The steamer cast off her fasts, and headed for Calcutta; but it was late, and the fish presented, which abound in the markets of the city, were the burden of a fine supper they ate on the way.
THE PARTING FESTIVITIES ON THE HOOGLY
While the hunters were so successfully bagging the big game of the jungle, Captain O’Flaherty had taken the party who had remained on board the steamer on an excursion through some of the waterways of the Sunderbunds, so that they were not wearied by waiting for those more actively employed. The united party had thoroughly enjoyed the day, even into the evening. The skins of the tigers and leopards were sent to an expert, to be prepared for future preservation when the time should admit.
At the hotel the wonderful success of the hunters was the theme of the other guests; but the place was regarded as a dangerous one, though that would not deter Englishmen from visiting it if it were not so difficult of access, for a government steam-yacht was not available for many parties. The next morning the tourists were taken to the Botanical Garden, a short distance above the city, which is said to be the finest as well as the most spacious in the world.
It was not an affair of greenhouses, like most of such places they had seen; for they were superfluous in the Torrid Zone, and all the plants grew in the open air. The ladies and most of the gentlemen were greatly interested in the plants and flowers, and the whole forenoon was agreeably passed in viewing them. Uncle Moses insisted that the baobab and the Indian banyan were literally the “biggest things” there; for the trunk of the former was ten feet in diameter, while the latter covered half a square mile of ground. The latter had been considerably damaged by a cyclone.
At the end of a week in Calcutta, every day of which had been occupied to the pleasure and instruction of the tourists, Captain Ringgold insisted that they must remain no longer. It was the middle of March, and the hot weather was coming on, and the company must return to the Guardian-Mother on the following morning. It was not an unpleasant announcement, as they had all become greatly attached to the steamer, for they had always been exceedingly happy on board of her.
“It is time for me to settle up our accounts, Lord Tremlyn,” said the commander, as they were seated on the veranda after the intended departure had been announced.
“That time has not come, Captain Ringgold; and it never will come,” replied his lordship very decidedly. “I thought we had disposed of that question once for all at Bombay. You and your party have been our guests from the moment we landed. Sir Modava and I have done our best, in the time allotted to us, to make you acquainted with India, and to make the time pass pleasantly with you. As far as we had influence, we have used it to promote the objects of your visit.”