Before and after these hours the Fort, as the business section of the city is called, is deserted. This quarter was formerly surrounded by walls or ramparts, which have now been removed; but in its limits is concentrated the great wealth of Bombay. There are no dwellings within this territory, which is consecrated to trade and commerce; and both Europeans and natives hasten at the early closing hour to their homes at Colaba, the Esplanade, Mazagon, Malabar Hill, and Breach Candy, the latter on the seashore.
In front of the Grant buildings they found the Cotton-Green, deserted now, though the stacks of bales were still there, with a few sheds and shanties. A few half-naked coolies and policemen were loitering about the place; but it is not convenient for a thief to carry off a bale of cotton on his back, and a bullock cart in this locality would excite suspicion. In business hours this is a busy place; and the Parsee and native merchants, robed in loose white garments, not all of them indulging in the luxury of trousers, reclining on the bales, or busy with customers, form a picturesque scene.
“I don’t think this is the right time to explore this region,” suggested Scott. “We had better come down here when there is something going on.”
“You are right, Scott,” replied Louis; “and I dare say Miss Blanche has had enough of the palanquin, or will have by the time we get back to the hotel, for we are more than a mile from it.”
“I don’t think I like a palanquin as well as a carriage,” replied the young lady. “If you please, I should like to walk back.”
She was promptly assisted to alight, and the palanquin bearers were paid so liberally that they did not complain at being discharged so far from the hotel. Sayad and Moro were sent ahead to lead the way, while the other two walked behind. On their arrival at the Victoria, they found all the rest of the tourists assembled in the parlor, to whom they gave an account of what they had seen.
They went to the saloon in which dinner was served, closely followed by their servants; and the scene there was decidedly unique to the Americans, for there were as many servants as guests. The hotel furnishes no attendants, and each visitor brings his own. But as soon as all were seated, order came out of confusion, and the service proceeded. The dishes were somewhat peculiar; but Sir Modava explained them to the commander and Mrs. Belgrave, while Lord Tremlyn rendered a similar service to the Woolridges and Louis, and Dr. Ferrolan to the professional gentlemen of the company.
“I think you will find this fish very good,” said his lordship, as the second course came on. “It is the bummaloti, sometimes called the Bombay duck, something like both the salmon and the trout. It is a salt-water fish, abundant off this coast, where it is extensively taken, salted, and dried, to be sent to all parts of India.”
“It is elegant,” said Mr. Woolridge, who was an epicure.