learnt, had the conscience to contend that we left the ship sooner than was necessary, and have suffered themselves to be sued for the sums they had severally insured. It was a little after midday when we reached the town, which is perched on a high bluff, overlooking the coasts, and contains about a thousand houses, built of bamboo, and covered with palm leaves. Our dress, appearance, language, and the manner of our arrival, excited great surprise among the natives, and the liveliest curiosity; but with these sentiments some evidently mingled no very friendly feelings. The Burmese were then on the eve of a rupture with the East India Company, a fact which we had not before known; and mistaking us for English, they supposed, or affected to suppose, that we belonged to a fleet which was about to invade them, and that our ship had been sunk before their eyes, by the tutelar divinity of the country. We were immediately carried before their governor, or chief magistrate, who ordered our baggage to be searched, and finding that it consisted principally of silver, he had no doubt of our hostile intentions. He therefore sent all of us, twenty-two in number, to prison, separating, however, each one from the rest. My companions were released the following spring, as I have since learnt, by the invading army of Great Britain; but it was my ill fortune (if, indeed, after what has since happened, I can so regard it) to be taken for an officer of high rank, and to be sent, the third day afterwards, far into the interior, that I might be more safely kept, and either used as a hostage or offered for ransom, as circumstances should render advantageous.
The reader is, no doubt, aware that the Burman Empire lies beyond the Ganges, between the British possessions and the kingdom of Siam; and that the natives nearly assimilate with those of Hindostan, in language, manners, religion, and character, except that they are more hardy and warlike.
I was transported very rapidly in a palanquin, (a sort of decorated litter,) carried on the shoulders of four men, who, for greater despatch, were changed every three hours. In this way I travelled thirteen days, in which time we reached a little village in the mountainous district between the Irawaddi and Saloon rivers, where I was placed under the care of an inferior magistrate, called a Mirvoon, who there exercised the chief authority.
This place, named Mozaun, was romantically situated in a fertile valley, that seemed to be completely shut in by the mountains. A small river, a branch of the Saloon, entered it from the west, and, after running about four miles in nearly a straight direction, turned suddenly round a steep hill to the south, and was entirely lost to view. The village was near a gap in the mountain, through which the river seemed to have forced its way, and consisted of about forty or fifty huts, built of the bamboo cane and reeds. The house of my landlord was somewhat larger and better than the rest. It stood on a little knoll that overlooked the village, the valley, the stream that ran through it, and commanded a distant view of the country beyond the gap. It was certainly a lovely little spot, as it now appears to my imagination; but when the landscape was new to me, I was in no humour to relish its beauties, and when my mind was more in a state to appreciate them, they had lost their novelty.
My keeper, whose name was Sing Fou, and who, from a long exercise of magisterial authority, was rough and dictatorial, behaved to me somewhat harshly at first; but my patient submission so won his confidence and good will, that I soon became a great favourite; was regarded more as one of his family than as a prisoner, and was allowed by him every indulgence consistent with my safe custody. But the difficulties in the way of my escape were so great, that little restraint was imposed on my motions. The narrow defile in the gap, through which the river rushed like a torrent, was closed with a gate. The mountains, by which the valley was hemmed in, were utterly impassable, thickly set as they were with jungle, consisting of tangled brier, thorn and forest trees, of which those who have never been in a tropical climate can form no adequate idea. In some places it would be difficult to penetrate more than a mile in the day; during which time the traveller would be perpetually tormented by noxious insects, and in constant dread of beasts of prey.
The only outlet from this village was by passing down the valley along the settlements, and following the course of the stream; so that there was no other injunction laid on me, than not to extend my rambles far in that direction. Sing Fou's household consisted of his wife, whom I rarely saw, four small children, and six servants; and here I enjoyed nearly as great a portion of happiness as in any part of my life.
It had been one of my favourite amusements to ramble towards a part of the western ridge, which rose in a cone about a mile and a half from the village, and there ascending to some comparatively level spot, or point projecting from its side, enjoy the beautiful scenery which lay before me, and the evening breeze, which has such a delicious freshness in a tropical climate.
Nor was this all. In a deep sequestered nook, formed by two spurs of this mountain, there lived a venerable Hindoo, whom the people of the village called the Holy Hermit. The favourable accounts I received of his character, as well as his odd course of life, made me very desirous of becoming acquainted with him; and, as he was often visited by the villagers, I found no difficulty in getting a conductor to his cell. His character for sanctity, together with a venerable beard, might have discouraged advances towards an acquaintance, if his lively piercing eye, a countenance expressive of great mildness and kindness of disposition, and his courteous manners, had not yet more strongly invited it. He was indeed not averse to society, though he had seemed thus to fly from it; and was so great a favourite with his neighbours, that his cell would have been thronged with visitors, but for the difficulty of the approach to it. As it was, it was seldom resorted to, except for the purpose of obtaining his opinion and counsel on all the serious concerns of his neighbours. He prescribed for the sick, and often provided the medicine they required—expounded the law—adjusted disputes—made all their little arithmetical calculations—gave them moral instruction—and, when he could not afford them relief in their difficulties, he taught them patience, and gave them consolation. He, in short, united, for the simple people by whom he was surrounded, the functions of lawyer, physician, schoolmaster, and divine, and richly merited the reverential respect in which they held him, as well as their little presents of eggs, fruit, and garden stuff.
From the first evening that I joined the party which I saw clambering up the path that led to the Hermit's cell, I found myself strongly attached to this venerable man, and the more so, from the mystery which hung around his history. It was agreed that he was not a Burmese. None deemed to know certainly where he was born, or why he came thither. His own account was, that he had devoted himself to the service of God, and in his pilgrimage over the east, had selected this as a spot particularly favourable to the life of quiet and seclusion he wished to lead.
There was one part of his story to which I could scarcely give credit. It was said that in the twelve or fifteen years he had resided in this place, he had been occasionally invisible for months together, and no one could tell why he disappeared, or whither he had gone. At these times his cell was closed; and although none ventured to force their way into it, those who were the most prying could hear no sound indicating that he was within. Various were the conjectures formed on the subject. Some supposed that he withdrew from the sight