The European traveller in India is often in doubt whether the peacocks, partridges, and ducks, which he finds round populous villages, are tame or wild, till he asks some of the villagers themselves, so assured of safety do these creatures become, and so willing to take advantage of it for the food they find in the suburbs. They very soon find the difference, however, between the white-faced visitor and the dark-faced inhabitants. There is a fine date-tree overhanging a kind of school at the end of one of the streets in the town of Jubbulpore, quite covered with the nests of the baya birds; and they are seen, every day and all day, fluttering and chirping about there in scores, while the noisy children at their play fill the street below, almost within arm’s length of them. I have often thought that such a tree so peopled at the door of a school in England might work a great revolution in the early habits and propensities of the youth educated in it. The European traveller is often amused to see the pariah dog squatted close in front of the traveller during the whole time he is occupied in cooking and eating his dinner, under a tree by the roadside, assured that he shall have at least a part of the last cake thrown to him by the stranger, instead of a stick or a stone. The stranger regards him with complacency, as one that reposes a quiet confidence in his charitable disposition, and flings towards him the whole or part of his last cake, as if his meal had put him in the best possible humour with him and all the world.
1. December, 1835. The name of the village is given in the author’s text as Seindpore. It seems to be the place which is called Siedpore in the next chapter.
2. The common weaver bird, Phoceus baya, Blyth. ’Ploceinae, the weaver birds. . . . They build nests like a crucible, with the opening downwards, and usually attach them to the tender branches of a tree hanging over a well or tank. P. baya is found throughout India; its nest is made of grasses and strips of the plantain or date-palm stripped while green. It is easily tamed and taught some tricks, such as to load and fire a toy cannon, to pick up a ring, &c,’ (Balfour, Cyclopaedia, 3rd ed., 1885, s.v. ’Ploceinae’).
3. Francolinus vulgaris; a capital game bird.
4. Canto V, stanza 22, line 3.
5. The author spells the word Pareear. The editor has used the form now customary. The word is the Tamil appellation of a large body of the population of Southern India, which stands outside the orthodox Hindoo castes, but has a caste organization of its own. Europeans apply the term to the low-caste mongrel dogs which infest villages and towns throughout India. See Yule and Burnell, Glossary of Anglo-Indian Words (Hobson-Jobson), in either edition, s.v.; and Dubois, Hindu Manners, &c., 3rd ed. (1906, index, s.v.).