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Formerly it was the custom to hire Bheels to protect the baggage of officers proceeding through their territory, and if this precaution were taken, money and even life were perfectly safe. It cost but a trifling
few rupees ; but they were true to their word. When once embarked on any of their thieving expeditions, they had recourse to singular contrivances to elude observation.
They moved about on all fours wrapped up in a bullock's bide, so as to resemble that animal, and would pretend to graze on the low bushes which studded the plain, and by this means approach stealthily a party of unsuspecting travellers, who were perhaps seated under a tree for shelter during the mid-day heat. When near enough, and quite sure of their prey,
these robbers would throw off their disguise, demand their tribute, which, if paid, all would be well, but if not, their lives would be forfeited.
Another contrivance was to carry over their heads a bush, and in this manner deceive the sentries on duty. They covered their bodies with cocoa-nut oil, being entirely naked, and shaved their heads, so that it was next to an impossibility to catch them, being as slippery as eels; but should it happen that one of them had by chance neglected these precautions and was captured, a formidable curved knife, which they all carried behind the ear, would be immediately used, and the bowels of the capturer ripped open. Notwithstanding all this, they were known to be very courteous to strangers, provided the dustoor, or tribute, which they exacted from travellers were promptly paid. The following story is singular enough: “A major in the Bombay army, having some stores coming to Baroda, in their journey they passed by a post where thirty-five Sepoys were stationed. These men had just been relieved from that duty, and were returning with the supplies, which were in the charge of a Parsee servant. On the road they were met by the Bheels, who wanted the usual tribute for the bullocks. This exaction the Parsee, with the approbation of the Sepoys, refused to pay. Whether the Bheels found the party too strong for them, or had orders from their Raj, or chief, not to engage in any affray, I know not, but the party escaped without paying or being molested, and the Parsee did not a little pride himself on his address and achievement. Some considerable time after this period, Major F. and his wife, taking an evening ride, had gone beyond the prescribed limits of the British cantonments, and heedlessly were pursuing their course, when some Bheels came upon them and claimed the money owing to them by the Parsee for himself and bullocks. Major F. having no rupees about him, they took him, his wife, horse, and vehicle together. After some consultation, and a promise, on the major's part, to pay the tribute demanded, he and his wife were allowed to depart, and an agreement entered into to send seven rupees (the sum required) by a servant, unarmed and alone. This stipulation was carried into effect, and at the appointed time and place the cost was paid, and the gig and horse returned uninjured, with the Bheels' compliments.”
This tribe bears a strong affinity to the Ramousies, Coolies, and Goands, each being noted in former days for their daring exploits at robbery and murder. The former have been completely reclaimed, and are now employed as watchmen at night to guard officers
' bungalows, and go by the name of “the Ramousie," or policeman. The Coolies have been reformed
and drilled into a local corps. But the Bheels are a finer race than either of these, and profess Hindooism. Their greatest object of reverence is Sita Maya, or Matajee, the goddess of small-por. So great is their horror of this direful disease, that her name is never uttered but with the utmost respect. The foregoing story that I have quoted, together with the one I am about to relate, I have found in an interesting book called “Seely's Ellora," but having myself heard them cited as curious traits in these Bheels, I have thought it not altogether improper to transcribe them.
“ An officer, a Captain B., had, by interrupting and wounding a Bheel while labouring in his vocation, been marked. In consequence of this, he had a sentry to his house ; but from the neighbouring bank of the river the Bheel had worked a subterraneous passage for a considerable distance, large · enough for one man to crawl along, and had begun to perforate the floor of his bedchamber, when he was discovered. We had at the city where this took place nearly two thousand troops, yet it was necessary, for the officer's safety, to remove him to Bombay. Parsee mess-man, who had refused to pay the usual tribute to the Bheels, was found dead in the morning in the mess-room. It was his custom to put his mat on a large wine chest where he slept: in the morning he was found with his head placed on the mess-table, the headless body lying on the chest. neither of the above instances was plunder their object, but the tribute, which they considered to be their unquestionable right by established and immemorial custom, had not been paid.”
