SIX WEEKS AMONG THE CINGHALESE
When I had fairly conquered the initial difficulties my daily life in Belligam settled itself very satisfactorily, and on the whole I found fewer deficiencies than I had at first feared. My four familiars fulfilled their duties very fairly well; and when, now and again, something indispensable was lacking, the faithful Ganymede was ready at once to supply it. In view of the vast variety of tasks which I found to do, arising on one hand from collecting specimens and working in my laboratory, and on the other from my anxiety to make as many sketches as possible of the lovely neighbourhood of the village, my first object, of course, was to make the best possible use of my precious time in this place. Every morning, as I got up, I used to tell myself that, simply as balanced against the cost of my journey and preparations, my day was worth five pounds sterling, and that I must before nightfall have got through work that I could value at least at that sum. I made it an immutable law that not an hour was to be wasted, and, above all, that I must forego the midday siesta which is universally indulged in; in point of fact, that was my quietest and most profitable hour for study.
Belligam being at not quite six degrees north of the equator, and the difference between the longest and the shortest days of the year amounting to not so much as one hour. I had nearly twelve hours a day in which I could work. I got up every morning before the sun, at five o'clock. and had taken my first cool morning bath before he rose above the palm-groves of Cape Mirissa, exactly facing the rest-house. In the verandah, from whence I usually watched the sudden birth of the day, Ganymede would be standing ready with a freshly opened cocoa-nut, the cool juice being my regular morning draught. Meanwhile. William shook out my clothes to dislodge any millipede, scorpion, or other vermin that might have crept into them. Soon after Socrates made his appearance, bringing me my tea, with an air of extreme humility, and a bunch of bananas, and the maize-cake which is eaten by way of bread.
My dear old habit of coffee-drinking I had to give up altogether in Ceylon, though coffee is my favourite drink, for though the coffee districts are the chief source of wealth in the island, the noble infusion is generally so bad that tea is universally preferred. It probably arises from the fact that the coffee-beans are not properly dried in the island, and never reach that pitch of desiccation which is indispensable to careful and successful preparation till they have travelled to Europe.
At seven o'clock my boatmen commonly came up to fetch the nets and glass vessels for the day's water-excursion. This lasted from two to three hours at most. On my return I at once distributed my prizes into a number of glass jars of various sizes, picked out from among the few survivors such as it was still possible to save, and immediately set to work to draw and dissect all the newest and most interesting. Then I took a second bath, and at about eleven ate my breakfast. The principal feature of this was invariably the national dish of curry and rice. The rice itself was always the same, plainly boiled; but the concoction of the curry, the all-important spiced stew which gives savour to the rice, absorbed the whole of the wit and care of which stepmother Nature had bestowed but a niggardly share on Babua's small brain, and his pride was to surprise me every day by some novelty in the mixture. One day it was sweet curry, less spiced and sometimes really quite sweet; the next it was hot curry, strongly flavoured with red peppers and other pungent spices. Another time it was a compound defying analysis, a mixtum compositum consisting mainly of vegetables of all sorts, cocoa-nut, and various fruits; or, on the other hand, chiefly meat of one kind or another. These last compounds excited my greatest admiration, for Babua seemed to fancy that I, as a zoologist, must take an equal interest in every class of animal life, and that therefore their application to the end and purpose of curry must be an important natural problem. So, if on Monday the Vertebrata were represented by some delicate fish in my curry, on Tuesday this was replaced by noble prawns and shrimps, or by small crabs as representing the Crustaceae. On Wednesday, cuttle-fish (Sepia or Loligo) would appear, the most highly organized of the Mollusca; while on Thursday we condescended to some edible Univalve or to baked oysters. On Friday. the worthy race of Radiata were represented by starfish or Echinodermata. the eggs of the sea-urchin, or the gelatinous texture of a Holothuria (Trepang). On Saturday, I fully expected to have come down to the Zoophytes, and to find Medusae or corals, sponges or Actiniae, in my bowl of curry. My cook, however, clinging to an antiquated system, evidently regarded Zoophytes as plants, and supplied their place with some winged creature - bats or birds, or sometimes the fleshy bodies of a horned beetle or moth. On Sundays, of course, he laid himself out to give me some special treat, and my curry was of the best, containing a fowl or a fat iguana, occasionally even a snake, which I at first mistook for eel. Babua was evidently convinced of the close affinities of birds with reptiles, and thought it made no difference whether he sent the earlier or the more recent type of Sauropsis to table. Happily for my European prejudices, I was gradually initiated into the mongrel mysteries of curry, and commonly knew nothing of its constituents till after I had swallowed it in blind resignation. Besides, the thick sauce in which they were disguised contained such a mixture of spices, with particles of roots, fruits, and leaves, that nothing short of anatomical analysis would have revealed the nature of the first elements, and this I carefully avoided.
