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Across India by Oliver Optic

And the Hoogly pilots are very skilful


"Though

you have seen the Ganges several times, not much has been said about it; and I will tell you a little more concerning it before we leave, not to see it again. It rises in Gahrwal, one of the Hill states, north-east of Delhi. It has its source in an ice-cave nearly fourteen thousand feet above the level of the sea. It is not called the Ganges till it has received the flow of two other rivers, a hundred and fifty miles or more from its lofty source. Just below Allahabad it takes in the Jumna, itself a mighty stream.

"As you have learned, it is the holy river of the Hindus; and it deserves their homage, for, aside from the religious character they give to it, three hundred thousand square miles are drained and fertilized by the Ganges and its tributaries. Of its sanctity, that it washes away sin, and that death in its waters or on its shores is the passport to eternal bliss, you have learned. But it renders a more immediate and practical service to the people; for it is navigable for small craft from the point where it enters the lowlands, seventy or eighty miles north of Delhi.

"The river is 1,509 miles long. Though it rises and falls at different seasons, it never fails, even in the hottest summer; and its inundations render, to some extent, the benefit which the Nile does to the soil of Egypt. Like the Mississippi, in your country, it has sometimes changed its course, as proved by the ruins of cities that were

once on its banks.

"Now you have a view of the Ganges for quite a distance, and can see the kinds of boats that navigate it. It is one of the most frequented waterways in the world, though the building of railways and canals has somewhat diminished the amount of freight borne on its tide. About L6,000,000 is needed to complete the Ganges canal, which will reach all the cities through which you have passed. There is a very complicated mythology connected with the river, which it would take me all day to relate, and therefore I will not meddle with it."

For a couple of hours the passengers watched the boats and steamers on the river, and the scenes on the other side. While they were thus employed, Lord Tremlyn gave to each person a map of Calcutta, intimating that he should soon tell them something about the city; and they all began to study it, so as to form some idea of the place they were next to visit. Of course they could make out but little from the vast maze of streets, but some of them obtained a very good idea of the situation of the city and many of its important buildings.

"People coming from England or America generally arrive at Calcutta or Bombay, the larger portion at the former. From the sea the metropolis of India is reached by the Hoogly River, the most western outlet of the Ganges," his lordship began. "It is sometimes spelled Hugli. Under this name, the stream is known sixty-four miles above Calcutta and seventeen below. Vessels drawing twenty-six feet of water come up to the city; though the stream, like the Mississippi, is liable to be silted up."

"I see that some of you look at me as though I had used a strange word. Silt is the deposit of mud, sand, or earth of any kind carried up and down streams by the tide or other current. But the river engineers here are constantly removing it; the course is kept open, and the Hoogly pilots are very skilful. The river has also a bore, though not a great bore, like some people I know.

"We know the book-agent better than this one," said Scott.

"Some of our rivers in England have bores, though not book-agents; so have the Seine, the Amazon, and others with broad estuaries. High tides drive a vast body of water into the wide mouth; and, as the stream is not large enough to take it in, it piles it up into a ridge, which rolls up the river. It forms a wall of water in the Hoogly seven feet high, which is sometimes dangerous to small craft. Enough of the Hoogly.


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