Government now thought very properly that it was high time to put a stop to these proceedings, and means were speedily adopted to bring about a reformation. Notices were accordingly issued to the effect that if the tribe would give up their predatory habits and enlist themselves in the service of the state, their services would be accepted and liberally remunerated. By employing officers who were equal to the task, and who were tried servants, this was at last effected, and this formidable tribe at once came in, and many of them were formed into a local corps, now known by the name of the Candeish Bheel corps. It is well officered, ably commanded, and has amply answered every one's expectation. On my visit to the caves of Ajunta, I found them most friendly, and as I passed by the numerous sentries that were stationed to keep guard along the road, many came out to me to tender their salaams, and to assure me that they were on the alert. The manner in which they spoke of their masters—the British government was highly creditable to both. As I prepared to resume my journey, presents of grapes and Aurungabad oranges were offered me (and of course accepted), and we parted with assurances of the warmest friendship. The foregoing is a little episode in Indian travelling. There is nothing marvellous about it. But there is something in it-a poetry, so to speak—which mere words cannot express.
J. W. B.
“ ARE there really such things as ghosts, mamma? Do you believe that Hamlet really saw one ?” asked a little girl of seven years old, looking up from the Shakspeare she was gravely studying. The mother, a great actress, and one of the most remarkable women of the
day, replied, “No, my dear; but Hamlet, you know, might have thought he saw his father's The child read on for some time, silently ; then, looking up again, she said, “ Ah, but Hamlet's friends wouldn't have thought that they saw it.” This is worth more than the sharp speech of a clever child generally is. The discrimination between the excited state of one mind, compared with that of the other actors on the scene, is easier, indeed, on the boards or in a book than it is in real life; still it is the only fair test to which we can put the many marvellous tales to which we are asked to give credence. What was the state of mind of the person or persons bearing testimony to these supernatural events at the time of their occurrence? In most cases this is exceedingly difficult to arrive at. The Danish gentlemen upon guard on the platform at Elsinore, witnessing the apparition three successive nights, and without personal interest or undue excitement in the matter, would be accepted as more trustworthy evidences than the half-frenzied prince in a court of justice. We seldom feel sure that the imagination of the actors in such stories was not prepared to receive certain impressions. One thing is certain, at least: we should have but a poor idea of any one who could sleep in a "haunted room" without fancying that a figure stood ready to emerge from its dark corner all night long
The belief in spiritual manifestations, which has existed from the earliest times, has in the present age assumed a special form. The ghosts who go through their manual exercise at the word of command from Mr. Hume, have a large and increasing number of adherents. But it is not of the rapping spirits, palpable as well as visible, that we would now speak. The experiences of Dr. Garth Wilkinson and others have come before the public in sufficiently varied forms to render any further account of them unnecessary. The story, however presented, is always the same.
“ Hands, hands, hands!" with apparently no better employment than to snatch up candlesticks, gather myrtle-twigs, and whisk away pocket-handkerchiefs, for, as Dr. Watts informs us,
Satan still some mischief finds
For idle hands to do. In these utilitarian days, people are inclined to question the reality of such useless supernatural agents; but then, who ever heard of a practical ghost? We are not aware that the Witch of Endor was of much good in her generation, and in our own, electro-biology, which has worked its way into almost universal acceptance, is certainly the most useless of marvels. We cannot judge these questions in such a manner. The tests often applied to clairvoyance, for this reason, seem to us unfair. It proves nothing, that though the clairvoyant can read the letter in our pocket, he cannot tell us the perpetrator of the Waterloo-bridge murder.
