When I had recovered my breath after reading this, I lost it again, on learning that during the same year nine hundred and forty-seven people were destroyed by tigers, two hundred and sixty by leopards, one hundred and eighty-two by wolves, and that more than eighty thousand head of cattle had been killed by serpents or wild beasts. Nor are these figures exceptional. In 1888, over twenty thousand deaths were caused by snakes and nine hundred and seventy-five by tigers. Rewards are offered by the Government for the destruction of wild beasts and reptiles; and in the case of tigers the result is good. No one is disposed to trifle with a maneater. But such is the poverty of the people that these rewards cause the natives in many districts to go into the business of breeding snakes. Hence it remains a problem whether the remedy is not worse than the disease.
Foot Of An Indian Princess.
Notwithstanding these indisputable facts, during the winter months and on the regular routes of travel, the only tigers that I saw were kept in cages, and all the reptiles I beheld were those displayed by snake-charmers. These snake-charmers possessed for me a horrible fascination. They are as numerous in Indian towns as organ-grinders are with us, and at the door of every large hotel one of their exhibitions is going on from morning until night. Old residents of India, however, do not like to see them. The sight recalls to them too forcibly the dreadful summer months when, every morning, on account of scorpions, their shoes must be "well shaken before taken," and when (without any ground for being accused of having delirium tremens), they sometimes see a hideous reptile glide across the floor, or find, on turning down the sheet, a deadly cobra coiled up in the bed. Another drawback to one's happiness in Ceylon is the multitude of land-leeches which not only creep upon the pedestrian's body from the ground, but drop upon him from the trees. These frightful pests are, unless gorged with blood, only half an inch long, and so thin that they can make their way through a stocking without difficulty; but their bite is exceedingly irritating and blood flows freely from the wound. English soldiers in the Ceylon jungles have sometimes died from the bites of these diminutive but innumerable foes.
A Bridge Of Boats At Colombo.
Hence Europeans in certain portions of the island wear what are called "leech-gaiters," made of rubber or hard cloth. These are drawn closely over the shoe and are fastened around the knee. Fortunately citric acid is ordinarily sufficient to protect one from these pests, and those who are obliged to do much walking in the lowlands, usually carry a lemon with them and moisten with its juice the parts of their bodies liable to be attacked.
Another unpleasant feature of this "paradise" is the dampness, which during the rainy season is so great that without the constant care of a "clothes-boy" wearing-apparel, books, papers, and household linen are quickly covered with a greenish mould. We were told that from May to October nothing can be kept dry here, and that the walls of the houses are covered with moisture. Such humidity combined with the tropical heat would seem to make the climate of Ceylon anything but paradisiacal.
A European' S Residence, Colombo.
After a few days spent in Colombo, we made a journey of four hours by rail to a far lovelier and cooler portion of Ceylon, fifteen hundred feet above the sea, in the mountainous interior of the island, where is its ancient capital, Kandy. The railway journey up the mountains can never be forgotten. The road itself, which is said to have cost the life of one native for every sleeper, is a triumph of engineering skill, frequently winding along the edge of cliffs from which the mountain falls away to a depth of fourteen hundred feet. Waterfalls, rushing downward to the valley, were often visible above us on the one side, or below us on the other, sweeping beneath the bridges over which our train moved in safety. In making the ascent, we noted with the keenest interest our passage from the tropics to a temperate zone, as evidenced not only in the vegetation but in the temperature. In subsequently descending to the coast, this experience was, of course, reversed; and leaving in the morning the health-resort of Nuwara Eliya on the summit, more than six thousand feet above the sea-level, where open fires had been appreciated, we watched the mercury gradually rise, till in the afternoon on our arrival in Colombo, we found that our thermometer indicated ninety degrees. The situation of Kandy is one of the most peculiar I have ever seen; for it is built around an artificial lake three miles in circuit, and sloping up from this on every side is a vast amphitheatre of enchanting mountains, covered with semitropical vegetation. Beyond these are extensive, rarely-visited uplands, where roam in herds the celebrated elephants indigenous to Ceylon. These animals are still so valuable as beasts of burden, that a fine of twenty-five hundred dollars is imposed for killing one, and about three hundred and fifty of them are exported to India annually, just as in past centuries. An afternoon drive over the splendid English roads constructed on these heights forms one of my most agreeable memories of the island.