« PreviousContinue »
Persian breed; and as he sat purring under a jalousie that projected far over the window, I was often amused to see the strange variety of cats that came to visit and admire him. They all had a foreign air about them, and usually made their appearance on the roof of the house, whence they would peep over curiously, to ascertain first whether Sajee were at his accustomed post before leaping down upon the jalousie and paying their respects to him. Thus it was not uncommon to see five or six sitting sedately together on the window sill, eying every person that passed in the street below. Some were partly dressed up like the monkeys that accompany our barrel-organ boys; and one that was the property of a little Pondicherry Frenchman, next door, was half-shaved, and ornamented with tricolour ribbons. Puss was as fond of the baby as its mother was; and, whenever he could do it unnoticed, he would steal into the hammock, and famous romps they would have together.
One morning, poor Sajee was missing ; servants were sent in all directions to search for him ; but in vain. They came early over to my house, to know if 'I had seen him from my window; but I could give them no information ; unless it were, that I had myself experienced a somewhat similar loss, by the disappearance of a small spaniel, which I had brought over with me to the country ; and that I strongly suspected they both had been stolen. Tasso, soon after his arrival with me in India, suffered much from frightful fits, occasioned by a degree of heat to which
he had never been accustomed. Curious to say, in a short time, he cast his warm English coat, which was replaced by a much thinner covering ; and after this salutary change, his fits entirely left him, and the poor fellow recovered his wonted health and animation ; and life once more appeared to afford him real enjoyment. The natives understood his complaint; and when his fits attacked him in the street, and he would come suddenly to a full stop for a second or two, and then running violently round in a circle, would drop down, foaming and panting, upon the pavement, convulsed in every limb, they would run into their houses, and bring out large vessels of water to throw over him-an operation which, though it brought him round again, occasioned the poor creature a degree of suffering that it was painful to witness ; and I often regretted having brought him out. The kindness shown to my dog must be attributed to the belief of the natives in the transmigration of souls ; a belief which induces them to protect and cherish all animals alike. On the following day, the Jew sent over his bote salam to me, with the pleasing intelligence, that his favourite cat had been discovered at the native hospital for the preservation of animals; and that my dog, Tasso, had been seen there, enjoying himself in the society of Pariahs, baboons, and long-tailed monkeys; adding, moreover, that if I sent one rupee, with a person who could identify him, to pay for his board and lodging, he would be immediately restored to me. Upon learning this, I despatched my boy,
with the required fee in his pocket, to effect Tasso's release; and a few hours afterwards, I had the pleasure of once more patting my old fellow-traveller on the back. He was in excellent condition, and must have been living on the fat of the land ; indeed, generally, these imprisoned animals have plenty of food, and are well taken care of. Whether it were the remembrance of his former good quarters and odd associates, by which the dog was actuated, I cannot tell—but Pedro, my boy, came into my sitting-room a few mornings afterwards, and with a woe-begone countenance informed me, that “that little dog like hospital so much, he go again;" and sure enough, Tasso had slipped his collar, and made his escape. To shew that dogs do take strange fancies for animals of a species different from their own, I need only mention a case where a pet poodle in my possession; in England, passed the greater part of every day in company with a monkey that was kept chained in a large yard. They would play together for hours, and the monkey would put his arms round the neck of the poodle, and nurse it as if it had been one of its own offspring. This great intimacy continued for some months, until the monkey was sent away for pulling the slates off an out-building. As I was not in a position to pay a rupee every week for a day or two of Tasso's company, I thought I had better make a present of him to this Hindoo Zoological Society; and, unless he have gone to that bourne from whence no little dogs return, I have no doubt but, that at this
moment, my brown spaniel, which was born and educated in the Isle of Man, might be recognized in this hospital near Bombay.
But to return to our Jewish friends. Six o'clock saw the happy family again re-united ; and at this hour the shutters were finally closed for the night, and the sound of prayer ascended to the Giver of all good, for the mercies of the past day. Although I could not see him, it was impossible to mistake the voice of the father, or the sacred service in which he was engaged. The daily duty ended, and supper over, the mother would sing, accompanying her voice, one of the sweetest I ever heard, with the Spanish guitar; and, as they generally sate up late, I often heard, on awakening in the night, the sweet, pensive airs she used to play ; for, unlike the generality of the children of Israel, she could sing the songs of Zion in a strange land.
Eight months had rolled by, and the day at length arrived on which I was to leave this neighbourhood. I took a last parting look at the window where the little boy was wont to amuse me, but I was disappointed. He, who had so long engaged my affection, was not there; and as I turned out of the narrow, close street,
was surprised to find how much I had loved him. A long and dangerous illness, with fifteen weeks' confinement to my room, may, in some measure, account to the reader for the great interest which I took in this Hebrew family. They had often intimated by signs to me, the pleasure they experienced
in seeing me once again at my accustomed post; and the poor
mother would at times shake her head, as if grieved to see the long thin face that sickness had so reduced ; for she knew that I loved her only child, and I am certain that she rejoiced in my recovery. The happy and innocent life which they appeared to lead, contributed, with many other little circumstances which I had remarked during this long season of suffering and trial, to leave a pleasing impression of the Jewish domestic character upon my mind; and for years afterwards I often fancied, during the still hours of night, that I heard the warbling voice of the Israelitish woman.