The information would be more valuable in one case than in the other; but to decide the question on such evidence is to judge a science, the anatomy of which we but imperfectly understand, and whose laws are as yet undetermined by determined and arbitrary rules. And so of ghosts. The concurrent testimony of more than one witness, the frame of mind, and conditions under which the apparition is said to have been seen these are the only points that should, in common fairness, determine our acceptance or rejection of any story whatever. If we begin to ask what object there can be, &c. &c., we are judging by a standard that evidently will not admit of application to theology, or even to natural history, in
With this premise, we invite the attention of the impartial reader to some anecdotes which have struck.us as sufficiently remarkable to induce us to rescue them from the fate attending all oral tradition, i. e. amplification and distortion. They are simple and circumstantial statements, the actors in which may be relied on as trustworthy wit
Mrs. A., a lady who has well earned her world-wide reputation, related to us the following anecdote, herself. She had been spending a summer's day with a party of friends among some ruins, whence they adjourned to the mansion of a Quaker gentleman in the neighbourhood, where they all diped. During dinner, some one asked whether the ruins were haunted, when Mrs. A. observed that the various members of their host's family looked
grave, and the son, a young man who sat near her, was beginning to explain, but his father sternly reproved him for vain talking, and the conversation dropped. But woman's curiosity was naturally excited, and when they adjourned to the garden after dinner, Mrs. A. questioned the young man as to the inhibited story. “The fact is,” he replied, have a ghost in our village, or are supposed to have one, and it has been the cause of a great deal of gossip lately. The story is a strange one. Many years ago a carter, John whose cottage you see yonder there, gleaming through the trees, 'kept company' with a girl in the village; but as neither of them had any money, she prudently accepted a well-to-do Londoner who came down to these parts, married him, and disappeared until last year, when she returned a rich widow, on a visit to her friends. John, who had never left his native place, and never taken unto himself a wife, revived the old flame in the widow's heart, and in the course of a short time they were married. It was necessary that she should back to London after the wedding to wind up her affairs there (I believe it was the sale of certain houses, in which her property chiefly consisted), before returning to her new home. She never did return. missing for some time; no one knew what had become of her, until it was discovered that she had been murdered, no doubt for her money, as she was known to have had a large sum upon her, which the sale of her houses had realised. John benefited in no way by her death. He was soberly sorry for that event, but nothing would induce him to go up to London, in the prosecution of justice, whereat the neighbours were somewhat scandalised. Perhaps he thought that the same fate that had befallen his poor wife awaited' him in the great Babylon. •What good could he do? He couldn't call her back to life. No, decidedly, he wouldn't to London.' But whether this preyed upon his mind, or from whatever other cause, all his friends could not fail to remark that John
« I should very
grew thinner every day, and seemed ill at ease. They questioned him, and at last he confessed that he could get no sleep, on account of his wife, who, every night, came and stood at the foot of his bed. She said nothing, but there she remained looking at him; and he seemed to take it very
ill of her. He would not mind it in the daytime, he said, if she came and stood by him while he was at work, but it was very hard that she could not let him sleep in peace at night. All this happened some months ago, but John persists in saying that his ghostly visitant still comes to him occasionally, and the excitement in the village upon this subject is consequently kept up. Of course the neighbours declare they have seen the ghost, and the belief in it is universal.” much like to see this John, and have a talk with him," said Mrs. A. “Could we go down to his cottage?” “I am afraid he will be away at this hour, but we can try.” And a party of five, three besides Mrs. A. and her young host, walked to the cottage, which was about a quarter of a mile distant.
It was then between seven and eight o'clock: a clear summer's evening. Mrs. A. described John's dwelling as forming one of a row of three or four cottages, having small gardens, of some ten or twelve yards in length, between them and the road, and a separate little wicket to each. While the young man went up to the door to see if John was at home, Mrs. A. and her three companions remained outside the wicket. The door was locked. John was evidently out, and had given the key to a neighbour, as was his custom; but to make sure of this
, the young man went round to the back of the cottage to try the other door. It was then, as I have said, still perfectly light. He was scarcely out of sight, when the four persons who were outside the gate saw the figure of a woman inside the cottage, passing slowly by the window-a thin woman, dressed in a cotton gown of a lilac colour, her profile turned towards them; this was how they all subsequently described the figure they saw there, so distinctly and unmistakably, that there was a simul. taneous exclamation of “Oh! you see, there is some one in the cottage, so we shall get in.” But a minute afterwards the young man returned. As he had expected, the back-door was locked, showing the cottage to be empty. Impossible! they had just seen some one inside. The neighbour who had charge of the key was then applied to; the door was opened, and every corner of the cottage explored-in vain. It consisted of only three rooms, and there was but one other exit, which was fastened on the inside. It was therefore equally impossible that any one could have entered or left the cottage without being seen by the four
persons who now felt so eagerly anxious to solve this mystery. They questioned the neighbours as to the personal appearance of the murdered woman, and it tallied precisely in the particulars above mentioned with the figure they had seen,
On the niinds of three of its witnesses that strange event produced a powerful effect; the fourth, a young artist, who had turned the whole story into ridicule beforehand, still endeavoured to laugh it off. But we have reason to know that he subsequently confessed himself deeply and painfully impressed by an occurrence which he could neither deny, nor reason upon, nor explain away. We have
few observations to offer on this story. Two things will strike every one as distinguishing it from the generality of super