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William Henry Sleeman
This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 897 pages of information about Rambles and Recollections of an Indian Official.

20.  Since the author’s time certain industries, the most important being cotton-pressing, cotton-spinning, and jute-spinning, have sprung up and assumed in Bombay, Calcutta, Cawnpore, and a few other places, proportions which, absolutely, are large.  But India is so vast that these local developments of manufactures, large though they are, seem to be as nothing when regarded in comparison with the country as a whole.  India is still, and, to all appearance, always must be, essentially an agricultural country.

21.  The author’s teaching concerning freedom of trade in times of famine and the function of dealers in corn is as sound as his doctrine of famine relief.  The ‘vulgar prejudice’, which he denounces, still flourishes, and the ‘sad delusion’, which he deplores, still obscures the truth.  As each period of scarcity or famine comes round, the old cries are again heard, and the executive authorities are implored and adjured to forbid export, to fix fair prices, and to clip the profits of the corn merchant.  During the Bengal famine of 1873-4, the demand for the prohibition of the export of rice was urged by men who should have known better, and Lord Northbrook is entitled to no small credit for having firmly withstood the clamour.  The more recent experiences of the Russian Government should be remembered when the clamour is again raised, as it will be.  The principles on which the author acted in the crisis at Sagar in 1833 should guide every magistrate who finds himself in a similar position, and should be applied with unhesitating firmness and decision.

CHAPTER 25

Epidemic Diseases—­Scape-goat.

In the evening, after my conversation with the cultivator upon the wall that united the two hills,[1] I received a visit from my little friend the Sarimant.  His fine rose-coloured turban is always put on very gracefully; every hair of his jet-black eyebrows and mustachios seems to be kept always most religiously in the same place; and he has always the same charming smile upon his little face, which was never, I believe, distorted into an absolute laugh or frown.  No man was ever more perfectly master of what the natives call ’the art of rising or sitting’ (nishisht wa barkhast), namely, good manners.  I should as soon expect to see him set the Nerbudda on fire as commit any infringement of the convenances on this head established in good Indian society, or be guilty of anything vulgar in speech, sentiment, or manners.  I asked him by what means it was that the old queen of Sagar[2] drove out the influenza that afflicted the people so much in 1832, while he was there on a visit to me.  He told me that he took no part in the ceremonies, nor was he aware of them till awoke one night by ’the noise, when his attendants informed him that the queen and the greater part of the city were making offerings to the new god, Hardaul Lala.  He found next morning that a goat had been

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