For the first week or two I had some doubts as to whether I could hold out for some months on the national diet of curry and rice. I went through the same experience as Goethe did with the muddy Merseburg beer at Leipsic; at first I could hardly eat it, and at last I could hardly bear to part from it. In the course of the second week I found myself making a virtue of necessity, and fancied that there was something really remarkable, or at any rate interesting, in the flavour of curry; and by the end of a month habit had made me so much of an Indian that I began to wish for fresh varieties of the stew, and devoted the produce of my own sport to the purpose; and now I had curries made of monkey and of flying-fox, to the amazement of Babua himself.
I found under all culinary difficulties the greatest comfort in the marvellous fruit which graced the rest-house table, fresh every day, and amply indemnified me for all the anguish of curry. Foremost of all I must sing the praises of the noble banana (Musa sapientum) or Pisang, the most precious gift of the tropics, and worthy of its name of "Fig of Paradise." Though throughout the tropical zone this incomparable fruit is one of the most profitable of cultivated plants, this is especially the case in Ceylon. Here we are in the paradise of lemurs; the droll little loris (Stenops gracilis), half monkeys, which I kept alive as pets in the resthouse, left me no doubts on this point, for they prefer the sweet fruit of the Pisang to any other food. Many varieties of the tree are cultivated by the Cinghalese. A small gold-coloured kind - "Ladies' fingers" are thought the best; they are, in fact, not much larger than a slender finger, and are particularly sugary in flavour. The huge water-bananas are, in size, form, and colour, more like a large cucumber, and their cool juicy flesh is particularly refreshing. The floury potatoe-bananas. on the contrary, are valued for their solid mealy consistency and nutritious qualities; three or four are enough to mitigate the pangs of hunger. The pine-apple banana is characterized by a delicate aroma, the cinnamonbanana by a spicy flavour, and so forth. This fine fruit is commonly eaten raw, but it is also excellent boiled or baked, or stuffed and fried. No other fruit that grows, perhaps, is at once so delicious and so nourishing, wholesome and prolific. A single banana tree bears a clump of fruits consisting of several hundred, and yet this beautiful plant, with its grand crown of drooping light-green leaves, each ten feet long, is an annual. The beauty of the banana, as a feature in the landscape, is on a par with its inestimable utility; it is the ornament of every Indian hut. If I could transplant only one tropical plant into my European garden, the lovely Musa sapientum should have the preference above all others. In practical value, this Musa of the wise is the philosopher's stone of the vegetable world.
Next to the banana, of which I ate several three times a day during the whole of my stay in Belligam, the chief ornament of my table were fine pine apples - a few coppers' worth; then the handsome mangoes (Mangifera Indica), an oval fruit from three to six inches long; their bright gold-coloured flesh, of a creamy consistency, has a subtle aroma, which, however, distinctly recalls that of turpentine. I also found the fruit of the passion flower (Passiflora) very pleasant eating, with a taste something like the gooseberry. I was less attracted by the more famous custard apple, the scaly fruit of the Anona squamosa, or by the Indian almond, the hard nut of Terminalia catappa. The quality of the apples and oranges in Ceylon is singularly bad; the oranges remain green, stringy and dry. But no doubt the inferiority of these and other fruits is due to want of care; the Cinghalese are much too well off and easy going to devote much pains to the selection and culture of the trees.
When I had refreshed myself with fruit after my modest breakfast, I generally devoted the hottest hours of the day, from twelve to four o'clock, to dissecting and microscopic work, observations and drawing, or to preparing and packing specimens. The evening hours, from four to six, I commonly spent in making some excursion in the lovely neighbourhood, sometimes making a water-colour sketch, and sometimes trying to perpetuate it in photography. Sometimes I shot monkeys or birds in the woods, collected insects and snails, or went down to the shore to gaze at the coral reefs, and increase my fast-growing collections with some of the endless treasures of the sea. Loaded with prizes, I got home again by half an hour or an hour after sunset; and the sorting and arranging, or skinning and cleaning, with pressing plants, etc.. occupies about an hour more.
