanses of water covered with pink and purple lotus flowers, haunted by innumerable wildfowl, and encompassed by wide stretches of swampy ground that held the snipe all through the season. In the background rose gaunt and splintered hills, a chaos of rose-coloured loam and rock that bevelled off into the lemon green of the plain. Behind them towered the thickly-forested ranges of the Eastern Ghats that extend far west into the central provinces, and whose highest peaks, Deva Giri (4960 feet) and Mahenda Giri (5130 feet) overlook Parlakjmedi to the north and south. The distinctive charm of the country lies in the blending and compromise of opposites, in the promontory of smooth rock jutting into the rice fields, the swampy inlet of marsh penetrating into the bed-rock of the hills, the harmony of red, grey, and green, barren and fertile, the desert and the sown,' the metallic glitter and soft tropical sheen, each standing as the happy relief and complement of the other in a perpetual eirenicon of sunshine, whatever their old cosmic difference may have been.
There were other jhils beyond the hills, and the shooting