Felix divided himself up among the three parties; and, as he was a lively boy, he afforded no little amusement to all of them. The entire company, including the captain and the third officer, who were to take part in the business of sight-seeing, consisted of sixteen persons, which was just the complement for four carriages, if they were large enough to seat four.
The pilot came on board, and was inducted into the pilot-house. He spoke English, and seemed to be a bright fellow so far as his occupation was concerned. The pilots are said to “pool their issues,” and divide their fees. They take their own time, therefore, and are very independent. But this one, when informed that the Guardian-Mother was a yacht conveying a young millionaire all-over-the-world, was very respectful and deferential.
“I have heard of this vessel before, and they say here that the young rajah is worth millions of pounds,” said he, when he had laid the course of the steamer.
“I suppose he is as well off as some of your Grand Moguls; but I think you had better call it dollars instead of pounds,” replied Mr. Boulong, laughing at the absurdity of the story; but the pilot knew nothing about dollars, and perhaps the reports had been swelled by changing the unit of American currency into that of the British Empire.
“Now you can see the islands more distinctly,” said Lord Tremlyn to his group.
“I don’t see any islands,” replied Miss Blanche.
“They are too near together to be distinguished separately. The Bombay to which we are going is an island eleven and a half miles long. The town has an abundant territory; but large as it is, portions of it are very densely peopled, averaging twenty-one inmates to a house,” continued the viscount. “Next to Calcutta it is the largest city in India, and comes within 40,000 of that.
“Bombay has had its vicissitudes. Of course you know that your Civil War produced a cotton famine in Europe; but it raised this city to the pinnacle of prosperity. A reign of speculation came here, and it was believed that Bombay would be the leading cotton mart of the world. Companies were organized to develop the resources of the country in the textile plant; and the fever raged as high as it did when the South Sea Bubble was blown up, or as it has sometimes in New York and other cities of your country.
“New banks were started; merchants plunged recklessly into the vortex of speculation. Then came the news of the surrender of General Lee, and the end of the war in America. The bubble burst, even before it was fully inflated, and the business prosperity of Bombay collapsed. The certificates of shares in companies and banks were not worth the paper on which they were written. Even the Bank of Bombay, believed to be as solid as the ’Old Lady’ of Threadneedle Street, had to suspend, and the commercial distress was frightful.
“But it left its lesson behind it; and since that time Bombay has patiently and painfully regained its former solid prosperity. It has recovered what it lost, and is now steadily increasing in population and wealth.”