Thus it was generally eight o'clock before I sat down to my second solid meal or dinner. At this, again, the principal dish was always curry and rice, but besides there was usually some fish or a crab, which I always found excellent, and after it a dish of eggs or a pudding, and a desert of delicious fruit.
There was. of course, no lack of fish in Belligam. The most esteemed and justly so - is the excellent Seir-fish (Cybium guttatum), a large, flattish, thorny-finned fish of the mackerel family (Scomberidae). There are also some very excellent members of the families of the Cataphracti, Squamipinnes, and Labroidei. The hideously grotesque bays and sharks, of which enormous specimens may be seen every day in the fish-market, are less meritorious. When Babua tried to persuade me to relish these with a keenly pungent peppered sauce, he reckoned perhaps on the philogenetic interest attaching to these primaeval forms - the survivors of the common progenitors of the higher Vertebrata, including man himself.
The reader will have learnt from the menu of my Belligam fare that I was on the high road to become a complete vegetarian. Now and then, to be sure, Socrates tried to give me a special treat in the form of a beefsteak or a mutton chop; but I will forbear to hint what I suspected to be the real animal to which I was indebted for these delicacies. I must, however, confess that I sometimes tried to supply the place of an Europcan meat diet by the use of my gun. Among the dainties I have mentioned above as the results of my sport, I spoke of monkeys. I found this noble game excellent eating, either fresh and baked, or pickled in vinegar; and I began to suspect that cannibalism was, in fact, a refined form of gourmandise. The flesh of the Pteropus or flying-fox I liked less; it has a peculiar musky flavour. The meat of the iguana (Monitor dracaena) a good deal resembles veal, and stewed snake reminded me somewhat of stewed eel. Out of a variety of birds, wild pigeons and crows, wild ducks and herons were frequent substitutes for fowls. Added to these, I had a variety of frutti di mare, the savoury produce of the sea-shell-fish, sea-urchins, Holothuria, etc. - so that the kitchen bag at Belliiam included a greater variety than might at first be supposed. In addition, Mr. Scott, my kind host at Galle, had provided me with a quantity of English preserved food, Scotch marmalade, Liebig's extract of meat, etc., and had also taken care to supply me drinkables.
With regard to this important question of what to drink, I had at first grave doubts. The common drinking water is considered extremely bad and unwholesome throughout the low country of Ceylon, though the hill districts are abundantly supplied with the purest and coolest springs. The heavy rainfall which daily occurs constantly carries down soil and vegetable refuse into the rivers, and in many cases they are also fed with the overflow of the stagnant lagoons. As a rule, therefore, the water is not fit to drink till it has been boiled, and in the form of weak tea, or mixed with whisky or claret. My good friend, Mr. Scott, had supplied me with a more than ample quantity of whisky, but still my favourite drink was cocoa-nut milk, which I found as pleasant and refreshing as it was wholesome.
When my simple dinner was over, I made it a rule to take a short evening walk on the deserted shore or in the palm groves, illuminated by thousands of fire-flies and glow-worms; then I made a few notes, or tried to read by the light of a lamp burning cocoa-nut oil; but generally I was so overpowered by fatigue, that by nine o'clock I was glad to go to bed, after carefully shaking my night things, as I had my clothes in the morning, to turn out intruding scorpions or centipedes. Large black scorpions, about six inches long, were so common that I once collected half a dozen in the course of an hour; there are also a great many snakes. The pretty green whip-snakes are seen everywhere hanging from the boughs of trees, and the large rat-snake (Coryphodon Blumenbachii) hunts the rats and mice over the roofs of the huts. Although it is quite harmless and devoid of venom, it is always an unpleasant surprise when, in the heat of the chase, one of these creatures - five feet or so in length - suddenly comes down through a hole in the ceiling, and drops, perhaps, on to your bed.
My sleep was not much disturbed, as a rule, by the manifold wild creatures of Belligam, excepting by the howling of the jackals and the uncanny cry of the devil bird, a kind of owl, Syrnuim lndrani, and a few other night birds. The bell-like tone of the pretty little tree-frogs, which live in the blossoms of large-flowered plants, was rather soothing than otherwise. But the flight of my own thoughts often kept me awake; reflections on the scenes of the past day, and excited expectations of the morrow. The mingled pictures passed before my mind in slow array, as they had been stamped on my memory during my last excursions and studies, and I sketched fresh projects for the future.
I had frequent opportunities of familiar intercourse with the dusky natives of Belligam, most of whom were of unmixed Cinghalese blood, either in the course of the work I needed done in my laboratory, or of my attempts to sketch and photograph the scenery. From the first I was implored by the native "doctor', to lend him my assistance in some surgical operations, and thus my medical skill was noised abroad in a way which would have done honour to the brilliant, if not too profitable, practice of some of my gifted colleagues at home. Before long I was credited with the skill of a juggler and magician, able to brew elixirs out of herbs, and extract gold from sea-creatures. My black art was appealed to for the most wonderful results; old and young crowded to follow me from village to village, and in all my walks. Everything I did was of absorbing interest, and they suspected a mystery behind my simplest acts.
Dealing with the natives for natural objects was a most amusing and successful business; I owe many fine specimens to their diligence. It was particularly advantageous to me when we agreed to barter. I had brought with me a number of small articles for this purpose, particularly objects made of iron, such as knives, scissors, pincers, hammers, etc., and these were in the greatest demand; still they also liked glass beads, coloured stones, and other ornaments. But the highest value was attributed to coloured prints, of which I had with me some few hundred, and this says much for the artistic feeling of the Cinghalese. These great works, the delight of all German children*16 were immensely admired at Belligam, and I only regretted having no more of them. They were highly prized even as a return for presents and hospitality; and I had no better way of showing my gratitude for the heaps of cocoa-nuts, bananas, mangoes, and other splendid fruits, which my brown friends, and particularly the two headmen, sent to me daily. Before long I found all the best huts in the village decorated with these products of German art; and even from the neighbouring villages the headmen came to call, offering me fruit and flowers in the hope of receiving in return the much-coveted prints.
First in estimation stood the military: Prussian Uhlans, Austrian Hussars, French Artillery. English Marines, and so forth. Next to these came theatrical figures: fancy portraits of Oberon and Titania, the Dame Blanche, and the Somnambula; and scenes from the Wagner Nibelungen-Ring. Then came pictures of animals: horses, cattle, and sheep; and last of all genre-subjects, land-scapes, etc.. the gaudier and the simpler the better.
By these reciprocal gifts and the trade by barter, I soon had established friendly relations with the good people of Belligam; and whenever I took a walk through the village, or went by in an ox-cart, I had always to return the greetings of my brown friends to the right and left, who came out with their arms gravely crossed and bowed respectfully as I passed. In these walks through the village, as well as in the course of other visits that I subsequently paid to various places in Ceylon, nothing struck me so much as the scarcity of women, and particularly of young women and girls between the ages of twelve and twenty; even among the children at play, boys are far more numerous. The girls are taught at a very early age to remain within doors and perform domestic duties, and they are soon past their bloom. They are often married at ten or twelve, and are old women between twenty and thirty. Grandmothers of twenty-five or thirty are very common. A further cause of the disproportion of the sexes is to be found in the constant majority of boys born among the Cinghalese: to every ten boys on an average not more than eight or nine girls. Thus the fair sex is the rarest - rarest of all when it is fair.
There is a direct connection between these facts and the singular institution of polyandry, of which it is, no doubt, to some extent the cause. Although the English Government has for a long time been endeavouring to suppress this practice. it still exists, and apparently to a great extent, particularly in the remoter parts of the island. It is not unusual for two or three brothers to have a wife in common; and there are said to be some ladies who are the happy possessors of from eight to twelve recognized husbands. A number of very curious histories are told arising out of these complicated family relationships, but it is extremely difficult to discriminate between the core of truth in them and the added fiction.
Old Socrates, with whom I once discussed this question of polyandry very fully, startled me by propounding a new theory of inheritance, which is too remarkable to be omitted here. It has hitherto been lacking in the ninth chapter of my "Natural History of Creation," and its originality must make it interesting to every sincere Darwinist. I must preface it by mentioning that Socrates was the son of a native of the hillcountry of Kandy, and, by his own account, belonged to a high caste. Hence it was with silent contempt that he held dealings with the inhabitants of Belligam, among whom he had been living for some years, and with whom he was obviously not on the most friendly terms. From the very first he warned me against their evil ways in general, accusing them of many sins in particular. "But their reprobate nature is not to be wondered at." he suddenly exclaimed. shrugging his shoulders, with an expression of great gravity. "For you see. sir. these low-country people have always had a number of fathers, and as they inherit all the bad qualities of so many fathers, it is only natural that they should grow worse and worse."
As Socrates had warned me on the very first day of my arrival of the atrocious character of his fellow-countrymen, I was in fact somewhat uneasy; though it was, of course, some consolation when he assured me that he himself was the best of men, and that I might trust him implicitly in everything. How great, then, was my surprise when the chief headman paid me a visit immediately after, and quietly told me very much the same thing; and when, next day, half a dozen more of the village officials called upon me and repeated the tune with variations. Each and all implored me to be on my guard with all his fellow villagers, for that they were a bad lot for the most part - liars, thieves, slanderers, and so forth; the speaker himself was the only exception, and on his friendship I might fully rely.
Although these pressing communications cast a dark shadow on my visions of the Eden-Iike innocence of the Cinghalese, they came out in even a worse light under the disclosures of the village magistrate, or, as he liked to be styled, the "judge." He assured me with a sigh, that he generally had the whole village on his hands, and that he never found the day long enough for all his business. In fact, I found the Court of Justice - like the village school-house, an open shed - almost always occupied with a few dozen, or sometimes about a hundred of the villagers, seeking justice in some form; but I learnt, to my comfort, that most of the trials were of cases of abuse, insult, or cheating, and particularly of petty theft in the gardens. The Cinghalese in general are much given to cheating and cunning, and are, above all, liars of the first proficiency. On the other hand, they are not addicted to deeds of violence; assault and manslaughter are very rare, and robbing and murder quite exceptional. They seldom display strong passions of any kind; their temperament being, on the whole. decidedly phlegmatic.
The Cinghalese are great lovers of music and dancing, but both, it must be admitted, in forms not much to our taste. Their chief instruments are drums and tom-toms stretched with vellum which they belabour with all their might with wooden sticks; then they have a reed-pipe, and a very primitive instrument with one string. When, in the evening, I heard the sound of these ear-splitting contrivances in the neighbourhood of the rest-house, and followed them up, I generally found a party of six or a dozen naked brown fellows round a fire, under a palm grove; they had painted themselves grotesquely with white, red, and yellow stripes, and were leaping about and cutting the most extraordinary capers. A large circle of meditative spectators squatted on the ground closely packed, and watched the wonderful performances with devout attention. At about Christmas time, which is the period of the Buddhist festivals at the turn of the year, these devil-dances were more frequent and had some special religious significance. The principal dancers were extravagantly decked out with coloured feathers, wore a pair of horns on their heads, and had tied on long tails - always a particular delight of innocent youth! A whole troop of these demons would often go leaping and hallooing through the village with a band of music, even in the day time; and at night the addition of a drinking bout often made these performances a perfect orgy.
The headman of the neighbouring village of Dena Pitya had arranged a particularly grand Buddhist festival for the 19th of December. I was invited as an honoured guest, and escorted thither in solemn procession. A dozen of venerable and shaven Buddhist priests in yellow robes received me under the boughs of an enormous sacred fig-tree and led me, with strange chanting, into the temple, which was elegantly decorated with garlands. Here I was shown the great image of Buddha, covered with fragrant flowers; and the mural paintings, scenes from the history of the god, were explained to me. I was then led to a sort of throne erected opposite to the temple, under a shady group of bananas and the performance began. A band of five tom-tom thumpers and as many flute-players set up a noise which was enough to make the stones cry out. At the same time two dancers came forward, perched on stilts twelve feet high, and went through a series of wonderful evolutions. Meanwhile the headman's daughters. finely grown black-haired girls of from twelve to twenty, with beautifully formed limbs, handed round toddy or palm-wine in cocoa-nut shells with sweetmeals and fruit as refreshments. The headman then made a long speech, of which unluckily I could hardly understand a word, but I could make out that he dwelt with emphasis on the high honour my visit had done him. The same idea was expressed in pantomime by a party of ten naked, painted devil-dancers who leaped and capered round my throne. When at length, towards sundown, I took my leave and went to mount my bullock-cart, I found it filled with splendid bananas and cocoa-nuts, that the kindly folks had put in as a parting gift to speed me on my way.
Hardly was I released from my functions as honorary president of this truly Cinghalese Buddhist festival when, the very next day, I had to fill the same office at the annual festival of the Wesleyan mission! On the 18th of December, quite unexpectedly, a carriage arrived from Galle with the head of the Wesleyan mission established there. He informed me that to-day, being the last day of the scholastic year, a grand prize-giving was to take place in their school at Belligam, and that I could do no greater service to a good cause than by distributing the prizes to the children. In spite of my utmost resistance, I was obliged at last to consent. I had done honour to the sublime Buddha yesterday, and to-day I must pay a tribute to worthy Mr. Wesley. So at noon I walked down to the open schoolhouse, where about a hundred and fifty children in white dresses were assembled - some natives of Belligam and some from the neighbouring villages. First they sang several songs, which certainly did no particular credit to the musical culture of the dusky schoolmaster; it struck me that the hundred and fifty children about ninety boys and sixty girls - were singing at least fifty different tunes at once. They tried, however, to make up for the lack of harmony by strength of voice and vigour of tone. The examinations in Biblical history and English grammar, which came next, were, however, eminently satisfactory; the copy and arithmetic books, too, were by no means bad, when it is considered that the contents were written within six degrees of the equator. The Rev. Mr. N - then delivered a solemn address, at the end of which he requested me to present the thirty prizes that had been awarded to the most diligent scholars. I called out their names from a list, and each time a small Cinghalese came up with a radiant face and took his reward from my hand with a deep bow - an English book or a spelling-book with pictures. Finally the whole party were treated to coffee and cakes. My friends in Galle and Colombo, who heard through the papers of my extraordinary proceedings. laughed at me "consumedly."
The most remarkable ceremony, however, at which I was present during my residence at Belligam, was the funeral of a Buddhist priest, on the 13th of January. While ordinary men are here simply interred, either in the garden behind their own house or in a Cocos grove adjoining the village, none but priests are allowed the honour of cremation. On this occasion the deceased was the oldest and most respected priest in the village, and accordingly a high pile of palm trunks was erected near the principal temple, in the midst of the cocoa-nut grove. After the corpse had been borne through the village with solemn chanting, on a high bier decked with flowers, a troup of young Buddhist priests in yellow robes carried it to the top of the pile, which was about thirty feet high. The four corners were formed by four tall cocoa trunks, and from these a white cloth was suspended, as a sort of canopy. After various ceremonies had been performed with solemn chanting and prayers, the pile was fired at about five in the evening, to a loud rattle of tom-toms. The swarthy crowd, who had assembled to the number of several thousands, filling the cocoa-nut grove, watched the burning of the body with the greatest intentness, particularly when the flames caught the overhanging cloth. The hot ascending air blew out this horizontal sheet like a huge sail, and it was dark before it was caught by the licking flames and reduced to tinder. At that moment a thousand voices broke out in a loud shout of triumph that rang through the silent wood - the soul of the high priest had at that instant flown up to heaven. This solemn moment was the signal for beginning a more jovial part of the festivity. Rice-cakes and palm-wine were offered to everyone, and a noisy and jolly drinking bout began, which was carried on through a great part of the night round the still smouldering pile.
Irrespective of these great occasions and a few excursions in the neighbourhood, my lonely stay in Belligam had but few interruptions. Now and then an English government official came through the district on a tour of inspection, and would spend a few hours with me at the rest-house, or even dine with me, and then go on his way. A few Cinghalese schoolmasters were less agreeable visitors; these, attracted by the fame of my laboratory, would come from considerable distances, introduce themselves as my colleagues, and want to see and know everything. Now, it is very true that I am myself no more than a schoolmaster, and have the greatest respect, accordingly, for every member of my caste. But that peculiar species, the Praeceptor Cinghalensis, which I here became acquainted with, was very little to my taste, and I was heartily glad to be rid of these pertinacious and inquiring, but extremely ignorant, individuals. However, at a later date, I came to know some pleasanter and better educated specimens of the genus.
But the most remarkable visit of curiosity which it was my fate to receive during my stay at Belligam, was paid me at Christmas-time. I came home late one evening, very tired, from a long expedition to Boralu, when Socrates came to meet me outside the rest-house, and with a mysterious air informed me, in a whisper, that four strangers, ladies, had been waiting to see me for more than an hour. In point of fact, as I entered the dimly lighted house, I saw four ladies sitting on the bench, dressed in European fashions, it is true, but in very bad taste. But I was much startled when the flicketing light of a cocoa-nut-oil lamp fell on four witches' faces, each more wrinkled and hideous than the last. If they had been but three, I could have mistaken them for the three Phorcydes, the witches of the classical Sabbat, and might have made myself agreeable to them after the fashion of Mephistopheles. Happily I was spared the necessity, for the eldest of the four dusky graces - she may have been about fifty - began to explain to me with much politeness and dignity, and in fairly good English, that they were the daughters of the headman of the neighbouring village, and most anxious to learn; that their mother's grandfather had been a Dutchman; that they took an interest in scientific matters, and wished to see my collections, and to be photographed. I could only beg them to return next day; I could not, indeed, promise the photographs, but I might satisfy their scientific thirst by a little lecture in my laboratory.